Almost New Year

We’re midway through the festive season, in that strange lull between Christmas and New Year, when some have gone back to work and some haven’t. It’s an odd time of year. All through December I look forward to the time off that comes at Christmastime, and then when I get there I’m not always sure what to do with it.

Late on the eve of Christmas Eve, I began packing for my early morning flight the next day.

Packing, I find a relatively straightforward business, when going somewhere for a decent length of time – heading to the US for 10 days, for example. Or when going skiing. In both of these scenarios there is a lot of underwear to pack, not to mention a shedload of compassionate chocolate for my American friends in the former instance, and thus the which-bag-to-take decision is an open and shut, er, case.

When one is flying down to London for only four and a half days, however, there is much opportunity for vacillation. And when there’s an opportunity to vacillate I like to grab it decisively.

It seemed easy enough, initially. I had the option of checking a bag into the hold for free. It was a no-brainer.

So I dragged out the big guy, and started to fill it. Got everything in, room to spare. Looked a little under-filled, frankly. Began to wonder if I could have got it all in the carry-on-appropriate little guy. 

Vacillated.

Got the little guy out. Decanted everything from the big guy into the little guy and packed it to the gunnels. It fitted, just. Although there remained the ‘morning of’ items that would need added. Would be tight. Decided it was going to be ok.

But now… all the toiletries needed to be in 100ml containers. Dug out some clear plastic bags and began to fill them. Realised my Travel Size tube of shaving gel is probably 4 years old now. Wondered if I’d made the right decision. Would I have to re-check in?

Vacillated.

What settled it in the end was the thought…

“What if I receive a gargantuan Christmas present this year?”

And that did it. There was simply no space for a gargantuan present. 

Everything out of the little guy, back into the big guy.

Arrived at London City Airport, and my sister picked me up, with my oversized suitcase, at what we both thought was the pick-up point.

Cue the arrival of an Official at the driver’s window.

“I’m terribly sorry, madam, but I need to inform you that you haven’t got a ticket YET, but as soon as you drive away you will incur a £400 charge. This is a drop-off area only.”

My sister protested her innocence. No signs, she said. This is where she’d always come to pick up people, she said, channeling a classic Northern Irish argument for right-of-way. I was waiting for “My father and my grandfather ALWAYS picked up people here y’know” but it never came.

The Official, as Officials are wont to do, failed to acknowledge anything she was saying and simply repeated the script.

“…as soon as you drive away you will incur a £400 charge.”

With the option of ‘driving away’ now effectively off the table, I began to think we might be spending Christmas there, just me and her, in the car. Maybe Deliveroo could bring over some turkey sandwiches to keep us going. I had some Christmas tunes on my phone. It might not be so bad. Just four and a half days, then I could leave the car – mildly odorous and slightly itchy I would presume – and go back into the terminal to fly home, and she could safely drive off, having legitimately dropped me off at the drop-off point.

Mercifully, a compromise was reached, which involved me guiltily exiting the car, walking a few hundred metres to the official pick-up point, where my sister picked me up again, legally, for £397 less than she might have had to pay, and Christmas was saved. Hurrah!

Christmas Day duly arrived. Christie (6) declared to anyone who would listen that he had seen Santa and his reindeer flying into the garden the previous night.

“I literally saw Blitzen fly down into the garden.” 

“Oh really?”

“He nearly crashed into the SHED!” he proclaimed, joyful and triumphant.

I need to have a conversation with Christie about his use of “literally”. Maybe next year.

Over Christmas much turkey and many pigs in blankets were consumed. 

Of course, no gargantuan presents were received. However, I did receive a triple-pack of white hankies with my initial embroidered in the corners, which made up for the slightly disappointing absence of socks.

After a muddy visit to the park, and a family outing to see the wonderful Mary Poppins Returns, having been warned in a dream, I returned to the airport by another route (the bus and the DLR). This foxed the Official completely.

Back in Edinburgh Friday evening, it being the last Friday of the month, me and the gang were at an unusually-quiet Akva for a festive G&T. Or two. Or three, in some cases, but no names will be mentioned.

Post-Akva, there was an ill-conceived and ultimately abortive attempt to go clubbing by a few of our number. Once again no names will be mentioned. On our initial foray into an establishment on Grindlay Street, we appeared to have stumbled upon an underground table-tennis club. For children. 

Bemused, we beat a hasty retreat and retired to a nearby bar, where there seemed to be some other over-16 revellers, and we shouted at each other at close range for a couple of hours. It was great fun, although I really don’t know what anyone said, and just nodded and smiled a lot. 

Last words of the year go to Over the Rhine

Happy Almost New Year. There is still so much music left to be made.

 

Shower Screens and Jim Reeves

’Twas the Thursday before the Saturday before the Saturday before Christmas, when all through the house, was heard a resounding crash as the shower screen collapsed into the bath. Came right out of its wall fixings, and took a couple of bottles of toiletries with it. My flatmate’s caffeine-free shampoo was almost severed in two.

Mercifully, I was not having a shower at the time, or my glittering sporting career might have been rudely brought to an end before it had even begun.

Thinking the crash had come from outside, I didn’t investigate at the time, and thus didn’t discover the scene of devastation until I went into the bathroom for a mild ablute (no.1 flush button only).

It did bring to mind an incident from student days, where, having failed to acknowledge – much less deal with – a burgeoning bulge in the ceiling directly above the shower, we were rewarded one Sunday morning by seeing a flatmate emerging from the bathroom, somewhat discombobulated, with remnants of plaster in his hair, the ceiling having collapsed on him mid-shower.

It wasn’t all that rewarding for the flatmate in question, naturally, but it tickled us greatly.

Anyway, I rescued the dented shampoo bottle, and washed my hands with some ADVANCED hand wash, the label of which promised would protect me for a full 3 hours, and contained MARINE MINERALS for extra reassurance.

I felt extra-reassured by the presence of the marine minerals, but really I was only wanting to wash my hands. Important thing to do at any time, but perhaps particularly when one is suffering one’s second cold of the winter. Even if one is being a particularly brave little soldier and trying not to complain too much about it to all and sundry.

It’s now 4pm on Saturday, and outside the windows of the Hideout, night has fallen. The hanging hipster light bulbs reflect dimly off the glass, nearly opaque with condensation.

Tomorrow it’s our final Carol Service at church, the final ‘big’ service of the year, the end of Carol Service Fortnight. Thus the workload will ease on Monday, and the wind-down for Christmas will begin.

Thursday night, driving home from a long day at work, I was tootling along Grange Road, quite the thing, dreaming up the culinary delight that I was going to treat my taste-buds to when I got home. 

Belatedly I noticed, through the evening darkness, a cluster of hi-viz jackets at the side of the road. The middle hi-viz jacket appeared to be pointing a contraption at me. I braked reflexively and checked the speedometer. After braking, I was coming down towards 20mph.

I suspect Lothian and Borders will be sending me something this week, and it’s unlikely to be a Christmas card.

There’s a Maserati driver in Edinburgh, who has made his or her feelings clear on the subject of our 20mph speed limits, by obtaining the registration plate

F20 MPH

I hear you Maserati driver, I hear you.

In happier news, my sister has already sent me my first Christmas present of the year – Jim Reeves’ 12 Songs of Christmas. On vinyl. I am made up.

Growing up, until the release of Phil Coulter’s Christmas, Jim Reeves was the definitive Christmas soundtrack for us as a family. 

I was mildly surprised to discover later in life that there were in fact more than 12 Christmas songs out there, and initially viewed any of these pretenders with suspicion.

Too late for another coffee now. Time to head home. It’ll be 19 mph all the way…

Highlander and the Christmas Market

– Stop procrastinating and go write a blog! scolded my friend Nicola.

We had been discussing the recent bombshell that a remake of Highlander is slated for 2019. This has, apparently, been on the cards for around 10 years, but now it seems is coming to fruition. I am simultaneously excited and dismayed by the news. Highlander is one of my top five films of all time. The potential for ruining the memory of a classic movie is huge.

Nicola seems unperturbed. She’s never seen Highlander. I am shocked and horrified by this. Granted, she’s more into her daytime visits to the cinema to watch high-brow subtitled Japanese releases, at which she is usually the youngest viewer by a margin of several decades.

Discussing Highlander didn’t seem like procrastination to me, but might have for her, since she should really have been tending to the sick and the infirm, however I gave up on trying to convince her of the merits of a film which cast the Frenchman Christopher Lambert as a Scot, and the Scot Sean Connery as a Spaniard, and resolved to write an overdue blog post. 

But first I headed up town, on the 44, and made my customary December visit to Edinburgh’s Christmas Market. Shrugging off an auditory Bublé assault, I marched onwards, defiantly passing the purveyors of glühwein and hot chocolate, resolutely past the waffles and crêpes, ignoring even the aromatherapy bath salts and anti-ageing face cream.

The organisers of the Christmas Market now have signs up, arrows here and there and warnings to KEEP TO THE LEFT. These are being blithely ignored by all. 

I find a stall selling pottery-related items, and score another thing off the Christmas list.

Back out of the Market, Santa Baby firmly embedded in my head, and onto a 23. Up the Mound, southwards along George IV Bridge, and eventually to Bruntsfield. 

The December sun, despite its best efforts, is unable to reach the heights required to bathe both sides of the road in its watery light. I get off the bus in shadow and cross over to the sunny side of the street.

Pick up some coffee beans and a quick double espresso at Artisan Roast, and on to Kenny’s for a haircut. Kenny’s been cutting my hair for 20 years now, I reckon. I used to live in a nearby neighbourhood, and have continued to frequent his establishment ever since, despite now living on the other side of town.

Freshly shorn, I jump on an 11 heading for town. One of the joys of getting an all-day bus ticket is that you can, provided you’re not in a desperate hurry, jump on an unfamiliar bus number, and if it doesn’t go quite where you expect, you can jump off and try again.

I get off at Tollcross and try a 47, which lands me in Newington, so I nip round the corner to Meadows Pottery, and cross something else off the Christmas list. It’s fair to say that I’ve drained the Pottery-Related Items Fund of my 2018 budget today.

Back onto the 49, which I’m confident I’ve never been on before in my life. It takes me along streets, though, that I absolutely have been on in my life. Past Record Shak, and Vogue Video – a film rental shop – both of which have been there possibly since the dawn of time itself, but certainly since I was a Newington-based student in the 90s. I was actually a card-carrying member of Vogue Video, and am mildly astonished that it is still a going concern in this digital age.

Then past South Side Community Centre, which I have only ever visited because it was a polling station for the Scottish Regional Elections in 1994. I went along to vote with my flatmate Tom, and he absolutely insisted, since we were intending to vote for different parties, that we toss a coin and vote for the same candidate. Otherwise it was a wasted vote, he maintained. 

I seem to remember I lost the toss, and our block vote of two didn’t help our candidate all that much against the relentless red Labour tide that year. In those days, the idea that Edinburgh as a whole might not back Labour at every available opportunity would have been a fantasy.

Off the 49 onto the now re-opened Leith Street, and briefly back into the heart of the town, breaking rank with lines of hesitant kerb-bound tourists, timing street-crossing by traffic and traffic lights with confidence born of local knowledge. 

On Princes Street I look up to see an oncoming 4, with a 44 hard on its heels, both a suitable ticket home, and me caught neatly at the point where they diverge, equidistant from both stops. I missed both, but catch a 26 shortly after.

Brunswick Street, Abbeyhill, Meadowbank Stadium, home.

A slice of choc chip panettone, a reckless late-afternoon coffee, and I go to work on this year’s Christmas playlist.

Now about that blog post…

Have yourself a merry little Christmas….

“Let your heart be light… Next year all your troubles will be out of s-i-i-ight…”

Every frickin year Jane McDonald promises me that all my troubles will be out of sight. Next year. Every year.

Clearly Jane McDonald has not invested any time and money in watching England play cricket, or she wouldn’t be making such rash predictions.

A shade under one month ago I sat down in front of my laptop, all excited that I had managed to secure a way of watching the Ashes online from Australia. My happiness was only enhanced by the time difference, which meant that the day’s play in Oz didn’t start at midnight (as it does in the UK), but at 6pm. Perfect tea-time viewing.

My American room-mates observed my nightly rituals with mild amusement, and gradually absorbed that each day’s play was not a match in itself, but a continuation of a single match stretching over five days.

And aside from the occasional question along the lines of “Wait, what now? They’re taking lunch?” we all got along just fine, until I lost the appetite for watching (usually around Day 3), and by extension the desire to explain what was going on.

“This isn’t going so well, is it?” would be met by a defiant explanation of how, if England’s batters were to perform to an acceptable international standard, England could still be in the game here.. and then within a few hours the same question would be met with a shake of my head, and a resigned grimace.

Within a couple of weeks my joy at being able to watch the Ashes had been severely dampened by actually watching said Ashes.

Well done Mitchell Johnson. I didn’t think you had it in you to perform consistently for more than one match in every five. Apparently you now do. If you had discovered the secret to bowling that well earlier, I suspect the results in the 2009, 2010/11 and 2013 series would have been different.

Anyway, on to cheerier subjects. Like my car, which has been in for repair three times since I bought it in September, and quite separately from those issues, fails to start some mornings. All these failings I could live with, if the horn didn’t sound like a toy bugle, thus rendering me utterly incapable of expressing my displeasure of others’ driving habits in any meaningful way.

Last week, we had a significant snowfall in Nashville. It fell late on Monday night/early Tuesday morning. Probably a whole inch. Immediately the schools closed. The program at Grace Center that I help out with cancelled the morning’s activities. What else was I to do but head to the Jam? The Jam is my favourite coffee shop in Nashville. It’s run by a lady and her three daughters who moved here from California a few years ago. They serve great coffee, and what’s more they’re so close to my house that I can actually walk there when I come over all European, or (more commonly) when my car doesn’t start. Walking there provokes great astonishment in the Jam Girls, roughly equivalent to the dismay they experience when the sun momentarily disappears behind a cloud, or the temperature drops below 75F.

The place has become a regular hangout for me and several friends. Much along the lines of the Central Perk in Friends, I am informed by younger friends who are more in touch with popular culture. They started making a flat white for me at my request, and have even added it to their menu. Apart from that they regularly heap abuse on me for spending so much time in there.

So, imagine my disappointment when around 8.30am I pulled into the parking lot to find the Jam closed. Clearly Momma Jam and the Jam girls were so dismayed by the snow and the cold that they had not ventured beyond their comforters that morning. Sometimes I don’t wish they all could be California Girls… 😉

Edinburgh, je t’aimerai toujours

Wiseman attempts to focus on his glass of wine. Varifocals, y’see

Thursday, 27 December, 3.45pm. I emerged (I would like to say blinking into the sunlight, but, seriously) into the cold, damp twilight of Edinburgh’s Waverley Bridge. It was 2012, but it could have been 1992. I was a student, returning from spending Christmas with my family, and gazing across the train tracks to the National Gallery and Edinburgh Castle, I was struck afresh how much I love this town.

The next morning I got up early, and after a visit to work to say hello to the post-Christmas skeleton staff (although no-one looks like a skeleton post-Christmas), I checked off a few favourite haunts – haircut at Kenny’s, coffee at Artisan Roast, brunch at Indigo Yard. Last night saw the continuation of another personal Christmas tradition – the festive Subbuteo match. Note to American readers: Subbuteo is a table-top football game (football, yes football) whose heyday was probably in the 80s, but is kept alive by a few anoraks/”enthusiasts” who may well enjoy a spot of Fifa 13 action on their Xbox or whatever now and then but still retain a fond affection for flicking small plastic figures around a large green mat chasing an oversized ball.

Approximately 30 minutes before leaving for the “stadium”, I realised I had failed to include “Subbuteo stuff” on the Spreadsheet of Destiny I created when leaving the country, and thus had (and still have) no idea where/in whose basement/attic I packed it away. Accordingly, I was unable to bring my usual team (Northern Ireland) to the game, and my contribution to the atmosphere of this festive fixture (three sections of terracing, complete with approx 23 plastic fans in various stages of apparent undress, depending on how much of them I had painted) was also missing.

Surprisingly, the atmosphere seemed largely similar to previous years, and I got round the lack of a team by borrowing Argentina from my opponent. He went with Brazil, and they got hockeyed 11-7. We used to play games 20 minutes each way, until we realised we had to play a few games to justify the hassle of getting it all out and set up, and so since 2010 or so we’ve just played the full 90 minutes + Fergie-time. Brings on a sore-ish back, mind, bending over a table for that long.

Tonight was a long-awaited reconciliation with Wiseman, at PizzaExpress. We went to the Holyrood venue, possibly the coldest restaurant in the British Isles. I wore one more layer than I typically wear when skiing, and all was well. He warmed himself with several large glasses of red wine. We shared our respective news. He has acquired varifocals since we last met, which provided more ammunition for age-related jokes, not that the ammunition cupboard was exactly bare. I found it amusing to bob up and down in my seat, although whether the resulting blurring effect for Mark was varifocal or grape-related remains unclear.

Tomorrow I get to worship at St Mungo’s again for the first time in several months, and I’m greatly looking forward to it.

Thanks to all of you who have posted ‘welcome back’ type messages on Facebook and the like. And seriously, if anyone is reading this and they think they might have a battered box of Subbuteo stuff in their attic or basement, please do get in touch. There may be a reward.

No upcoming notes

Once people reach a certain stage in life, they start sending out a Christmas Letter to all their friends and acquaintances. I’m not entirely sure what causes one to cross this particular threshold, in the case of some whose festive missives I’ve read, it would appear that having high-performing offspring is the catalyst. Mercifully, the day when I spawn offspring – high performance, high maintenance or otherwise – appears to still be a long way off, and perhaps as a result I have never written a Christmas Letter.
Perhaps the advent and perplexing popularity of social networking sites will put paid to the Christmas Letter. Certainly there should be little need to summarise one’s news annually when those who care have been notified of every status change and toilet visit along the way.
My mother, not being ‘on’ Facebook (yet), sends out a Christmas letter every year. One Christmas a few years back, I was somewhat dismayed to read her letter and discover that, following hard on the heels of a paragraph detailing my sister’s exciting life, my year’s activity was summed up with a single sentence, the precise wording of which I can’t recall, but I know ran along the lines of “Andrew hasn’t done much this year.” It might as well have read “Andrew is a bit dull,” or “Andrew could get out more.”
A little miffed by this dismissal of an entire twelve months of my life, I lodged a complaint with the Christmas Letter Composition Committee. She responded by suggesting that my sister and I write our own sections of the letter in future. Which we did. And every year since, I have struggled to know what to write, or how to fit it in, or how to cope with writing about myself in the third person, which is weird.
This year (well, last year), I pondered a little before writing “Andrew would like a quieter life so he could spend more time watching cricket, frankly.” At the time I was in the midst of the most frenetic run-up to Christmas I can remember. One kind of music practice followed another, followed by a choir practice. I had no time to enjoy what is one of my favourite times of year, I had no time to write Christmas cards to old friends, I had no time to visit close friends in Glasgow who had just received bad news. I got ill, inevitably. I resolved to make 2010 the year I slowed down. “No upcoming notes” is the text that appears on my mobile phone whenever I have no meetings or reminders scheduled for that day. Seeing those three words on the screen makes me happy. I’m looking forward to them appearing more regularly. And watching more cricket.
Wiseman turned 44 today. We celebrated with a milkshake at McDonalds. Or we would have done, if Wiseman hadn’t, within sight of the Golden Arches and blithely ignoring that my car was pointing entirely the wrong way, put forward a proposal involving a burger restaurant at the West End. Several LH turns and a good deal of muttering later, we arrived at Wannaburger, which could be renamed WannabeAmericanburgerjoint, although it’s probably snappier as it is. And once served by any of the staff, you’ll be left in no doubt that you’re in Europe and not the USA.
So, I ordered a milkshake, and I told Wiseman he could have anything from the menu, a dangerous offer in a licensed establishment, given that his alcohol intake alone comprises 40% of our combined restaurant bill on a regular basis. However, he opted for the root beer. And the largest burger on the menu, fries and an ice cream sundae.
Happy Birthday big man.

Adventures in the South

Mum and I spent a very enjoyable Christmas in London this year. Maggie, my mischievous niece, is nearly two. She finds noisy toys a little frightening at this stage, so perhaps a plastic chainsaw, complete with pseudo-realistic sound effects, wasn’t the perfect gift. Never mind, she got approximately one thousand other presents, and won’t have noticed. The chainsaw can remain in the toybox until her little brother arrives in March.

I managed to acquire a cold at the beginning of Christmas week, and so I lived mostly in self-imposed exile on the top floor of my sister’s house, and read books. Part of Christmas Day, however, was spent pram-racing in the back garden. It’s backbreaking work, pushing a tiny pushchair with a snowman passenger through the mud, and after each lap I longed for the blessed words “Dinner’s ready”. But the light would be snuffed out at the end of that particular tunnel with a cry of “Again!”, from about four feet below me and to my left, and off we would trundle.

Now that the festive period has passed, our two week holiday on the French slopes is fast approaching, although it hasn’t felt desperately fast as I’ve been looking forward to it eagerly for some six months. However, now that it’s actually imminent, I have upped my McDonald’s intake accordingly in order to be ready, expanding my usual order to not only include the scientifically-proven-to-be-helpful chocolate milkshake, but actual “food”. I use the term cautiously. I have taken a liking to their Chicken Selects, which, I feel, are a marginally less synthetic version of Chicken McNuggets. And they’re bigger, which is always a bonus. But back to the milkshakes. Why do they always taste of banana, even when you order chocolate or strawberry? And is there really any milk in them? I was reminded recently of an occasion in the mid-nineties when I fetched three milkshakes from McD’s in a friend’s brand new (only recently launched) Audi A4. Not a good moment to spill strawberry milkshake all over the footwell, so that’s what I did, swinging extravagantly into the car-parking space after having been the very model of ultra-cautious driving all the way home. The pink stain remained in the fabric until my friends replaced the car, but curiously, it never smelled… which if there was any milk involved, you would have expected it to.

Anyway. Last Team Gym session this week, and it looks like having a record attendance, as we all strive to become lean mean skiing machines. Even Wiseman has hinted at an appearance. DC has still not darkened the door, but claims to have climbed two mountains last weekend. He may also be spending the time profitably by devising inventive ways of spending as little money as possible in France, what with the Euro pounding us into submission at the moment. Leisurely lunches in mountain restaurants look to be a relic of years gone by. Current proposals include having picnic lunches on the piste, using the snowboards as a windbreak (knew they would come in useful eventually), and taking flasks of espresso onto the hill and adding it to mugs of free hot water from the bar.

The potential reduction in café time may explain why Nasty Jen has elected not to join us this time around. In her absence, it follows that someone will have to take up the mantle of being the sartorial envy of the pistes. I feel I am up for the challenge, what with my sister having knitted me a hat for Christmas and everything. And having taken some ski lessons recently from a pretty dark-haired Austrian ski instructor, I may even be able to ski while looking elegant, something Jen never managed…

Sydney, Christmas Eve


For my friends in the UK:

“It’ll be a blue Christmas without you,
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you.
You’ll be doing alright
With your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas.. “

Actually, the weather here is cloudy and muggy, been like that 2 days now. Trying not to feel cheated. Experienced my first bona fide Aussie bbq last night, and pretty fine it was too. Killed my first mosquito as well.

Today I took a train into the city and am wandering down George Street heading for the Rocks. Christmas seems incongruous over here – at Manly I was confronted with the sight of tinsel wrapped around palm trees. Reminds me of the time at school when a couple of boys (prefects, actually) in my sister’s year stole a palm tree from the school foyer to use as a Christmas tree in the prefect’s common room. They weren’t prefects for too much longer as it turned out.

As I was mid-purchase in a store on George Street, the drought in Sydney ended rather abruptly.

Although I feel privileged to have been here to witness this event, I am now rather wet and taking refuge in Starbucks (any port in a storm, after all). Prior to this I was sheltering under an inadequately-sized piece of roof outside the store wherein I made my purchase (a rather fetching Billabong hat). Co-sheltering with me was a lady, with whom I struck up a conversation. She proved to be American, which wasn’t an altogether promising start, especially when I mentioned I had come over for the cricket.

“Oh, you’ve come over to watch the CRICKET?”
I nodded an enthusiastic assent, encouraged that she seemed to have heard of cricket and was able to pronounce it properly.
“And do you know, they LOST.”
“Yep, I know”
“So, do you play? You must do.”
I replied that I did.
“So, are you in DEfense?”
I looked confused.
“You’re not a fieldsman, are you?”
I explained, patiently I hope, that everyone was a fieldsman at some point.

I decided this might be a good time to don my new Billabong hat and make a run for it. She took one look at me in my Billabong hat and burst out laughing.

I ran for it.

Second Test, the (slightly delayed) Aftermath

Well, that’s the Christmas shopping just about done, following my annual visit to the Frasers cosmetics department. Confronted by an overly-made up girl who asks if can she help me, I present the Christmas Shopping Male Panic Look, which combines unspeakable fear and an obvious need to go to the toilet, urgently. The Look does work, I can recommend it. I was out the door in five minutes.

Speaking of urgently needing to visit the bathroom, the last 24 hours or so has seen me in there rather more than I would have liked. Good old stomach bugs, eh. I can provide further, colourful details, including angles of projection etc, but only on request.

But back to Christmas shopping. The only present that remains to be bought is Wiseman’s tin opener. I have tried numerous outlets without finding the specific model I was after, but am confident I can still get him one that even he can use. But not in Habitat, which surprised me with its apparently total lack of avant garde tin openers, until I remembered that people who shop in Habitat simply don’t eat tinned food, darling.

Cricket: It has been a somewhat depressing week. Am going to refrain from making statements about the imminent demise of anyone’s careers. Even Damien Martyn’s. In fact, am quite probably not going to comment on cricket at all until Boxing Day. However, will try to update the blog more frequently until then, if only to prevent a build-up of terribly witty humour-at-my-expense in the comments section, as per the last post.

Finally, a quick thank you to Mr and Mrs Friendy for hosting a little soirée on Sunday night to mark my leaving. I had thought I was only going on holiday, but it would appear some people consider it more permanent than that… anyway it was a lot of fun. Perhaps not for the hosts as they were stuffed with the cold.

I shall miss my Edinburgh friends over Christmas and New Year, not to mention my family. But it won’t be long until I see them all again.

Contrary to some rumours, I have every intention of coming back!