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I haven't been updating as frequently. I am wondering why this is, and have to conclude that reading other people's blogs and interacting on Facebook are more interesting than blogging and Twitter (which I have also neglected). So let's recap.

First and foremost, I am now officially retired. I have stopped even receiving emails about job openings. After the age of 55, the law here allows one to start receiving the private pension money one has accrued during working life. I have three such pensions, from my last three employers, and the total in the pot is in the low six-figures in pounds sterling. The law here also allows one to take 1/4 of that money as a lump sum, and then put 3/4 into an annuity. So that's what I did.

I will be 60 years old in November, and with the state of my health not markedly improving (although not rapidly declining) I felt that taking my occupational pension now was the best move I could make. I have secured a guaranteed income for at least ten years of around £430 (around US $700) per month.

In two years, I will become eligible for my US Social Security payment. It will be around US $990 (£615) per month. This will be a large addition to our household income. (Edited the amounts as I got them wrong the first time.)

Thus, what to do with the lump sum that has or will hit my account soon?

A friend from Manchester dropped down here to spend a weekend with us, and we decided to go to the relatively new Westfield Stratford to shop. After a lovely lunch at Balans, marred only by the absence of a WiFi signal in the restaurant, resulting in a bit of a problem with the card payment, we strolled to the Apple Store, where I bought a new iPad, 64GB, with WiFi only, in white.



I am enjoying setting it up (mostly). When iOS6 became available, I was alerted by my Singaporean friends on Facebook (thanks, guys!) and downloaded it to both my iPhone and my iPad. I have noted the silliness around the new iMaps, but I rarely use it. I will connect to Google Maps through Opera if I need to navigate. It is always fun playing with new toys. I have now succumbed to iPods (I have a Nano 8GB and a full 80 GB version), iPhones, and iPads. I still resist Mac computers.

As we left the Apple Store and headed around the corner, we passed a stall out in the centre of the shopping centre. They are well-placed to intercept customers coming out of the Apple Store, and one (very cute) salesman intercepted me and sold me a cover and a film protector for the screen. He wanted to sell me Bluetooth headphones, but I wisely refrained.

Over the weekend we ate at C&R Café in Chinatown twice, and Nicky (our Mancunian friend) ate there once on his own. I had to demur the second time and only had roti canai (excessively oily, I fear) and gado-gado (which was quite good). I feared the effects of too much white rice on my blood sugar.

On Wednesday I used a bit more of my money to engage a guy to extend the patio in the back garden. Here's what it looked like Wednesday morning before he began work:



As you can see, the grass was rather sparse for a couple of reasons. Our picnic table was placed over the patch, but more important, the sun rarely shines fully on that patch because of the position of the building and the fence. It got muddy and it was unpleasant to sit at the table.

He worked very hard, and by 1 pm the area looked like this:



I put the chairs and table on it, and this afternoon enjoyed a coffee sitting out there, on a dry level surface. It's wonderful!

Yesterday I travelled to the O2 shopping centre on Finchley Road to visit the Sainsbury there. It competes in my affections with the Waitrose at Westfield Shepherds Bush. The Tesco at the Elephant is OK for staples like milk and bread, but if you want something tastier or more out-of-the-ordinary, you have to go elsewhere.

And today, I voted in the US Federal elections. US citizens resident in other countries are allowed to vote for Federal offices only (both in primaries and general elections). In previous elections the City and County of San Francisco, where I last voted in the US when I lived there, sent a paper ballot with lots of envelopes. One had to fill out an interior envelope, placing the voting paper inside it and sealing it, then place it in an outer envelope. The difficulty is that my return address here was printed on the outer envelope in such a way that the Royal Mail always returned it to me. To avoid this I would have to draw a square around the election department's address with a big black "TO:" and one around my return address with a big black "FROM:".

This time I got an email with a link to my ballot in .pdf format. I downloaded it, printed it out, voted (Obama, Feinstein, and Pelosi), and sent the ballot back in plenty of time in my own envelopes.

My feet seem to be OK. I keep my fingers continuously crossed. I can walk around for three or four hours without any discomfort when I wear my new orthopedic shoes. On Thursday I return to the orthotist to have everything evaluated. I will be bringing my old pair of shoes to be resoled and insoled so that I will have two pairs of usable shoes. I have one small ulcer on my left foot, but have not had antibiotics for three weeks.

Finally, what else will I be doing with my lump sum? I have decided that, before I get too old and sick to travel I will take a trip (as I premised in a previous entry) next March and April to Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia. I have never been south of the Equator, and have friends in Australia who I would love to see. I think I will spend a week in Singapore getting used to the time zone, then travel to New Zealand for a week, then Sydney for a week, Melbourne for a week, and then mooch around for a week before returning to Singapore for another week, then back to London.

I will be going to Trailfinders next week to discuss this trip. I would like to spend around £4,000, but would be willing to spend more if necessary. Any ideas about what to see in Australia and New Zealand would be welcome. Bali has also been mentioned as somewhere to go. My friends in Singapore should look out for me in March and April; I hope to see lots of you then.
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This has been a mixed week. I've already posted about Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday were quiet days, on which I did little or nothing.

On Friday I had lunch with Dawn Bucket, née Fraffie Welch. I think I've written about Fraf before. She is the "local colour" opinion columnist for the Marblehead Reporter, and her opinions are forthright. She tools around town, berating motorists who run the stop sign at Pond and Green Streets, wonders aloud why the Pledge of Allegiance is not recited before Town Meeting (answer: No one seems to know.), and generally raises hell.

She says that I'm her biggest fan; I don't think that's true, as everyone in town reads her column and I'm sure that people who are closer to Marblehead also think a lot of her. We correspond regularly, and when I'm in Town we go out to lunch. So, Fraf took me to the Boston Yacht Club.

I have arrived.

The most prestigeous yacht club in a town with three or four of them, they have a great club building next to the water in Old Town, and have a reputation for great food. We ended up in the bar, where over one very powerful Manhattan we discussed Town affairs, and ranged up to Gloucester where one occasional guest at Hammond Castle years ago raised my eyebrows. But, more important, we decided to have the same dish. Now, [livejournal.com profile] trawnapanda, you are not allowed to comment, either snidely or not, on this. I have never in my entire life had lobster. My mother set one on the floor one day to scare me when I was little, and perhaps that's why I dislike seafood to this day. However, Fraf recommended the lobster roll, and I decided that I should try it once.

It was very good.

Later on in the afternoon I went into Boston to see my Facebook friend Sarav. It will probably be our only chance to meet for years to come, as he is moving from Cambridge to San Francisco next month. He is a fabulous guy from India who has adopted the US as his country. He dances classical Indian dance, is a crack coder, and has a very nice dog. We had chai and samosas, and discussed everything under the sun as we waited for people to come to buyhis bedroom set.

They never showed. So I did not have a chance to go out to dinner with him. However, he ferried me to Haymarket where I took the bus back to Marblehead. I wish him all the best in San Francisco; he is handsome, personable, and an all-round lovely person. SF needs to send about 10 people back here to Cambridge just to replace him here.

The transportation to and from Cambridge was very crowded that day. I wonder about the future of the T, seeing as they are running a deficit and can't run more trains or buses than they are.

Today my friend [livejournal.com profile] momshapedbox drove up from Connecticut to see me. That was 2 hours on the road here and 2 hours back. I am so honoured. Sue is what my mom would call a "hot ticket"—so bubbly and dynamic that it sometimes takes my breath away. She is also the mother of [livejournal.com profile] boyshapedbox, whom I have never met but who is a really great guy living in San Francisco with his husband and brightening up the Castro and Dolores Park. Sue and I drove up to Gloucester for two main reasons: first, I haven't been there in years, and second, I wanted to pick up some special rye whiskey that is distilled there. We parked on Main Street and had two hours to stroll and eat. We walked down and back and decided on Italian, which was very good. We went past my high school teacher's old place, 128 Main Street, which has gone from a Bohemian flat where movies and art were made to a CPA's office. Harry must be turning in his urn. I had my first glasses of wine there, learned an awful lot about myself and other people, and enjoyed Harry's wit, good humour, and joy in life.

We found a package store, and, lo and behold, I found one bottle of Ryan & Wood Straight Rye Whiskey, hand labelled "Barrel #11, Bottle #216". It was $38, but I had to have one and I got it. I won't have a chance to taste it until I get back to London, but I'm anticipating a lovely experience.

Tomorrow I will probably go to church, and then in the afternoon it's the traditional visit to Outback Restaurant in Peabody, where prime rib will be consumed and a good time will be had by all.
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I haven't posted since last Saturday or Sunday, so it's time for more posting.

Monday was a banner day, in that I met [livejournal.com profile] vasilatos and, of course, Penny Lane, who studiously ignored me whenever she was let out of the bag.

I started out waiting for the bus to Boston in front of Starbucks. When it came, I had my dollar bills in hand and asked what the fare was. "$3.80 in cash, $2.80 with a CharlieCard[1]." I replied, "I'm a tourist; I don't have a CharlieCard." The bus driver immediately said, "Do you want one?" He sold me one on the bus and I put $20 on it. (It did take a while to get the farebox to realise that the piece of paper I was giving it was a $20 bill.)

That scene would not have been possible on a London bus with an Oystercard. I am heartened by the future of public transport.

The bus trip, however, was a different story. As I'm now used to traveling on public transport in London with all sorts of people, from bishops to just regular Joes and Janes, I was a bit downcast that public transport on the North Shore of Massachusetts seems to be for the impoverished and the non-Caucasian. I had temporarily forgotten that only very poor (and very young) people here in the US rely on public transport for anything.

Got to Haymarket in the North End of Boston, took the Orange and Red lines to Central Station in Cambridge, and waited in front of a Walgreens for [livejournal.com profile] jwg, "[livejournal.com profile] rsc, and [livejournal.com profile] vasilatos to arrive. Of course, they already had and were in the restaurant waiting for me. I, of course, never having been to this particular restaurant, had no idea where it was. Robert finally rescued me from the surroundings, including some rather disreputable characters who sat on the bench next to me and tried to fall asleep on me.

We were having Eritrean food at Asmara Restaurant. A month ago or so I tried to make injera bread. I got the teff flour, prepared it according to the recipes I'd seen, and then cooked two. They were terrible. Tasted like dirt.

The injera at Asmara was nice, just sour enough, and did not taste as if it had been prepared from the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag. The food was quite good; I can't tell you what it was I ate except for generic words like "lamb", "chicken", and "salad", but I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I get home I will upload pictures and post them.

After that, [livejournal.com profile] vasilatos and I went to visit her mother, the children's author Lois Lowry, who is just delightful. Over cups of tea we discovered that we have several mutual acquaintances in the Episcopal/Anglican world, and she gave me an inscribed copy of her book about church mice, Bless this Mouse, which looks to be delightful.

After this [livejournal.com profile] vasilatos and I looked for her favourite Chinese food to take away for her dinner, and I seem to have impressed her by saying "谢谢" to the waitress when she delivered the order.

At this point we went to MIT to find her friend Richard Stallman, which was an ultimately unsuccessful enterprise, requiring us to maneuver in a very modern building that seemed to have been designed to defeat those who were visiting it. We found his office finally, but he wasn't in. Oh well.

We then drove to Alewife Station, where [livejournal.com profile] vasilatos's hotel was, and I got on the T and went to Harvard Square to meet my friends Margaret and Bob. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] vasilatos for ferrying me around and introducing me to her mother. And, of course, keeping Penny Lane from tearing me limb from limb.

I sat at Harvard Square for a while, and discovered that Margaret and Bob were already in the Russell House Tavern waiting for me. I finally discovered it (around the corner from the T entrance) and we had a lovely dinner. I had "Maine Co-Op Steak Frites" and a Manhattan (always nice to have a cocktail before dinner). It was perfect (the steak) and the Manhattan was great. Margaret had a selection of plates, which included one poached egg, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms. She was delighted with the egg, which was lovely. We all caught up with each other and, when dinner was over, Margaret volunteered to drive me back to Marblehead, which was so thoughtful. We had a bit of trouble getting onto the T to get her car. She hasn't used the T for a while because of access issues, and her CharlieCard had expired. But we finally got to her car and then home to Marblehead. Morning and evening, Monday.

Tuesday I had lunch at the Town Wharf with my friend Zeke from Salem, where we compared our various ailments. The weather was a bit on the chilly side, but we ate on the outside patio anyway. Another Manhattan…I have been very bad so far. I walked from my brother's home near the cemetery to the Landing Restaurant, and then to my brother's auto repair garage. My feet have survived. I'm very grateful. Morning and evening, Tuesday.

Wednesday I did nothing all day. I suppose it was recovering from Monday and Tuesday. I have decided that manically running around for the entire period of my holiday requires a long period of recuperation afterwards. Thus, the occasional day off is welcome. In the evening Harold and I went to Bertucci's Restaurant in Swampscott for dinner, where I had spaghetti and meatballs, which was a personal mistake. They were delicious, but my blood sugar was quite high this morning, sadly. Morning and evening, Wednesday.

Today I have nothing planned, but I think I'll mosey downtown and go to a package store to find some Ryan and Wood rye whiskey, distilled in Gloucester. I suspect I may have difficulty and it may cost an arm and a leg. However, from Bob's description, it sounds like it's worth it. I'll take it back to the UK as my permitted import.

Coming up, lunch tomorrow with Dawn Bucket, the local opinion columnist for the Marblehead Reporter. We're good friends (she calls me "her biggest fan", even though I read her column in London) and the lunch should be spirited, as we both have deeply-held opinions about the Old Town and how it's changed over the years. Tomorrow evening, a visit with my friend Sarav in Cambridge. Saturday, [livejournal.com profile] momshapedbox is coming up from Connecticut to pal around during the afternoon. On Low Sunday I hope to attend St. Michael's Episcopal Church here—298 years young, then go to my favourite steak restaurant in the whole world, Outback in Peabody. Yes, it's hokey and a chain, but the prime rib is really good, and I'm being treated by my Lodge brother Rick, along with my brother, their spouses, and who knows who else?

Monday I have nothing on yet, and Tuesday is Philanthropic Lodge's 2121st regular meeting. It's the last one I can attend as a Ruling Master, as I install my successor next month. I'm looking forward to it (both events). Wednesday nothing scheduled yet, then Thursday evening back to London.

[1]The CharlieCard is the MBTA's equivalent of the Oystercard in London. Touch pads on the buses and trains, refill at T stations and various other places, monthly passes available as well. Very much like the Oystercard except that you can buy one on a bus.
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Well, I'm back in London now, but not without incident. Let me backtrack.

Monday we went shopping yet again. Got the usual (razor blades, Irish Spring soap) and unusual (Puma trainers for £7.50, underwear) at BJ's in Danvers. We also went to Best Buy and I ogled the new Ipods, but decided against, as I would have trouble with the War Department (aka HWMBO) if I bought yet another one.

Then I went to Boston to dine at Scollay Square restaurant with my Boston friends. Bob and Margaret are friends from Luti; Margaret is "co-owner". And, from Live Journal and soc.motss, [livejournal.com profile] jwg and [livejournal.com profile] rsc. The restaurant is named after the former "red light" district of Boston, where numerous sailors used to come to drink and "socialise". In the late '50s the city fathers decided to raze it to the ground and erect Government Centre, that soulless plaza with City Hall in the centre of it. The restaurant is somewhat pretentious, as a look at their menu might show. So, first off, here is The Wedge salad.



It was tasty but a bit, well, unsatisfying. Then came the entrée, All-Natural Prime Hanger Steak:



The potatoes are hidden under the steak, which is itself hidden under potato sticks. I didn't bother to take pictures of the sorbet, which was my dessert. One difficulty we all had was the ubiquitous serving staff. Years ago, a great restaurant could be differentiated from a mere greasy spoon by the suavity of its staff. If you had a problem or a question, there were right there to help you. When you didn't need them, and were in the middle of a conversation, they did not come up and ask you whether everything was all right. These days the waiter (Taylor, a very bouncy young lady) and the manager, whose name we did not catch, both asked us (at separate times) whether everything was OK. We lost the thread of our conversation each time. Worse than that, Taylor cleared plates somewhat assiduously, managing to remove Margaret's plate before she was finished eating. This is maddening. At a Chinese restaurant, you expect to have your plate removed as soon as (but no sooner than) you have finished eating. However, at a "premium" restaurant, plates should not be cleared before everyone at the table has finished. As no one smokes at table any more (as it's illegal) there are no cigarette butt-smeared plates any more, simply plates that once harboured your meal and now do not. They can wait until all are finished before clearing.

We were amused by three separate sounds of crashing, smashing crockery during our dinner. All in all, a tasty but ultimately unsatisfactory experience, tempered by the wonderful company:



In order, Margaret, [livejournal.com profile] jwg, me, Bob, and [livejournal.com profile] rsc. A lovely time was had by all.

I forgot to mention in my Sunday entry that instead of buying the memory for my uncle's computer from a shop, I decided to order from Crucial and have it delivered overnight, so that I would be sure to have it in time to install it before I returned to London. On Tuesday afternoon the memory duly arrived, and I installed it. It worked a treat--my uncle was amazed at how much faster the computer had become (going from 1GB to 2.5GB does wonders). My uncle is the last of the older generation of my family (on both sides) and his computer and his music program (Encore) mean the difference between sitting in front of the television watching bad daytime TV and keeping a sharp mind going. Some of the stuff he's done is really fantastic, and the MIDI instrument set he bought with Encore, Garritan is great. It produces really amazing instrumental sounds. Apparently, Wendy Carlos also uses it, so my uncle is in good company.

Tuesday evening was Lodge, and it was, as usual, an interesting night. Now that I'm more clued in to what goes on in a Lodge, I could appreciate the differences and similarities between Massachusetts working and my own home Taylor's working. The essentials are the same (the oath is very similar) but such things as opening and closing the lodge are quite different. Philanthropic is a bit more casual in opening and closing the Lodge than we are at Goliath. One of the candidates was Raised by the Senior Warden (who is not a Past Master), which would be impossible under UGLE rules. I met several people I hadn't seen in years; one of the candidates had been at Star of the Sea Church with me, and also an altar boy. Two others had been in grammar school with me. I shamefully admit that I did not recognise any of the three, although they all recognised me. I do not think this is gathering senility; not having lived in Marblehead for more than 37 years has blurred names and faces to the point that I cannot recall most of them with any accuracy. The dinner was Chinese takeaway buffet, and wasn't particularly good Chinese takeaway at that. Oh, well, Harold paid for my meal ticket, so he can complain with more justification.

Wednesday was interesting, Ruth picked me up at home and we went to Salem to eat lunch. She took me to a place called "Victoria Station" which was a British-Rail-themed restaurant. The menu wasn't very British, and the portions were huge. We both had Chicken Parmigiana (something which I have never seen on a British menu), and I was gobsmacked at the size of the portion:



I could only eat one of the chicken pieces and a few forkfuls of the pasta. We packed the rest for Ruth's lunch and dinner the next day.

Then, on to the barn. On the way we detoured to pass my grandparents' house in South Hamilton. It's been painted dark grey by the new owners and it looks rather grim. I do hope it's nice for them.

In the evening we went to Outback Steakhouse for dinner. My uncle, Harold, Ruth, and Linda (Ruth's best friend) and I waited for more than 1/2 hour for a table, as there were 5 of us. We were finally seated (and promised a free appetiser to make up for the wait) next to a table with three rambunctious children. Thank goodness they were finishing. The menu has changed slightly from last year, with fewer choices, but I managed. I had a prime rib, medium, with mashed potatoes and a salad. No dessert, but a Manhattan. The steak was cooked exactly right, and was delicious, once I'd trimmed off the fat.

The family seated next to us was replaced by another family whose younger son looked like Pugsley from the infamous Addams Family. We sniggered and snapped our fingers surreptitiously.

Back home, and now I was concerned about the weather. The snowstorms that dumped 16" on eastern Massachusetts hadn't melted at all, as it had hardly risen above freezing. The forecast was for more snow Thursday morning, just as I was to travel home. I had packed on Wednesday afternoon, and awoke on Thursday at 4:15 am, got dressed, put the rest of my things in the stuffed suitcase, and Linda picked me up to go to Logan Airport. We got there without much trouble, and I got through check-in and security fairly quickly. Once I got on the plane, however, the fun started. We needed to be de-iced, and were third-in-line for that. Then, once we got into the queue for takeoff, we had to wait as there was only one runway free and it was being used for both takeoffs and landings. We were two hours late taking off. So breakfast became lunch, and snack became dinner. We landed at Heathrow at about 10 pm, and I was home by 11, as the immigration and luggage queues were minimal. Unpacked immediately and then fell into bed. Friday was a washout, as I felt washed-out myself. I'm just starting to perk up now on Saturday morning. To work on Christmas Eve!

Other travel pictures under the cut to spare your bandwidth )
chrishansenhome: (Default)
...is here, and don't forget to "Stomp!" (left click)
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...and any other Singaporeans who might be reading this.

I'm arriving in Singapore on Monday afternoon, for a three-week vacation. I shall be in Malaysia (KL and Malacca) from Jan 21-24 and in Bangkok from Jan 26-31. Otherwise, I'm in Sg. Perhaps we could all get together for a drink or a meal?? I'd love to meet you guys: [livejournal.com profile] chrisloup, [livejournal.com profile] cszhou, [livejournal.com profile] kingbitch, [livejournal.com profile] silver_eagle and anyone else who's around then.

SMS me at 90142898 next week!
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On January 2, in this post, I mentioned that soon the Easter eggs would be on the shelves.

Well, yesterday, coming home from the gym, I stopped off in Tesco's on Kennington Lane for some stuff for dinner. What did I see?

You guessed it. Chocolate bunnies, ready for Easter.

Fooey!
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I really dislike the Christmas and New Year holiday season here in Ould Blighty. Everything shuts down or has morbidly shortened hours, so you never know when anything is open. Everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING!) shuts down for Christmas Day, with the exception of the corner stores owned and operated by Muslims. No public transport, no large stores, no nothing. Again, on New Year's Day, everything is shut. Today everything shut at 5 pm.

Tomorrow the world regains its equilibrium. Stores are open normal business hours. The shelves are almost free of Christmas junk. The first trayful of chocolate Easter eggs will be put out in Tesco's.

God's in her heaven, all's right with the world.
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Happy New Year to everyone!

I've had a couple of odd dreams lately. The first one was one of a type that many Brits (and other people whose Head of State is HM the Q) seem to report having. HWMBO and I were giving part of my old stamp collection to the Queen. The stamps were very ornate; certainly not part of my former collection, most of which was stolen when I was a child. The Queen was very gracious, and then, in return, asked us to take out the trash. We of course first had to find the skip. The dream ended as we searched Windsor for it.

I'm told that lots of people dream about having the Queen to tea. The one time it happened to someone for real, the Queen, in her blue dress and hat, perched on a dining room chair nervously holding her teacup, looked like she was about to be poisoned. The experiment hasn't been repeated. It was one of that long line of publicity stunts aimed at making the Queen seem more human to the public. I almost said "to her subjects" but as I am always correcting people, we are no longer subjects of HM the Q. We are British citizens.

The second one had to do with my job. For some reason a lot of the sales department was relocated to an upper floor (since the company I used to work for and am now consulting at is actually on the top floor, it was an obvious dream!) and I had to do up there to meet with one of the honchos. The floor was huge when I got up there on the elevator, and as I walked around there was food on almost every desk and table in the place. I finally saw the guy I was to meet, but before I could go into the meeting, I saw HWMBO, with his yellow rubber gloves on, washing up the dishes in the sink. We decided to leave. And that's where I woke up.

I don't often remember dreams, but these two were wacky enough I guess so that I could remember them. But as to what they mean, I haven't a clue.
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Your Christmas is Most Like: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

You can't really get into the Christmas spirit...
But it usually gets to you by the end of the holiday.


Somehow I thought this would be the case.
chrishansenhome: (Default)
...with thanks to [livejournal.com profile] enigmacub. Get your jollies with the Snow Globe.
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With the recent innovation of changing "Christmas" into "Holiday" to accomodate everyone, it was inevitable that some humour would result.

Here is the take of one company Human resources director, behind the cut )
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Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

This year I've been busy!

In June I gave [livejournal.com profile] gmjambear a Dutch Oven (-10 points). Last month I set [livejournal.com profile] digipacopr's puppy on fire (-66 points). Last Tuesday I had a shoot-out with rival gang lords on the 5 near LA (-76 points). In May I pulled [livejournal.com profile] legalmoose's hair (-5 points). In April I broke [livejournal.com profile] enigmacub's X-Box (-12 points).

Overall, I've been naughty (-169 points). For Christmas I deserve a lump of coal!

Sincerely,
chrishansenhome

Write your letter to Santa! Enter your LJ username:
chrishansenhome: (Default)
Hooray, hooray, the first of May!
Outdoor shagging starts today.
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I'm painfully aware that my many friends here have been posting merrily during the holiday season while I've remained officially mute. Some of this is due to the ennui that Christmas in England produces in many of the sons and daughters of St. George. The rest of it is due to my own indolence and mine and HWMBO's desire to spend lots of time with each other this week as we are both off work. So, here we go with a megaupdate.

The run up to Christmas and the day itself were relatively quiet. We had ham, potatoes, turnip, and Brussels sprouts for Christmas lunch, with homemade squash pie for dessert (topped with a spoonful of Haagen Dasz). I am particularly proud of the squash pie: this delicacy is unknown here, where squash is invariable either mashed or roasted and served as a side dish. I used James Beard's recipe and am happy to report that not only did the pie (and the pastry, praised be the goddess of pies!) come out well but we did not tire of it and consumed all of it, in contradistinction to the mince pie I baked last year, which although tasty was a bit too much for us and had to be discarded after a week or so. Another homage to my mother, who was a consummate baker of pies. Another speciality of hers was fudge, which I have not attempted as it would probably mean instant diabetic coma in my delicate condition.

We didn't get each other any presents, formally, but have accompanied each other on shopping expeditions and have, at times, shopped alone. I am preparing for my Masonic initiation in February by today purchasing a white shirt, a black tie, and black socks. I shall have to purchase a black suit, good black shoes (I need shoes anyway.) and white gloves. I am led to expect that it will be a good experience but sartorially I shall be looking somewhat like a funeral director. No top hat, as far as I know. HWMBO has purchased shirts, shoes, and various other sundries. I've bought shirts, some computer equipment, and the like. Toys for boys, I guess. I think our shopping expeditions are probably over for now.

Boxing Day (December 26) brought the terrible news of the earthquake and tsunami in South and Southeast Asia. We considered going to Phuket last October but settled for Bintan Island in Indonesia instead. The waves did not reach Singapore or Bintan because of the Straits of Malacca and the island of Sumatra shielding them from the water. The news reports have been terrible. I cannot but think of the picture of eight smiling staff of a gay hotel in Phuket that I found on my hard disk a few nights ago. I wonder how many of them are still alive, and unhurt. Various people have been trying to extract meaning (invariably a religious one) from this event. The people of gothatesfags seem to think that it's God's revenge on the area. Others speak of the Godly activities of those caught up in the tragedy, both people who died, people who rescued and were rescued by others, and those who are digging deep into their pockets now. I resist attaching any religious meaning to it whatsoever. God didn't direct the tectonic plate shift that caused the earthquake, S/He wasn't punishing the inhabitants of the area and the tourists for Godless living, nor was S/He trying to make any point at all. Any meaning to it will be injected by people and extracted by them. The interdependence of the world's areas comes to mind as one lesson to be learned. This is not on the order of a "butterfly beating its wings in England causing a tornado in India six months later" lesson in interdependence. This is interdependence in a real sense. The people of the region depend on us to visit their areas and spend money, to buy their products, to take in their migrants, and to ensure that our waste and pollution do not contribute to the flooding of their islands and coastlines. We depend on them to provide safe and comfortable places to stay in a generally felicitous climate, to produce things like oil, rubber, coconut meat and palm oil, and the natural beauty of the land and the people who live there. We are all responsible for each other.

HWMBO and I want to donate to the Disaster Emergency Committee here in the UK. I have been trying to donate through their website for four days. They have made it impossible so to do. The first try ended in failure after I had filled out the form: their servers were overloaded and couldn't process the donation. At least, I hope they couldn't: I've been checking to ensure that the message which I received to that effect was genuine and that the money hasn't left our account. Evidently they realised that their servers were overloaded and switched to another collection service provider, as the form has now changed. However, the ineptness hasn't left. The second and third time I filled out the form properly, with the correct Visa card number, and was told that my Visa card number was invalid. I tried it with and without spaces, and still it was said to be invalid. I've given up and will call in our donation later. But wouldn't it be nice if for a change some software testing was done on such sites BEFORE a major event left them high and dry?

An interesting sidelight on the tragedy is that one of my pet peeves about the US is no longer unique to it. I have always noticed that, when there is a disaster of some sort in foreign climes, the US media are interested only to the extent of the loss of life suffered by US citizens. QUAKE IN EAST BUMLAND: 4 AMERICANS DIE! is the headline: only later in the story (sometimes cut by the editors) do you find that 100,000 East Bumlanders have also lost their lives. The British press is now going down the same road: while the total death toll is still high up in the story, the 27 British confirmed dead is a major part of the story, while it's only 0.02126% or so of the current death total. I am presuming now that every country is for itself in this: the Scandinavians, according to the Grauniad, are going through major grief and trauma as many of the tourists were Scandinavians and their respective governments were slow to respond to the need for information to get to relatives and friends of the holidaymakers. The few celebrities (the grandson of the King of Thailand and a granddaughter and daughter of the broadcaster Lord Attenborough are the only ones that come to mind at the moment) are of intense interest. Our Prime Minister didn't cut his holiday in Egypt short. This is another reason why Labour, who have left their roots and become the party of the nouveaux riches, should be defeated and returned into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Unfortunately, so should the Tories.

Even the least casualty of the quake is worthy of remembrance.

I have finished two books during the holidays, Cosmo Gordon Lang, by Lockhart, and Winnington-Ingram, by Carpenter. Lang was successively Vicar of Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, Vicar of Portsea, Bishop of Stepney, Archbishop of York, and Archbishop of Canterbury from the end of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries. He is generally only known for his odd name and for the fact that he had a part in the Abdication of Edward VIII, and made a broadcast after the event that sounded like he was kicking the man while he was down. He was much loved during his lifetime, and died on the pavement near Kew Gardens while rushing to the train to attend the House of Lords. Arthur Winnington-Ingram was Bishop of London from 1901 to 1939, and was also much loved and venerated. He had a "Catholic" feel about him, while being resolutely an Evangelical of the Old Skool: loving all his neighbours unconditionally and trusting all to be virtuous, even if they were scamps and scallywags and let him down in the end. Both these biographies had the feel of hagiography or panegyric. They were written soon after the deaths of their subjects, and many of those who were mentioned were still alive and kicking, so some references had to be quite guarded. Lang has been assumed to have been gay, and Winnington-Ingram was unmarried and very much a promoter of young men: he ordained more than 2200 men to the priesthood in his long career. However, neither biographer would have dreamed in the 1940's that anyone would have thought that either prelate were homosexual. Reading them makes me wonder whether there's a market for research into the first half of the twentieth century in the Church of England as regards her prelates and history. Perhaps I'll get motivated to do something about this. Lang in particular is quite an interesting subject when placed in historical perspective.

We have seen two movies in three days: Before Sunrise, and The Incredibles. I enjoyed both: the animation in The Incredibles was excellent, and perhaps foretells a time when actors (except for their voices) are supernumeraries in the film world. Before Sunrise is an older movie (1995 or so) that was shown by our local art house, The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. We are both Life Members and saw the film for a grand total of £3 (not including the soda and popcorn). I was really touched by the movie and kind of sad when I read of the sequel, Before Sunset, where the characters meet again for a short time not in the way that the first movie envisioned.

Today after the film we had a late lunch at the Surrey Quays mall, did a bit of shopping (surprise!) and then home. I have some dip prepared (good old French Onion dip!), and we have some cheese and crackers. We'll have some soup soon and then nibble (almost wrote "nipple") our way through midnight. We may have a drop of port. Another year will (presumably) dawn. The world is broken yet again. Will this year see any decrease in global war and strife? I certainly hope and pray it will.

I also wish for all my friends, both lj and not, a happy New Year.

July 2017

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