Saturday, 29 December 2007

Film: I Am Legend

This afternoon we went to see the film, I Am Legend, with Will Smith. I don't think I've been so scared for a long time. I spent a lot of the film peering from behind my hands, and I wasn't the only one doing that. It is also very sad in places. Overall, a very good film.

When the film started I had a sudden thought that a film with only one person in it may get a bit tedious. But that never happened. Terrifying - yes, tedious - no! Unbearable tension - yes, hohum factor - absolutely none!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

BBC Breakfast's Essential Guide for the Sales

I was pretty shocked this morning by the BBC Breakfast program's Essential Guide for the Sales segment. Hannah Sandling, a Fashion Stylist, was shown pushing and shoving past people on an escalator, closely followed by her interviewer, in an example of really rude and loutish behaviour. Hannah Sandling then went on to explain that in the rush to get that essential bargain it was a "dog eat dog situation, if you want something you have got to fight for it."

She then continued by elbowing the air to the side of her while she told her audience that they should be prepared to kick if necessary. This particular bit has now been removed, no doubt as a result of a flood of complaints (including mine), but the part in my first paragraph is still showing at intervals, and I do think it's irresponsible, rude and dangerous.

What sort of example is it setting for impressionable children who may be watching the show? And what sort of image is it giving the world of Britain and the British? Can't we expect the BBC, at the very least, to promote socially acceptable behaviour?

Back to Work

Christmas is over. My daughters have gone back to their respective jobs, and I'm trying to fit back into my normal routine (if you can call it that).

We had an amazing Christmas holiday. All the family were in one place at the same time. A truly rare occurance. We had Christmas Dinner at my youngest brother and his wife's house, and 25 people sat down to eat at one long table. My brother's wife cooked the entire meal almost single-handedly, a truly heroic feat, and an absolutely perfectly delicious result.

It was my oldest brother's 60th birthday on Christmas Day, and my mother had ordered a cake in the shape of a Christmas Tree, since she'd always made him a Christmas Tree cake when he was small. The resulting cake had four (4!) layers, each a different flavour, and was covered in white icing. There were candy shapes like decorations stuck all over it and an angel sitting on the top. There was one polar bear candle per decade, just so his lungs wouldn't be put under any strain when he came to blow them out. (Actually, the real reason was that there was some concern that the cake would catch fire if there were 60 lit candles on it.)

This picture was taken by my daughter, with her digital camera set at black and white. Hence the lack of colour. When I was her age it was so exciting (and expensive) to take colour photographs, because the norm was black and white and most people couldn't afford to take or develop colour pictures. Now we've gone full circle, and black and white photos are cool.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Santa Hooli

The things I do for treats!
Can I get this stupid hat off now?

Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas Eve

It's 10:22 pm, everyone has been and gone, and we've had a lovely afternoon and evening. I woke up very early and dressed the Christmas tree, and then got ready for the party in the afternoon. It went very well. I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I had too much food, but I think that's better than too little. All the adults have left, but some of the kids are still here, and they're playing Cranium in the sitting room.

I just have the stockings to put together, and then I can leave all the rest to Santa.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Time Flies

I've not written here for two days, and time is flying. I went and fetched my son from Sheffield yesterday. The M1 was very busy on the way up, and I was stuck in a traffic jam for about an hour. My daughter arrives tomorrow morning, and then everyone will be home.

The Christmas tree is still undressed. Frantic decorations will be happening tomorrow morning before the Christmas Eve party at my house.

Time is flying!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Only Four Days Till Christmas

My youngest brother and his family arrived here from the USA today. That means that all of us are in the same country now (for the first time in three years).

These pictures were taken by my Australian nieces using my camera. They rode in my car when we went to visit the US branch of the family this afternoon.

It was a fabulously misty day, and the scenery appeared to be constructed layer on layer.

The sun hung low and large in the sky on our way home, and gave off a pink and orange glow.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Waiting time

The Christmas Tree is waiting for the kids to come home and decorate it.

Look who landed Meet and Greet duty!

Only Five Days Till Christmas

Only five days till Christmas!

Today my older brother and his family arrived from Australia to spend Christmas here in England. It was so nice to see them all, especially since we haven't seen each other for almost three years. My nieces are now so grown up, but then I guess he and his wife will be saying the same about my kids.

Today I also got my first blog award from Karen H. whose blog can be found here. This is the award:
It's really nice, if you look at it sideways it looks like a heart. Thank you Karen!
It's been a very cold day here today. The grass never defrosted so Janey the rabbit couldn't go out to play. Brrrrrh!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Only 6 days till Christmas!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Christmas Carols by Tractor and Trailer

This evening there was the annual Carol singing around the village by tractor and trailer. The money raised goes to charity. They were brave singers, it's a very cold night.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Shepherds Delight

Leaving Milton Keynes on the Buckingham Road this afternoon...

The sun wasn't actually setting, but was dipping behind a line of clouds. There was a red sky later on, though.

Good Morning Hooli

Hooli says: Can I eat them now?

Wait, wait, wait, that's all I ever do!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Hooli's on his way

All hands on deck! Hooli's on his way. It's time to Hooli-proof the house!

And here he is!

Almost Christmas

Only 11 more days till Christmas!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Gordon Ramsay (and Chris Evans again)

I just got back from a shopping trip to Milton Keynes. After I'd finished buying what I needed, I headed back to the car park. On my way I passed a queue outside WHSmiths which snaked all the way back and across the walkway. By any standards, it was a long line. I asked someone in the line what was going on, and they said that Gordon Ramsay was inside signing his new book. So of course I had to go in and see for myself.

There was a cordoned off area with two bodyguards in suits at each end of it, and at the back of the area was a table at which Gordon Ramsay was signing his book. Much to my surprise the bodyguards were very friendly and showed me a good place to take photos from. So here it is:

He has got his own website, and you can find it here.

On my way home I caught Chris Evans' show again, and once again he did the 'How deep is, how deep is your snow, I really wanna know.....' segment, and spoke to someone in Dubai who runs an indoor 400 metre ski slope. Someone had to drill into the snow, and then measure it, and it came out at "45 centimetres of good snow". Their website is here.

Interestingly, on the top right hand corner of their opening web page, there is an ad for skiing in Lebanon. The thing about skiing in Dubai is the contrast between the extreme heat of the desert and the coldness of the ski dome. In Lebanon, nature provides this contrast for free. I can remember, in my youth, snow skiing in the mountains of Lebanon in the morning, and water skiing in Beirut in the afternoon, all on the same day! I do not exaggerate.

I would also like to point out that There Is A Ski Slope In Milton Keynes (with real snow), but this will be covered in another entry.

Terry Pratchett

According to today's Daily Telegraph, Terry Pratchett has a rare form of Alzheimer's.

Believe it or not, I've never read a single one of his books, although I have been intending to do so for quite a while. He started writing when he was 13, and he's 59 now. He has averaged 2 books a year since 1983, which means he has published at least 46. In fact, there are 40 Discworld books and I counted another 13 listed on Wikipedia, plus a whole list of books to which he's contributed.

I think I'd better start reading them at the beginning and work my way through them chronologically. It's a huge undertaking, but I'm hoping I'll manage it. It should be a real treat.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Christmas Cheer

With only 13 days left till Christmas, I've been working on a couple of articles about alcohol and how to stay safe.

The first article gives tips on how to stay safe while still enjoying the Holiday celebrations.

I used to think that if I went out and just had one glass of wine, I'd be consuming one unit of alcohol. Since doing the research on my articles, I've realised that this isn't necessarily the case. Wine can come in strengths that range from 7% to 14%. The bottle of red wine that I currently have open is 13.5%. The guidelines are based on a 125 ml glass of wine containing 8% alcohol. An equivalent amount of my wine would contain just under 1.7 units of alcohol! I've included the calculations in my second article.

Just click on the links to see the two articles.

Be safe this Christmas!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Chris Evans

I was just listening to Chris Evans on Radio 2, and he's running a segment called "How Deep Is Your Snow", words that were sung by several voices harmonizing haphazardly to the tune of "How Deep Is Your Love". He spoke to a woman who has an Ice Hotel in Lapland. After talking to her for a bit he asked her how deep her snow was, and she went outside to measure it and said it was half a metre deep.

The web address she gave took me to a website selling gingerbread houses, but I googled Ice Hotel Lapland and I found it here. I'm not sure if it's the same Ice Hotel as that run by the lady Chris Evans was talking to, but how many Ice Hotels are there? It looks quite amazing, and not all the furniture is ice, especially in the bedrooms and dining room, but the bar is completely made of ice. Exploring the site, it seems that there is an Ice Bar in London, which is something worth following up I think.

Back to the Chris Evans show, it seems he and/or someone else had their passport photos returned by the passport office because the flash from the camera glinted off the glass in their specs. Someone wrote in suggesting that just for the picture they should have their passport photos taken wearing spectacle frames without any lenses. Problem solved! Now that's what I call thinking outside of the box.

I must say that I do enjoy listening to Chris Evans, he always makes me smile.

Christmas in Milton Keynes - Part 2

I went to Milton Keynes Midsummer Place Shopping Centre this afternoon. The light show was pretty fantastic.

But that wasn't all: I came across the famous Concrete Cows, grazing at the foot of an old oak tree around which the shopping area was built.

Around a corner is a mechanical clock, with a frog that blows bubbles on the hour. Children wait expectantly for the hour to strike. Here he is just before 6 pm.

When the minute hand touches 12, the frog moves, music tinkles, the frog opens his mouth and blows bubbles, and the fan unfurls until it forms a complete circle in the background. Then it all goes into reverse.

Click on a picture to enlarge.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Christmas Cards

Every day brings a few more Christmas cards from friends and family far and near. I'm so enjoying reading their news and views. Some of the news is sad, but mostly it's happy.

But I do have a confession to make, I haven't yet written one single Christmas Card!

Last year I was so methodical. I spent a specific block of time each day until they were all written. This year I've decided to go for the Marathon approach. I'll dedicate a day within the next week, gather everything I need, and I'll start and keep going until they're all done. I won't mail a single one until every last one has been written, and then I'll mail them all together.

I'm not very good at finishing things, so if nobody gets a card from me this year, it'll mean I haven't finished them yet. There is some method behind my madness, though. The reason I'm not going to mail a single card until I've written them all is that it gives me time to decide whether I want to write a 'dear all' letter this year, and if so, who I'd like to send it to. If the cards are all done and in their unsealed envelopes, I can write, print off and add to any or all of them as the mood takes me.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Christmas in Milton Keynes

The Christmas decorations are up in Middleton Hall, inside Milton Keynes Shopping Centre.

This year's theme is Wind In The Willows, and the Hall is filled with scenes from the book played out by moving figures and words from the book displayed and recorded.

Here's one of the displays: "On the Open Road"

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Milton Keynes

I took my camera to Milton Keynes the other day, and got a bit snap happy.

This statue, of a couple in conversation, in the Theatre Area, captured my imagination. I think it's cloak and dagger stuff, and they're plotting something secret. Notice the lit floor inside the circle of seats under the shelter.

This is Milton Keynes Theatre. The wooden construction in front of the theatre is a piece of art with a door at the bottom so that you can enter and climb to the top. The pink building to the left of the tower is an art gallery.