"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Monday 16 December 2013

Deck the Halls [3] The Rest of the House

If you have stayed with me through the previous two episodes of 'Deck the Halls', gentle reader, you may have gathered that Elizannie's decorating style is more 'tacky' than 'stylish'. The shops this year seems to be advocating a sort of Scandinavian style of decoration [sort of inline with the dark detective dramas on TV?] so true to my decorating style I have added that into the mish mash of earlier years.

'Normal' [not a word heard often in the Elizannie/Other Half household] year round decorations have to be put away or incorporated into the general Christmas scheme.  The general household decorating scheme is probably best described as 'eclectic' at best or 'random' at worst. The Staffordshire china dogs collection - which many hate! - but live so happily around the lounge and cannot be put away for the festive season so are given  jaunty Christmas hats and scarves [above]

Conversely, some of the 'Christmas House Decorations' tend to be left out all year. The wonderful statuettes of Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Christmas Present live permanently on display as maybe befits the house of A Christmas Carol anorak [see Dickens: "A Christmas Carol", and its relevance today'], whether this year's addition of Scrooge's School is a step too far to qualify for year round status remains to be seen.

And as with the Christmas Tree decorations, some of the 'Christmas house decorations' are 'historical' - the snowman cross stitch framed picture made by Youngest Daughter aged six; the Nativity tableaux bought by Other Half's sadly missed late mother; the beautiful candles and icons bought many years ago when our family lived in Bonn; the couple of remaining decorations bought by my mother in the '60s; the knitted silly toys made for the children many years ago and now played with by the grandchildren.

Fresh mistletoe* does not have a place in the household, due to the year when Eldest Son was around two years old and decided the berries looked edible. A call to the local hospital and then onto Guy's poison unit revealed that yes, mistletoe berries were poisonous leading to night where no-one slept, 'flushing him out' with copious amounts of [any] fluids he would drink. And as any parent of a child in this sort of situation will know, he didn't want to drink anything - let alone the usually craved for and forbidden lemonade, cola or any other fizzy drinks. We do have fresh holly, home grown but berry safe as for some reason it 'bears [no] berries' That either means we need a male or female plant to help out, but after the preceding family history I am not in a hurry to find out.

Changes have to be made with changing circumstances. House redecorating and renovations this year mean that the holes where the advent stockings have been hung for nearly twenty five years been filled. So they have been relocated to another place and a new custom will be commenced. Old customs, new customs - as in 'real life' we all are forced to move with the times. The linen Christmas dinner tablecloth, used for many years by Other Half's grandmother in Bermuda then shipped here nearly 40 years ago and used with joy although now covered with many irremovable red wine stains [!] has been joined by a polyester cotton one bought in the West Country a couple of years ago. Some decorations, kept in the loft all year, look just a little too fragile/tatty to be stuck to the walls but are returned to the loft, too precious with the memories they bring to be thrown away.

So whatever your decorating scheme, whether you celebrate Christmas or any other festival or none at all the Elizannie/Other Half family send Holiday greetings to one and all. As Tiny Tim says 'God Bless us Everyone'.

Yes, Elizannie has gone a bit soft but the next blog will be more true to form - possibly - although if you call around, beware there is a bunch of plastic mistletoe* in the hall!

Saturday 14 December 2013

Deck the Halls [2] The Outside Lights

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is favourite film not only of our immediate family but of our extended family too. Last year one of my seven year old grandsons decided he had to have his own copy of the film, and after a Christmas day out with four of our grandchildren last week they demanded to watch the film yet again, despite me dangling the enticement of one of the over 30 different versions of A Christmas Carols in my collection [new this year is The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol which did not budge their interest one iota!]

Anyone who ever watched NLCV will know that is about the attempt to have a perfect family Christmas with all the family traditions, beginning with the best decorated house ever [above] To be honest, Elizannie would really like to have the same sort of lighting effect on this house but [a] Our house is no where near the size of the one above and [b] Other Half has far better taste!

So anyway, last weekend was the time to get the Christmas outside lights from storage and  decide on our 'lighting scheme'. Last year we had had to dispense with some of our lights that had 'given up', so it was in a timely arrival on Sunday morning, Royal Mail delivered our new set of outside lights. However Other Half was most disappointed and the lights were duly rewrapped and put to one side to be posted back asap. The whisper was out that Sainsburys had the best lights in town so off we went, and it was probably a true whisper as they were completely sold out. So onto Tesco, who did have some very nice lights and a box was purchased. This did follow some intense discussion with a very nice man and his father which involved the man and me 'stepping out' the area that would be covered by the measurements on the box to show his father whilst Other Half slunk off in embarassment.

By the time we arrived home it was getting dark, but it was with a great sense of surprise that we found, when we opened the box from storage, that we had bought extra lights in the after Christmas sales last year. In fact remarkably similar to the ones just purchased from Tesco. My suggestion that we could just have a bigger display was not taken up.... the lights were put to one side to return the next day, along with the parcel to be returned via the post.

By now it was dark but Other Half had the bit between his teeth and was determined to put all the lights out forwith and produced the 'old' lights that still worked. And were of course in a terrible tangle despite having been put away very neatly last year. So picture me sitting nicely on the lounge floor, with lights stretching all the way along the floor and up the hall to the front door in the untangling process whilst Other Half climbed step ladders and cursed, attaching them outside.

Well the result was that it all looks very Christmassy and tasteful and worth the effort! Our little road is quite jolly with the effort the neighbours have taken with their lights so Merry Christmas and God Bless Us Everyone, to quote Tiny Tim and A Christmas Carol!

For Michael Mills, Andy Mills, Lizi Cole, Pauline Mifsud, Stephen Howlett & Lyn Price

Monday 9 December 2013

Deck the Halls [1] - O! Christmas Tree!

I love a well decorated house. But a decorating house elf would be very welcome:

The Christmas Trees:
For many years Elizannie and Other Half bought 'real' Christmas Trees until persuaded that this was not a good idea ecologically and also by the amount of tidying up caused by pine needles resulting in anti-social behaviour and language on the part of Elizannie. Also a visitor finding pine needles under the furniture in October was slightly embarrassing. And the year when 90% of the pine needles had fallen by Christmas Day sent us out on the day after Boxing Day to buy a 'really good' artificial tree in the sales. Which we decorated and put in the place of the ailing real tree before Youngest Daughter came home from her boyfriend's the next day, much to her bewilderment.

But as usual this year, I forgot the routine for removing the Christmas trees [we also have a  fibre optic one for the porch. Love it] from their year round hidey holes. They live in the wardrobe at the far corner of the yellow bedroom. And the doors open in such a way that one cannot remove the trees lengthwise, but they must be levered out at a sort of angle [45 degrees is the optimum] as one door is opened, then reverse the angle of the tree boxes [roughly 63.5] to enable closure of that door and opening of the other. Then, as the wjole boxes emerge slide them CAREFULLY along toward the room door, perform a three point turn around the end of the bed, and slide boxes out into the landing. Once the trees have been removed from boxes a sort of reverse process takes place to put them back into the wardrobe, whole thing to be repeated on 12th night.

Luckily the fibre optic tree fits together quite easily and as long as the transformer has been put away in the right place that is soon up and running. The tree for the lounge is more problematic, a bit more like a 3D jigsaw, and an alphabet puzzle all at once. If the wrongly lettered branches are slotted into the wrong level the result resembles a giant lavatory brush so extreme caution must be taken. And if the basic error of putting the lights on first has been made, no matter how artistic the arrangement of the tree decorations they all have to come off and a re-start employed... And surely those lights worked last year. We wouldn't have put away dud ones, would you?

Oh the decorations! They live in the loft of course. And the boxes/suitcases in which they abide of course have grown during the year and the loft hatch is again inhospitable.... Other Half is not encouraged by Elizannie not being able to remember how many containers there are in the loft, and her insistance that there must be more 'up there' and his fruitless search, only to be told that 'O, I remember now, I threw those decorations away last year' bring forth an unseasonable response.

But opening the tree decorations is a mini festival! All those tacky, beautiful home made ones, even some Other Half made at junior school. Those which represent 'stages' of the children's interests: Disney films, nursery rhymes etc. The lovely nativity scenes bought at various cathedrals around the country. All so valuable whether bought in Harrods or homemade. Sugar canes to commemorate Canadian and American friends and relatives. Some decorations with their greetings in Welsh. Plenty bearing the word 'Peace' - surely the most important of Christmas wishes. The angel on the top to remind us of all those who have gone ahead of us. And if one can rope in a few children to help dress the tree, all the better. [I am not advocating tying the children to the tree but to hang the decorations onto the tree] And if you hear me humming 'O, Christmas Tree'  - actually it is really 'The Red Flag' - the tune is the same....

Photograph of a different style of 'Christmas tree' courtesy:
My only connection to this company is my greed.....

Friday 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

There are too many brilliant and much better obituaries to Nelson Mandela on the web already for me to try and compete. But I can't not say something about the passing of this wonderful man, not when I spend so many hours and virtual print complaining about the selfish and uncaring citizens in society.

The photo above shows Mandela in 1990, not long after he had been released from his Robben Island prison in February of that year, the last of his confinement since 1963 when he had been sentenced to life for sabotage.

His life events are easy to find. As his so many inspiring speeches and quotations from these are easy to find [indeed there is one at the bottom of this blog!] He even passed into popular culture with the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert aka Free Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley in 1988 which was broadcast to nearly 70 countries [and btw which we watched on a tiny TV in an equally tiny caravan in Portsmouth!] And there was a story line on 'East Enders'  in the early 90s when one of those cheeky Mitchell boys bought a job lot of cheap t-shirts to sell on, only to find they were emblazoned with 'Free Nelson Mandela' when he was already free.....

But Mandela was an icon and an inspiration to so many for his persistance, courage and his capacity for forgiveness.

I try to be a good person but unfortunately fall short too much of the time! Witness this morning, listening to all the tributes from politicians from all sides of the political spectrum to Mandela, and there I was thinking of various of the right wing variety 'Aha, that's not what you said when Mandela was locked up and 'my' side was campaigning to get him released. There were even suggestions from you/your side that he should be hanged not released'. And then dear Ken Livingstone came onto the radio and when the presenter put that very point to him, he just laughed and said '... well, Mandela would not have held a grudge!'  and I instantly realised I have a long way to go before I can be 'nice' let alone 'good'...... And when the same presenter put the fact to Livingstone that Mandela's party, before he had been imprisoned, had been involved in civil unrest and violence which is why the then South African Authorities felt 'justified' in locking him and his comrades up, Ken Livingstone suggested that if the positions had been reversed perhaps Mandela's jailers would have used the same methods when they had no other way to express their claims for rights: no votes, no powers at all - pacifist me found myself nodding along.

In South Africa, citizens are celebrating Nelson Mandela's life. Here people are gathering outside South Africa House and queuing to sign the book of condolence at St Margaret's, Westminster. We are so lucky to have lived in this man's lifetime.
No one is born hating another person because of the
colour of his skin or his background, or his religion.
People must learn to hate,  and if they can learn to hate,
they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally
to the human heart than its opposite. 
         From A Long Walk to Freedom 

Photo of Mandela 1990, courtesy of AFP

Tuesday 3 December 2013

I Promise

I often 'use' something I have read on twitter or facebook, or something heard in the early morning news as a kickstart to a blog but today the 'inspiration' for my blog is a small carving which I photographed [badly] in Glastonbury yesterday.

It is a late 15thC carving of a betrothed couple which is on a medieval building thought to be near the spot where public betrothals took place. Although Other Half and I have spent very many hours in Glastonbury and were confident we knew a lot about the area and its history, pride comes before a fall and all that and we had never seen this lovely little carving. But yesterday morning when we were in St John's Church in the town and chatting to a couple of officials about engagements and weddings and then onto betrothals and the meaning of betrothals in earlier times, the subject of this carving came up and we were sent along to look at it!

In medieval times a betrothal was as binding as a marriage. Indeed any sort of promise was considered as binding. In a time when many could not read or write a spoken word had to be considered binding.

When did this change? Well the engagement/betrothal bit probably in the 19th/20th centuries although 'Breach of Promise' legal cases were still being heard in the law courts in the 1930s. And I was brought up to believe in the 1950s by my mother that if I broke a promise I would go to hell, but I think that even then that was a tad old-fashioned and certainly rather harsh!

But what about in the 21st century? Maybe not promises but that over used politicians word 'pledges'. There is an example of the 'broken Tory pre-election pledges' doing the rounds on twitter and facebook at the moment:


A Tory Pledge = What-we-say-when-we-want-to-get-into-power-but-please-don't-believe-it statement. [Elizannie]

Election Manifesto promises/pledges are of course regularly broken by incoming governments - they can always employ the caveat that 'the last government' left too many problems for us to be able to carry out that particular reform/benefit/improvement/funding [delete as necessary]' But other declarations made at the beginning of one parliamentary term are often reneged upon by the end of that term. Especially, I would suggest, by this coalition government. And the London Mayor - Boris Johnson - regularly makes pledges about things over which he has no power but which sound really good as a sound bite. But when pinned down - as he was on LBC radio's Nick Ferrari show this morning - and asked something about which he should know as it is within his responsibility - in this case tube fares - he often shows an ignorance which, imo, displays an arrogance. [He also flunked some IQ questions on the show which on the back of his controversial speech last week has caused many humourous comments on twitter]

So the point of this blog? Well perhaps:
  1. Politicians should try not to promise that which they are not absolutely confident they can fulfill 
  2. We should treat all promises, especially those from politicians and employers with great caution
  3. Never think you know all about a well loved place! 
  4. As a society we should be prepared to learn from the past that a promise, pledge etc is inviolable and not to be given lightly