Monday, December 31, 2007

And a flippin 'Happy New Year' to U too

Every Christmas, when the Christmas/New Year edition of the TV Times comes out, I go through it with a highlighter pen and mark up anything that I think might be of interest for the kids. And each year there is less and less highlighted - in fact this year there are whole days when there's not a highlighter mark anywhere on the page.

But this, I highlighted. This I wanted to see:

'No one will be on the streets of London to hear the chimes of Big Ben. Bars and restaurants across the country will be mysteriously empty. House parties will be abandoned, with expectant New Year's Eve hosts sobbing over their cheese-and-pineapple-on-sticks because their guests have failed to turn up for their New Year's party. And why will everyone be staying at home? Because the greatest boy band in the whole world ever are on the telly! Joy, oh joy; we couldn't think of a better way to welcome in 2008 than singing along to some Take That tunes.'

Well, they (and I) mightn't be able to think of a better way to bring in 2008, but never underestimate those lovely people at Ulster Television, because, at 11.15, when the rest of the country is firing up their lighters and tuning in to see Take That Countdown to Midnight, we in the U.TV region have the absolute pleasure of watching 'Gerry Kelly's New Year's Eve Party'. Yipee!

Gerry Kelly. Gerry Termonfeckin Kelly. The rest of the nation gets to watch Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and friends and we get to watch a retired local primary school teacher turned chat-show host.

But, (as the angels said to the shepherds) do not be dismayed! Gerry is not alone. He will see in the New Year with:

'a lively mix of music and chat. Singer Dickie 'the name says it all' Rock is just one of the 'famous' faces on hand to ensure the party gets off to the worst, sorry best possible start.'

Dickie Rock is best known by my mothers generation for playing in the local Showbands in the 1960s. If you are familiar with Coronation Street, he's a real life Vernon. And I'm thinking, if Dickie Rock is the only 'famous face' they are prepared to name in the TV guide, just how bad must the rest of the line-up be?

So, Happy New Year to you all (except if you work at U.TV programming) and, if like me the year started out a bit crap, remember ... in the words of Gary Barlow ... 'have a little patience'!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

ha ha ha ha ...

ha, ha he, he, ha, ha, ha

-------------------------------------------------> (and up ^ a bit now)

OK, so I'll leave it up for a while to give all the regulars a laugh. This post ought to have knocked me down a peg or two though ;-)

I bought a pair of skinny jeans and it gave me shocking flashback

A history lesson:

More years ago than I can count on two hands and two feet, when I was impressionable, the trend was to wear your jeans really, really tight. Really, really, really tight. The thing is, although today you can buy baggy jeans, skinny jeans, bootleg jeans, stretch jeans etc etc, back then you could just buy plain jeans. And there was no such thing as lycra.

So, what we had to do was to buy a pair of these plain jeans - but they had to be the smallest size you could get your hands on and your ar$e into. Then you took them home, turned them inside out and assaulted them along both inside legs with the sewing machine.

You would try them on, and if you could get into them without cutting off the circulation to any part of your body below the knee, you took them off and got the sewing machine out again for a second go. Such a waste of money, as you usually ended up throwing away half the fabric from each leg in pursuit of the correct fit. The entire alteration process was only successfully completed when the jeans cut off the circulation at both the knee and the ankle.

To wear these items of fashion, you had to have great upper body strength, loads of time on your hands and decent floorspace. Jiggling your bits into the denim whilst pulling the waistband with all the force you could muster was not a job for the faint-hearted, or those with nails, and you couldn't just 'slip on a pair of jeans'. Getting into them could take up to half an hour, with the last 10 minutes reserved for lying on the floor trying to get the zip up.

With a pair of white baseball boots and a poodle perm to complete the 'look', the fashion was totally impractical; you could neither sit, bend nor run in the trousers, and God help you if you needed the toilet in a hurry. But boy did we look cool as we strutted about like Frankensteins monster!

With hindsight, this fashion trend should have come with a Government Health Warning. Looking back, its a mercy teenagers weren't dropping dead on street corners of DVT, in fact, is it any wonder I had to have surgery to remove varicose veins at 35 and a hysterectomy at 40!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Ramblings

I know it's not all about the presents, but:

The best Christmas present idea I saw this year was my brother and sister-in-laws gift to Mum and Dad. They had transferred some old cine film of their wedding 42 odd years ago onto a DVD, complete with 60's music. Brilliant idea, and so cheap ... why didn't I think of that ;-)

The worst Christmas present idea had to be Dad's effort for Mum. I swear if my husband ever gives me a waffle maker and a box of yeast for Christmas, I'll hit him over the head with it. (I know you read this, consider it a warning!)

Surprise that got the best reaction had to be brother and sister-in-law again, this time referring to the look on my son's face when they told him they are having a baby in June.

Most environmentally sound gift was one I got today. A CD, the case of which was made completely from recycled, environmentally friendly materials. I was pretty impressed.

On the subject of the environment, I have been inspired to take my real Christmas tree (when it eventually dies) to the local council dump where it will be made into chippings, and to deliver all my received Christmas cards to Tesco, who do something equally ethical with them.

Of course, I do this out of guilt, to offset the carbon footprint created by the brandy butter we had with our Christmas pud this afternoon. My Dad, under strict instruction from Mum who had spotted it on the exclusive 'Williams - Sonoma' store website, brought it home from a recent trip to Kansas City, just to discover it had been shipped there from the manufacturers retail outlet in Norfolk, England.

Oh, and by the way, the answer to this little teaser; two Nintendo DS Lites, one pink (very important), one white. Our house has been so quiet today, I should have bought these years ago ;-)

Monday, December 24, 2007

He's on his way!

And thanks to those very kind people at NORAD, we can see exactly where he is on the Santa tracker!

Merry Christmas to 'you and yours' from 'me and mine'

Ali xxx

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dan Fogelberg

26 years ago, 'The Innocent Age' was the album I wanted more than anything else in the world. And eventually, after many, many, many months of trying (even whilst on holiday in the States!)I managed to get a copy.

It became the standard for my adolescent years and thus began a love affair with the music of Dan Fogelberg.

Sadly, Dan passed away this morning having suffered from cancer.

This track, 'Same Auld Lang Syne' is probably one of his best known pieces. It's also hauntingly seasonal.

If you've never heard of Dan Fogleberg, or his music, take time to listen to this track. It's worth the 5 minutes it will take.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

St Patrick's Day

I know what you're thinking - get Christmas out of the way first woman! That's because, if you're not from Northern Ireland, you probably think that St Patrick's Day is a major holiday we celebrate over the period of a week or more with parades and green rivers and shamrock and green beer and little green men and the such.

It's not. In fact, I can't remember the last time I had St Patrick's Day off work. I do remember once, in about 1989 my mum buying a cake that had a marzipan shamrock on top of it. Although I think she actually bought it the week after St Patrick's Day, reduced because the shop couldn't shift them.

But this year we have big plans to celebrate St Patrick's Day in style; if St Patrick won't come to us, we've decided to go to him. And so: breaking news alert: today we have booked to celebrate St Partrick's Day in ..... that most Irish of cities ..... Boston!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This year Christmas is sponsored by ...

... the Samaritans.

Truth to be told, I'm not so sure if I'm sponsoring them or they are sponsoring me - it's a pretty close call at the minute!

I like to send charity cards at Christmas, usually supporting the cancer charities, but this year (bearing in mind my recent mental health history) I thought I would shift allegiance to another very deserving cause. It helps that I used to be a volunteer with this charity and am very familiar with the excellent work they do and service they provide 24/7, 365.

However, I am annoyed. For a charity that works so hard to help people who feel under pressure I think they do a great dis-service to the paying customer by actually handing over their Christmas cards when you give them your money. I would consider it much more in keeping with their ethos to simply take your money and say 'sod the cards, it's much too stressful!'.

Had they adopted this attitude, I wouldn't have spent the last few nights writing cards and my entire morning off printing labels (which for some reason would only print one individual label at a time), sticking envelopes and getting paper cuts on the tongue. I wouldn't be following the ridiculous practice of writing, printing, sticking, licking, stamping and posting a card to the people who live ... NEXT DOOR.

Pluto, I am coming round to your way of thinking.

So, for the many of you who won't be getting a card from me this year, I have made a referral, sorry - donation to the Samaritans on your behalf. And I hope you all have a Happy, Healthy, Sane and STRESSFREE Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Out of Sight, Out of mind?

We can't be having that! Especially for Dolly as it's her birthday


It has been amazing, the number of people who have put a wee note in their Christmas cards to say that they read my blog.

I'm tickled :-)

Of course, a nice fat cheque would have been equally welcome

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas 'chez nous'

The 'real' tree (note the pine needles on the floor already) where
presents will eventually appear
The reason

The 'other' tree in the conservatory off the kitchen

Dana, my tree is up!

The first sign of Christmas in this house is Dolly's birthday. It happens later this week, which we consider a lucky break as she was actually due on Christmas Day. She's a millenium baby - I'll leave you to do the maths! (she'll be 7 Pluto)

She likes the Christmas trees up for her birthday, so I put them up at the end of last week (yes, even the real one, which is dropping already!) We've had our first mulled wine and in Tesco yesterday I was able to buy the brandy cream. I've not made any pudding yet to put it on, so on Christmas Day I might just open the tub, set it in the middle of the table and hand out spoons. Sounds like a plan!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Love is ...

... being on your hands and knees in a puddle in the middle of a packed school car park, retreiving the christingle your son made at Scripture Union which (in the chaos which is getting son, schoolbag, music folder and christingle into the car) made a bid for freedom but stopped under a car halfway across the carpark.

I could hear them thinking it: There's that mad woman again .....

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hello, I'm calling from Ireland

Not too many telephone conversations start like that, but one of mine did today.

There are two things I want, two things I really, really would like to get my hands on for a very special reason. And I have tried. But I just can't get any. There is not one of these things to be had in Belfast, in fact in Northern Ireland. There are none available online, which I guess covers the rest of the UK, and I even tried the Republic of Ireland as well. Completely unobtainable.

There was a rumour that one might be available in a store not a mile from my house, but when I got there and joined the queue that was winding round the shop, I quickly realised that that was all it was - a rumour.

Not one to give up easily, I applied my brain to the situation. I am going to Wales during the week, and might be able to find what I wanted there. Unlikely though, that I would have the time to complete a thorough enough search.

Two mugs of tea and a packet of chocolate biscuits in, and it struck me.

My dad is flying home from Kansas City tonight. He will have to travel through Duty Free. Duty Free might sell what I want.

By the power of the internet I was able to search Kansas City Airport for an appropriate store. Alas, my search produced nothing even remotely suitable.

It's as well then, that he changes flight at Chicago! Another internet search and I think I might just have found a possibility, a store that sounds like it might have what I'm looking for, and it happens to be in Terminal 3, which just happens to be the Terminal he is flying out of. But I need to be sure they have them.

And so, I wait until 12 noon (6am Chicago) and then I phone.

I think the person on the other end thought it was a prank call. I sort of understand that, we Irish have a reputation of being a bit mad! However, I explained why I was calling and then I asked the question; did they have what I was looking for? And the answer:

TWO! Only two in the entire shop - and EXACTLY what I wanted, right down to the last detail for each. And YES! they would keep them until 6pm local time this evening when my dad would be passing through en route to Dublin so that I could have them!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Santa is alive and living in InMotion, Gate H1, Terminal 3, Chicago O'Hare Airport, USA. And her name is Sue.