It just about feels ok to be playing Tracey Thorn’s new Christmas album now. I still find myself forwarding through her version of Have Yourself A Merry Christmas just because I feel like that should be the preserve of December onwards only.
Alongside the new pieces that she has written for the album are a number of cover versions of songs that reference winter and the cold if not your actual Christmas. A quick trawl through Spotify reveals an alarming number of these tracks also appear on various incarnations of Glee: The Christmas Album but did also bring up this cover of Hard Candy Christmas by RuPaul. Enjoy.
It’s dawned on me that there are whole areas of office culture that are beyond my ken, and that are unlikely to ever darken my door.
I’ve never had a job interview.
I’ve never been to a work related conference.
I’ve never had a work contract.
I’ve never had to deal with an HR department.
I’ve never been to a works Christmas party.
There are of course swings and roundabouts to all of these statements. Have only been thinking about this because the culture of a Secret Santa is also alien to me and we were trying to work out the pricing boundaries at work when engaged in this.
So . . . in the £5 area:
And in the £10 region
When I get around to it I bake biscuits for the shop on Saturdays . . . and then aim to proffer them to customers instead of eat them all myself. Mr Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet has provided many of the recipes for these biscuits – namely the double chocolate cookie and the ginger and spelt cookie this week I turned to his Guardian Weekend recipe.
There was a recipe book in my parents kitchen which was a collection of recipes submitted by residents of the village in which I grew up; my mum was the editor of this fine publication and someone else in the village provided pen and ink illustrations. Lots of these recipes reflect the provincial cooking ideas of the time; concepts of dinner party entertaining that should remain preserved in aspic, WI baking and the onset of the macrobiotic/wholefood school of cooking. I suspect that if you replayed the concept today the WI baking aspect would remain and there would be a surfeit of cupcake recipes. There was a recipe in this book for peanut cookies – and very fine it was too – Mr Lepard’s version is however even better, the rosemary almost tastes like ginger at first.
Today’s desktop biscuits haven’t yet been touched. There’s hope for a mid afternoon snack after all.
Within the first few weeks of Black Bough opening we chanced upon some old stock, fold-out Ludlow postcards – one set from the 50s and sepia and the other set in glorious 60s technicolour. There was a veritable pile of these things – all sitting in the window of a distinctly old school newsagents and most of them sunbleached or covered in dust. Reader, we bought them.
They’ve sold consistently and when they’ve all sold – they will have all sold. I dare say that it is not economically viable for us to try and reproduce them.
One of our friends is getting married later this year and being somewhat handy with paper restoration (and thus undaunted by the scruffier end of our selection) she decided to use the sepia fold-out postcards as the basis of her wedding invitation. She’s done a lovely job.
Note – important info omitted from invite to prevent the vast readership of this blog from turning up at the designated venue for a free lunch . . . . you know who you are!
The back garden at our house was the final project in our grand scheme of doing up the house. The front garden had been the first project (before we even started on the house – the urge to put a spade in the ground was too strong). I think of myself as a gardener – gardening is one of the things that I do. The back garden was a project though. The previous owners of the house would, I guess, not call themselves gardeners; thus the back garden resembled a (bad) pub garden, it was approximately 40% decking, 30% paving, 20% tarmac and 10% (dog turd encrusted) lawn.
The decking came out fairly swiftly – we wanted to see what was underneath (and the decking was used to build raise vegetable beds in the front garden), the low brick wall was next out in order to ease access to the back door of the house for building materials, but the rest stayed roughly as it was while we figured out the interior. The urge to buy plants was strong though – too strong perhaps, I bought and lost a multitude of plants because we didn’t have any ground clear to plant them in and they remained in their pots and were lost to the winter of 2010/11. Come last summer though we were ready to tackle it – cue weeks of digging out a pond by hand, moving the spoil to one side, removing paving, digging out hardcore, infilling with spoil from the pond area, ordering and then raking out gravel and building one huge raised bed to disguise an area to park the car . . . and then planting.
There’s still masses to do – the planting is still a bit scrappy in places, the soil needs some serious mulching (it had never previously been cultivated being formerly used as a cow yard – before the pub garden incumbents) and I’m already eyeing up bulb catalogues in order to increase the number of alliums, tulips and narcissi, oh . . . and the weeding. All that aside though it is now a joy rather than a chore.