New Year’s Eve 2017

Reading time: 2 minutes...  A busy New Year’s Eve! First up, we joined Jo, Janet and Carol at the local Odeon for the 3.15 performance of the movie: The Greatest Showman starring a clean-shaven Hugh Jackman (free from his Wolverine alter-ego). The movie is based on P. T. Barnum‘s creation of the the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether this film was going to work… Hugh Jackman singing..? and dancing? However, I’m happy to report that if you see this, prepare to have your heart melted! On a feel-good factor of 0 to 10, I’d give this one about 25! Fantastic, just fantastic! Don’t worry about the storyline, just sit back and think Moulin Rouge – with Elephants – combined with a poignant message for society about the tolerance of those who are different! Hugh Jackman really pulled it off. He did sing, he did dance – and the whole cast gave it 110% throughout. All-in-all, a superb feel-good movie with a few tissue-moistening moments (just where you’d expect them) – perfect for New Year’s Eve!
Then, at just before 7.30, we got into ‘party-mode’. In contrast to last year’s new year celebrations with Karen and Ralph, this year was a VERY local affair (about as local as it gets actually!) as it was simply next door to Paul and Karen’s! There were around 20 of us there in total and the Chefs amongst us had once again done us proud with some yummy food. Ann created some memorable Starters, Karen made a Thai Curry whilst Stella conjured up a chilli. The banquet was complete with a fruit platter courtesy of Rosi with Jo, Janet and Carol on Cheese duties. WOW! Fab Starters Delicious Mains Cheese and a Fruit Platter to finish The evening got off to an energetic start with a pop-quiz hosted by Kirk based on listening to opening bars familiar tunes. Most of us were rubbish. but Rosi excelled and more-or-less identified all of them! 😁 Plenty of conversation followed and we were all in fine form throughout the evening. Midnight came round quickly, and on the stroke of 12 midnight, Karen fired-up her TV and we watched the London Fireworks live followed by some Nile Rodgers and Chic on BBC 1 followed by the annual staple Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny with this year’s headline act – Ed Sheeran. Weirdest pop name on the show this evening probably went to Trombone Shorty who certainly knew how to get the most out of his instrument! Brilliant! 👍👍 We all attempted Auld Lang Syne, but as enjoyable as it was, a certain lack of co-ordination on the hand-joining as well as the vocals meant that we should all probably stick to our day-jobs! Missed the 2018 London display? Click on the image to play (Duration 15:03) Not to be outdone, Paul and Kirk arranged a firework display in the garden. A brave effort, but it’s fair to say it felt underwhelming by comparison (but still a really good laugh!) 😊 Towards the end of the evening (actually, I’m not sure there was an ‘end’ as such), just before 1am, Roger and Debbie J added to the party numbers, having been to Wicksteed for their new year’s eve meal whilst the rest of us were scoffing at Karen’s. Jo, Janet & Carol wound things up around 1ish whilst we finally ‘threw in the towel’ at around 1.30am and that seemed to prompt some of the neighbours to do the same – Trish, John and then Rosi and David followed. It had been a GREAT evening – we haven’t laughed this much for ages – and for once, I felt I didn’t I’d overdone things on the alcohol front! We eventually hit the pillow at around 1.45am. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! See you again next year, same time, same place!

That Lyveden Look!

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Post Christmas, it’s always good to blow away the cobwebs and begin to get back into the routine of ‘keeping active’. With that in mind, Chris and Gill popped round and we headed off to National Trust’s Lyveden. We haven’t been there since August 2011! and blow away the cobwebs it certainly did! In fact it nearly blew the car away!!! Boy! was it windy!

After our healthy adventure, it was off to a Pub for lunch. We had the ever-reliable Shuckburgh Arms in mind, but when we got there it was closed, in spite of the web-site not suggesting any sort of special hours for this time of year (and nothing on the door either!) Bah!

Back in the car then, and back into Oundle, where we parked-up and walked to the Talbot Arms. Although we seemed to be in competition with a local wedding party, we were soon served and tucking into some tasty ciabatta rolls.

Lunch over, it was back to ours for a quick cuppa and a natter before saying our good-byes before we all get together next Saturday for the Theatre n Stratford-upon-Avon. Boy it’s tough being retired!!!

Christmas 2017

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Christmas Eve
It’s Christmas and we’ve got a busy (and very enjoyable) schedule. As normal, for us, it’s all about the ‘Four Fs of Christmas’ – Family, Friends, Food and Films!

We set off for Denis’ just before 10am. Lee remained at ours (she’s not been so good travelling these days), and we arrived just after 11am. This year Bev was in charge of the Mains whilst Ann looked after Dessert – and the girls did a fantastic job! There were nibbles and coffee when we got there, in preparation for the main event – a full Christmas Roast followed by Chrissy Pudding and/or Mince Pies (‘and’ in my case!) and all finished-off with a Cheese-board.

In between Ann and Bev keeping an eye on the festive food and its cooking-state, we experienced André Rieu in full-on Christmas mode courtesy of Sky Arts. He’s a bit of an acquired taste, but commercially and professionally, he’s become a worldwide success having popularised waltz music and classical music!

Forty-three potential (and avoided) TV-singalongs later, on the stroke of 1pm, Lunch was ready…

Roast Turkey Crown with all the trimmings – roast spuds, pigs-in-blankets, stuffing, carrots, parsnips, brussels cooked with onions & parmesan (even I liked them!), Bread Sauce and Cranberry Sauce…
…accompanied of course, by the obligatory cheesey Christmas Crackers…

…then the obligatory Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies…
…and finally, the Cheeseboard!
We enjoyed a good catch-up over the meal (and the clearing-up afterwards). Bev had even made us a Christmas Cake to take home!
Christmas Cake 2017
By 2.30, it was all over – another great family get-together, with yummy food along the way – so we exchanged presents and said our goodbyes.

We had a good journey back to ours (roads were deserted!) and after a short detour to Lee’s to pick up a few bits & bobs that she’d forgotten, we were sitting down enjoying a cuppa back at home by 4pm.

The rest of the day was ‘feet-up’ in front of the TV.

Christmas Day
A very lazy start to this special day! We stayed in bed until after 8.30!! In another personal record, I think this is the first time we’ve spent TODAY at home – just us two (and lee) for quite a few years. The only planned activity for us was to open all our presents, get lunch prepared, and for 5.30 going down to Jo’s to watch the rather special Doctor Who Christmas episode.

Lunch prep began around 10.15. First off the starting-blocks was Mr Tesco’s three-bird roast (needing just over two-and-a-half hours in the oven before it was ready). Next, was some frantic prepping of the vegetables –  parsnips, carrots, roasties, black cabbage and all the other Christmassy bits –  bread sauce, pigs-in-blankets and extra stuffing (by special request!).

10.45: Mid-morning saw us put the vegetable peeling to one side and switch to present-opening. For me, it’s safe to say that unless we move house, the extra supplies of Gin that I received, will just about squeeze into the drinks cupboard! By 11.45 (and one very full black refuse bag later for the wrapping paper) we were all done, and it was back in the kitchen for some more food prep!

1.30pm: It’s Christmas Lunch 2017!!


…with just a little Cheese and some Dessert Wine…

…in front of the Queen’s Speech…

…before vegging-out to Agatha Christie’s The Crooked House

…and then, as planned, down to Jo’s to watch a rather pivotal episode of Doctor Who (see separate Blog HERE).

With the show over, it was back to ours for an evening in front of our TV – specifically, BBC 2’s Carols from King’s (recorded the previous day), BBC 1’s Call the Midwife (glad we weren’t eating during the birth scene!), with very realistic snow scenes! and finally, ITV’s two-hour Victoria Christmas Special (the one where Albert introduces Christmas trees and skates on thin ice!).

11.05pm: We’re all done! Time for sleep, as it’s also a big day tomorrow!

Boxing Day
Roger, Jane and Oliver joined us today arriving just after 11.15. They’re staying with us until after breakfast tomorrow.

The table was laid…

…and as usual, Ann had laid on a super feast…

…and it didn’t take us long to ensure that there wasn’t much left over!

Dessert followed (as it nearly always does) – Profiteroles and individual Cranberry and Amoretti Trifles…

…all finished off with the obligatory Cheese-board!
It was a slow relaxing eating-affair and after two-and-a-half hours, a change of scenery was required (and inevitable) in the shape of the washing-up. With the dishwasher on full-tilt, Ann and I made short work of what wouldn’t fit. By 4.15 we were all back in the Lounge wondering what to watch in the ever-expanding list of Christmas recordings.

We began by casually watching the UHD/4K version of Blue Planet II (courtesy of Sky/iPlayer – only available until January!), but in the end, we settled down properly for the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast movie (which I admit turned out better than I thought it would be!)

With the film over, Ann prepared some more nibbles…

…whilst we half-watched Jurassic World on ITV (a bit disappointing), before settling down to something more substantial TV-wise – two episodes of season 2 (Ep 7 – Matrimonium and ep 8, Dear Mrs Kennedy) of The Crown

…and even though we’d already seen the series, it was definitely worth a re-watch. Fantastic entertainment!!

10.40pm: We’re all done and it was time for bed! Roger, Jan and Oliver are planning to leave after breakfast tomorrow

27th – Richard and Nicki

Well, the biggest shock this morning, was waking-up to a hefty dose of snow overnight! We normally look at the weather forecast before going to bed, but we were so full of the ‘Christmas spirit’, we didn’t. It’s not often Kettering makes the news, but it did this morning – for all the WRONG reasons – due to the atrocious driving conditions.

That obviously meant a ‘Plan B’ for today and a quick check of the forecast and current travelling situation generally meant that we had to postpone Nicki until the 4th January (even some of the main roads were bad and there had already been accidents on the A14 and M1 – and it was only 7.45am! A whole section of the A14 was closed between here and the Catthorpe Interchange!!). Roger, Jane and Oliver made plans to head home in between the snow showers (very on and off!). We de-snowed their car whilst the community spirit of Tynan Close kicked-in with the neighbours clearing the road in more-or-less record time.

After a late breakfast of Scrambled Egg, Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Bubble & Squeak (yuk! Otherwise known as ‘The Devil’s Vegetables’) and pre-owned Pigs-in-Blankets, all finished off with some more snow-clearing, by 12.30, they were on their way! we learned later that the weather improved enough and they were able to get to the cinema in Stevenage to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi (which at one point was going to be cancelled because of the white stuff!)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
With the house back to ourselves, I slipped into ‘ironing mode’ (bedding, towels, tea-towels, tea-towels, tea-towels and err, tea-towels!) whilst distracting myself by working through Sky Q’s festive recordings. This included the depression of EastEnders Festive episode and the aftermath (Mick, just seal-off the staircase to the roof, there’s been too many victims using the top of your Pub in recent years for diving practice!) plus the more uplifting new series of Little Women, the ‘Alfie Boe Christmas Carols Special’, ‘Alexander Armstrong’s Fine Tuned’ (nice voice!), ‘Would I Lie to You Christmas Special’ and ‘Have I Got News For You’.

The weather warmed-up a little more in the afternoon, and the snow began to melt,so we took Lee home around 3.30 and that meant that by around 4.15, the House was returned to just us two and Biscuit – normality reigns for a bit!
I must admit, by now, we we both feeling the effects of a day-or-so of full-on entertaining! So, by 9.15, we called it a night.

The weather forecast doesn’t look good for tomorrow – no more snow is forecast, but it’s going to be a very cold day as a result of overnight frost. My only commitment tomorrow is to get Ann to the Station (and I’m not looking forward to that given today’s slush is now beginning to freeze as the temperature plummeted to around -2C!).

28th – Ann Shopping with Karen
As forecast, the slush was now frozen on the paths and roads, making any sort of travel less-than-ideal. Needs must though, and at around 9.30 I dropped Ann at the Station for the 10am Train. As forecast, it was a bitterly cold day with more ice than snow on the roads. Fortunately, the AWD on the Sportage did its job (and it needed to, especially on the side-roads closer to home).

Ann had a good day shopping and I picked her up around 6.30 from Kettering Station.

29th – Palmer’s Reunited
With the weather as it is, it was just as well we did most of the journey to Bromley by Train. Although the snow didn’t arrive overnight, it was really cold!

So, as is becoming very familiar these days, we took the short drive to Bedford Station before hopping on the chuff-chuff to Bromley South. On the positive side of things, parking at Bedford Station was about as easy as it gets – we’ve never seen it so empty! Possibly it was because it was the Friday immediately after Christmas that made made all the difference!

Then it all went horribly wrong!
Baring teeth smile
Engineering work had generally mucked-up our connections. We got off at St Pancras International and no onward connection to Bromley South. So, as the only alternative, we had to take the Tube to Victoria Station and then take the Train from there to Bromley South. Luckily we were about 30 minutes ahead of schedule (due to an almost vehicle-free journey to Bedford), so we were still in with a chance of getting to our destination by the agreed 11.45.

We made it! Just! The rest was easy. Neil, Debbie, Alfie and Frankie were there waiting (although I managed to miss them initially by exiting the Station through the wrong door! – must be my age!)
Confused smile
Then it was the shortish walk up Bromley High Street to Bromley’s ASK for our booked table.

It was great, we had a long chat with both Alfie and Frankie as well as Neil and Debbie (and we probably don’t do that enough) plus the food was delicious!

Spicy Meatballs…

Calzone Pollo…

Honeycomb Cheesecake…

Wow! Did the time fly? Considering when we got there, it was just after 12 noon, the first time I looked at my watch, it was 2.15. We said goodbye to ‘the boys’ and Neil, Debbie and us walked back down the high street. We said our goodbyes again halfway to the Station (as Debbie needed to drop into Nationwide Bank) and Ann and I then made our way to the Station. We missed the 2.30 to Victoria by just a few seconds, but trains to the capital are pretty frequent in these parts, and just before 2.45, we were on the train – and a mega-busy one too on our way north! Back at St Pancras International, we made the 15.26 from ‘upstairs’ with a few minutes to spare.
Thumbs up
On schedule and thirty-minutes later, we were exiting the car-park at Bedford and heading, not for home, but Sainsbury’s for a few ‘bits’ and then onto Kettering General Hospital to see how Lee was getting-on (she’s been admitted at 3.20am the previous day). After negotiating the (surely the narrowest) car-park (in the world), we parked-up and headed for Barnwell Ward. Well, we headed to where we thought it was, only to discover, we’d actually ended up in the complete opposite side of the Hospital – and not where we needed to be. Luckily a Nurse on her way home spotted our confusion, and pointed us in the right direction!
Lee was in good spirits, all things considered, and after an extended conversation with the Ward Sister to determine next steps, we had a short natter with a reluctant patient, left a change of clothes and a few other essentials – and headed home.

The last job of the day was to get the table ready for our get-together with The Costellos tomorrow night and then watch a bit of TV.

Well, that’s it for another year! Christmas is over, and As always, we’ve eaten too much, drunk too much and we’ve got sheds of food and drink left over (in other words – a normal Christmas!). I’ve put on a modest 2lbs but it’s been great seeing everyone – the ‘four Fs’ are all ticked and we’ve enjoyed a great time with friends and family, watched some great (and not-so-great) TV – and of course given and received a wide selection of gifts – list is HERE

Christmas Past


Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017 – Twice Upon a Time

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Well, here we go again – it’s Christmas and it’s the Doctor Who Special. However, this year, on the ‘scale of special’ ranging from 0 to 5, this one is likely to end up ranking around 7 (probably at about the same time as the internet catches fire at 6.30 after this episode has aired).

Unless you’ve living under a stone for the past year (and even if you’re not a fan) you won’t fail to have had it rammed down your throat that this one is a ‘special’ special. Why? ‘…let me count the ways…’

  • It’s Peter Capaldi’s last outing as the Doctor and therefore it’s the one when he regenerates into the next Doctor
  • The next Doctor gets a gender switch too (first announced on 16 July 2017)
  • There’s the ‘first’ Doctor in this episode as well
  • The Doctor’s most recent companion makes a re-appearance (last seen heading off with her muse, Heather in the series 10 finalé, back in July)
  • It’s Steven Moffat’s final episode as showrunner and chief script-writer
  • Rumour is that the music maestro Murray Gold is also moving on

As previously mentioned, the internet will almost certainly go into overdrive immediately afterwards, analysing the episode the death, and making all sorts of predictions about how the series will play out when it returns. It’s worth saying that any other show that lost so many of its key people, would probably not survive, but the unique nature of Who, is such that I think it’s going to get a shot-in-the-arm just when it needs it most.

As an extra bonus for me this year, I dropped in on Jo (another Whovian) to watch it in the company of a like-minded fan! Well, was the episode any good? In a word (or six): Yes, It was all very watchable!  I won’t reveal the plot in detail here (in case you’ve yet to see it), but here are a few bits and bobs to temp you…

  • A good coherent story, with a subtle Christmas feel
  • It’s serious and humorous in about equal measure
  • There’s a great interplay between the two Doctors
  • Look out for an important reference that links to a future key character who starred alongside the second and third Doctor
  • There’s also a (very) brief re-appearance of a previous companion (No, not Bill Potts!)
  • …and an old foe who’s switched sides
  • Stand by for a superb re-generation scene preceded by some good advice for us all
  • Finally, there’s a very interesting cliff-hanger for the TARDIS itself
If you’re undecided about whether to watch it, I suggest you DON’T read the review by the Daily Telegraph – clearly someone isn’t having a good Christmas!!!

If you’re still with me, the new series (series 11) starts in the Autumn of 2018.

Pre-Christmas Nibbles

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We spent the morning tidying-up the house in preparation for our Christmas visitors. This year, we have Lee staying with us until after the Christmas period, up to Denis’ for our Christmas Eve meal with him and Bev. Then it’s just us three for Christmas Day with Roger, Jane and Oliver joining us for Boxing Day and finally Nicki and (hopefully) Richard for the 27th.

After we finished cleaning, we popped round to Sean’s to dig up the last of his potatoes before heading off to Lee’s to pick her up.

In the afternoon, David, Valerie, Delyth and little Evie dropped-by for a chat and a cuppa (and the obligatory slice of cake!). Not sure what little Evie made of me as she seemed to spend most of her time crying every time I attempted to speak to her (still got it! NOT!)
Sad smile
With Evie still not looking like she benefited from my sparkling wit and humorous asides, we said a neighbourly goodbye and that left just  a short pause, before Ann dived into the kitchen – preparing nibbles for this evening. 

As has become a bit of tradition, Jo and Janet dropped-in for pre-Christmas munchies and a Christmas film. Last year we watched A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim, this time round, it was that old classic: It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart.

It's a Wonderful Life

Ann, as usual, ‘did the business’ with the food…


…whilst Jo brought up a couple of interesting Gins – one even contained Frankincense and Myrrh! How appropriate!

…and I just enjoyed the results!
Stuffed and (ever-so-slightly) sozzled by around 10pm, we called it a day!
Confused smile
We’re all set for Christmas now!

Technology Classes: Restarting in 2018

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Well, that’s it for 2017! I’ve finished my final Class for this year.

Classes resume on 2nd January with the ‘Tuesday Laptop’ group.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all my pupils past and present!

Film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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This is spoiler-free, so if you’ve not seen it yet, you can safely read this, and go with unbiased eyes.

Jo managed to bag some tickets for Star Wars: The Last Jedi tonight at the local Odeon. Much has been written about this episode (and no doubt, much WILL be written once it’s left the cinema circuit). Film Critics and fans seem to be divided over whether this was a great film, a good film or just a film! But, hey, what do they know!?

One thing I will say is, it’s LONG – coming in at a whopping, 2 hours 33 minutes! The good news though is, it didn’t feel overlong to me.

Considering the film has been out for a while now, Screen 4 was packed, which surprised us a bit, as I thought it would just be those, like us, who in search of that elusive circular thingy – not got ‘a round tuit’. ☺️
Well, it was certainly a film that entertained, whether you’re a Star Wars super-fan, a casual fan, or just someone just looking for a great sci-fi romp. The opening scene will have you on the edge of your seats – and that’s how the rest of the film played-out – pretty much ‘action all the way’.

It’s got epic battles, more epic battles, plenty of light-sabre action, great SFX… oh, and a story too. What’s not to love?! (although I would say it helps a bit, if you know the back-story to the whole Star Wars saga).

Don’t blink and look out for a much-loved character from previous episodes making a significant – but short – appearance.

Only one disappointment for me – and that was in the opening 30 seconds! Will someone tell LucasFilms how to use an ellipsis! I’m dropping the film a star for that schoolboy error! They got it right in Return of the Jedi, and wrong in every other episode. C’mon, in a proof-reading studio far, far away, who’s not doing their job properly!