New Year’s Eve – 2014

Reading time: 3 minutes...

Lucky us! This year, we’ve been invited to two celebrations. The first is at The Kettering Park Hotel to join Jo, Janet and Carol. The second, an even more local affair – Karen and Paul’s, next door!

The evening began at the Hotel at 7.30pm with Champagne and Canapés. First impressions were a little concerning as the Bar area, designed to hold about 50 persons, was creaking at the seams attempting to house almost 150!

Still, the organisers thoughtfully let us all get to our tables a little ahead of schedule (just as we five decided to find somewhere else to wait!), and we were all piped-in by err, a Piper. We were on table 14 (of 14), and with most tables arranged for 10 guests, the whole room was pretty densely packed. We shared the table with another group of 5, who’d travelled all the way from Cambridge, and we were soon chatting and getting into the mood for a celebration.


The ‘ice-breaker’ was the balloons on each table. I’ve not seen this type before, but they were long and came with a mouthpiece to inflate them. Once inflated, the ‘game’ was NOT to tie a knot in the end, but to simply let them go, and watch them fly around the room – or in our case, use them as missiles, attacking the other tables. Trajectory was difficult to master, but ‘aiming low’ (my speciality) seemed to be the key to long and accurate flights.

Course followed course, and the staff coped pretty well with the numbers they had to serve – over 150. The food was very tasty (and very hot), and the steak was pretty generous in size. By the time we got to the ‘Edinburgh Fog’, we were all pretty stuffed – and then the cheese-board arrived!!

In a slight break with tradition, Ann and I spent a lot of time on the dance-floor – Ann dancing, and me coping with my two left feet! Still, it helped burn-off the calories recently acquired!!! The resident DJ, did a good job in keeping the dance-floor busy and provided a good mix of styles and tempos! If only I had a right foot as well, I might have enjoyed it even more!!!!!
 
Midnight arrived, and after subjecting the congregation, as we linked hands, to ALL the verses of Auld Lang Syne resulting in a lot of ‘la-la-ing’, 2015 had officially begun. In another break with tradition, Ann and I carried on dancing until around 12.45, when we said our goodbyes and headed for the car-park and our next get-together – at Paul and Karen’s.

It was now 1am, and well past our bedtime – and if we thought we were just going to Paul and Karen’s for a ‘quick drink’ we were happily wrong! Paul and Karen’s generous nature meant that her guests had already eaten well, and were still on the ‘drinks course’ – so that was perfect timing for us. Were in good company as testing the alcohol were David and Rosi; John and Trish; Bobby and Stella; James and Heather plus a couple of couples who we’d not met before. The only other significant activity apart from the drinking was dancing – and Stella and Heather were setting the standard! Unfortunately, standards weren’t being followed, and my two left-feet got another airing, in spite of my shrapnel wound (and when I say ‘shrapnel wound’, I mean ‘inebriation’.)

Bobby tried his hand at various music-mixes, but I think it’s fair to say, Calvin Harris shouldn’t get too worried with Kettering’s competition – thanks Bobby, for at least trying to get us all on the dance floor! A combination of exhaustion and alcohol made a dynamic combination resulting in complete inaction – with the exception of Stella and Heather whose energy seemed to be limitless (what are you two on, and can I have some please!)

After a lot more gossiping, it was time to call it a night – even though it was nearly morning! I think this year was a record for us – we didn’t get to bed until 3am!!

Happy New Year everyone – we had a great night!!!

Keep Taking the Tablets!

Reading time: < 1 minute...Don't Panic!











 


My new(ish) Windows Tablet developed a fault last night, that even I couldn’t solve – the firewall turned itself OFF and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to start again. My AV program refused to run properly (so I couldn’t check to see if I had any ‘nasties’!), and what’s more, for some obscure reason, the Tablet wouldn’t let me delete or reinstall my main Anti-Malware app either. 

I suspect a gremlin got in whilst the Firewall was down and crippled the AV and Malware apps. So, a massive ‘oooo-err missus’ from this end, whilst I worked out what to do next.

After many hours of faffing around with the Registry, enlisting some help online and generally crossing my fingers (how techy is that!), it became clear the Tablet was a basket-case, and the only route was to completely reinstall Windows, and then reinstall all my apps.

Well, it was my first experience of ‘restoring’ a Windows 8.1 Tablet, and I’m pleased to say it all went perfectly smoothly. Three hours later, we were back up-and-running with the Firewall, AV and anti-Malware apps behaving themselves too!

Phew!

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2014 – Last Christmas

Reading time: < 1 minute...



I always approach the Who Christmas Specials with some trepidation – it’s nearly always a broader audience watching (in this family at least), and the expectation is so high, given the frequency of trailers on TV leading up to the day. In recent years, I’ve taken to recording it, and then watching it on my own, just in case its weirdness is too much for the rest of the family!

On the plus side, you normally can’t go wrong with a script penned by Steven Moffat – and luckily, this festive-special was no exception – Lead script-writer and Who-head-honcho, has been responsible for some of the more iconic episodes from ‘new-Who’, and you can always guarantee he’ll provide an intelligent script and keep the audience guessing right until the end!

Well, this was a really good Christmas-special (for this Whovian anyway!) – just the right amount of festive flavour, together with some fine acting and an imaginative (if somewhat complex) storyline. These days, it’s worth ensuring that if you’re watching a Moffatt-script live, popping to the loo BEFORE it starts, is a must, as every second behind a closed door, is likely to mean you’ve missed something significant as the story progresses.

So, well done to everyone involved – it had all the essential ingredients – festive, family-friendly, watchable and mysterious! (with the bonus of knowing whether Jenna Coleman will continue into 2015).

I just dropped the rating by half-a-star, as it was perhaps a tad too complicated a storyline (or maybe it was simply that I had too much wine at lunch!)

Christmas 2014

Reading time: 4 minutes...

It was our first Christmas without Mum and it did feel a little hollow.

Christmas Eve
A mild day weather-wise – no frost, no snow, no rain – just mild, although it did turn cold when we went for our afternoon walk around 2pm. The day began early, as I drove to M and S to pick up the Three-bird Roast. For such an early arrival (7.30am!), M and S was packed, but their queuing system for Christmas orders had been finely-tuned within an inch of its life, and I was out in just under fifteen minutes. Then it was off to pick-up Lee and then on to Asda to buy some more of their pineapple roulade (that we’d purchased on impulse a few days before – and has turned out to be the most delicious cheese I’ve tasted in years!)

Christmas Day
M and S Three-bird Roast
Tasty Bird x 3

The day also began early as I popped the bird into the oven around 7.30. Why so early? Well, we’d re-arranged Christmas Day to fit around Denis’ recent short-stay at Hotel NHS as part of turning him into the Bionic Man! He’d been admitted on the 23rd, and discharged on Christmas Eve. Long story short then – we cooked the Bird here as well as the rest of the Christmas meal, packed-up the serviettes, crackers and everything else Christmassy and headed in the direction of Heckington, for this year’s relocated Christmas Lunch!

Chhristmas Lunch 2014
Almost Ready for Christmas Lunch at Denis’

It’s not easy cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen, but Ann did a great job, and just before 12.30, we all sat down to a full-on ‘Chrimbo Feast’ and that included Denis’ fave pudding – Christmas Pudding with custard with extra thick Double Cream with optional Brandy Cream!

By 1.45, it was all over for another year. and after tackling the washing-up, and leaving Dennis with an immaculate kitchen, we settled down for a cuppa and a chat before gathering up all our pressies and heading home. In my excitement for ensuring we didn’t forget anything, I also managed to REPACK some of the pressies we were supposed to leave behind – a rare ‘numpty’ moment, but I blame the three glasses of wine with lunch!
Open-mouthed smile

There was hardly anything on the roads coming home and we got in just in time to catch the second half of Strictly before settling down for the rest of the evening in front of the TV.

Boxing Day
Well, here we are at Roger, Jane and Oliver’s. We’re here until after lunch tomorrow. We had a good journey down here although there was plenty of traffic on the road, especially on the A1, where they all seemed to be heading for the shops!

Lego in 2014!
Lego – Not as Simple as it Looks!

On arrival, Oliver was in the middle of constructing a Lego version of an Imperial Star Destroyer – Lego has certainly changed a lot since I was a sprog – a feat that was to prove challenging even for his young mind (and his Dad’s!)

After a quick coffee, we all took-off for for a bracing walk around the iconic Hanbury Manor, just a few hundred yards away – we haven’t been here since Oliver’s christening back in April 2007, and it was good to see the place again.

Image result for hanbury manor
Hanbury Manor

That prepared us nicely for the rather superb lunch – Soup, Pork Ragout followed by Trifle and/or Chocolate Log (‘and’ in my case!), all washed-down with some excellent wines. It was a long slow lazy lunch (perfect!) and then followed by the highlight of the day for Oliver (and maybe this adult!) – opening presents! This year, I’d donated my Android Tablet to Oliver, and he was soon testing out its capabilities – with a game of Candy Crush!

Mega Feast!
Mega Boxing Day Feast at Roger, Jane and Oliver’s

With the presents ceremony over for another year, it was then time for a cuppa and an even lazier afternoon. We showed off our photographs from Malta, and then Roger surprised us by putting-on a 35mm slide-show of the Gambles-family-through-the-years. Fascinating and moving in equal measure! Ann’s Mum was certainly a stunner in her younger years and I can see where Ann got her good looks from! (It’s times like this, when you absolutely DO want you other half to read your blog!)
Smile

With the show over, there was just time for some more food – turkey rolls – before calling it a night.

We slept in – a rare treat for us – until 8am! Another lazy morning plus another walk put us in the mood for lunch – cold cuts and chips followed by a welcome re-appearance of yesterday’s desserts. Yummy! And then, it was all over. After a short tech-session with Jane to help Oliver with his homework, we were defrosting the car, and re-packing the boot. We said our goodbyes, and headed off in the direction of the A1 North. By now, the weather was deteriorating – rain into sleet and back to rain again.

Predictably, it was a perilous drive home in places, but we made good time. Once home, we caught up with the last few Christmas Cards that had somehow been delivered whilst we were away. And then, we began to pick-off the recordings on the Sky-box – our normal post-Christmas routine.

Christmas goes so quickly doesn’t it? For me, the build-up seems to last for months, and then it’s over in a heart-beat. The extra nice thing about this year though, was catching-up with some of the family – and spending some quality time with them – tinged with sadness, because Mum wasn’t around.

Now all that’s left to do is to eat our way through what’s left in the fridge (but we might need some serious help – why did we buy all this food?)
Sick smile

Everyone was so generous (AGAIN) this year with gifts – and increasingly, the introduction of ‘Christmas Lists’ for some of the family has ensured they get something that they really want. My Christmas Pressy list is HERE.

Christmas Past
2013
2012
2011
2010

Roulade!

Reading time: < 1 minute...

Looking good!

It was good to see Jo and Janet tonight – they helped us with another test-drive of the recently-decorated Dining Room, by attacking a rather ginormous Lasagne followed by an even larger cheese-board. The Pineapple Roulade, courtesy of Mr Asda, was particularly tasty, and I might need to get another, if we are to survive the Christmas period!

Heaven Stent

Reading time: < 1 minute...

Today, Denis went in for his scheduled NHS stop-over that included a two stents and the rather tongue-twisty rotablation procedure. All being well, he’ll be discharged on Christmas Eve, and so we’ll go to his for Christmas Day, having prepared him a full Christmas Lunch wrapped in foil!

Christmas Carol Concert 2014 – The Citadel

Reading time: < 1 minute...

Christmas Carol Concert at The Citadel 2014

Christmas is getting closer! After last night’s excellent Christmas meal courtesy of Trish and John, tonight, we exercised our lungs by attending the Salvation Army’s local Carol Concert at the Citadel (as we do every year).

David and Valerie were there, and so were Jo, Janet and Helen. Val managed to reserve us a couple of seats (which was a good thing as the place was almost at capacity by the time we arrived). Sadly, Frank couldn’t make it this year and nor could Lee (who was feeling a bit poorly after lunch). Compared to last year, this third (and final) performance for 2014 was far better attended, and that was reflected in the money collected – over £2000 this year, compared to £1200 last year.

My lungs really feel as if they’ve had a good workout, and so far, as a result, no sign of any of the local dogs or cats in distress, running around in agony!

Winking smile