Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some local colour

Each week, we seem to find a new reason to be delighted with our new home -- or it's location; a great pub, excellent running trails, Waitrose. Today, it was the Otterbourne Mummers. Last weekend, a notice appeared on the tree at the end of the street, notifying us that the Mummers would appear today at 3 p.m. Just before 3, we set off with many other local residents to watch five disguised figures appear, perform a short skit about St George (with contemporary digs at merchant bankers and the credit crunch), sing a song, and then disappear again -- with, hopefully, enough money in their collection tin to buy a couple of rounds at The Otter.

They're part of a local tradition dating back to 1600, although it was suspended after the Great War, in which many of the Mummers died. For more information on the Otterbourne Mummers and their resurrection, take a look here. What a lovely thing to do -- and to watch.

A second good reason to get a Roomba

Of course, I'm not convinced that ours would sit on one -- but it would be fun making them try. And more fun than listening to them chasing and killing a mouse upstairs, which is what I'm doing right now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Victory is ... orange-flavored alcohol

Our run of success in competitions at The Otter continues. Last night, we attended the 2008 bottle draw, having bought six tickets earlier in the month. We won not one but TWO prizes -- a bottle of Southern Comfort and, after some horse-trading with other winners, a bottle of Cointreau! There were 50 bottles up for grabs and a couple of people won far more prizes than us, so please don't feel that we were being greedy. It does, mean, however, that we've probably broken even at the pub this year -- result!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When did the cats start reading my blog?

Following my complaint about Shin's leaf-hunting habit last week, she's decided to get her revenge. In the past 24 hours, she's bought in not one, but TWO dead rodents. Rigor mortis had already set in with the first one, which makes me suspect that she didn't actually kill it herself, but found it already dead and decided to take the credit. (Good girl!) The second one, however, was still slightly floppy, so far more recently murdered. On the plus side, our neighbour is delighted; we think they're killing the shrews from his garden, so it's great for him. Just so long as they stick to shrews and don't start dragging in rats or seagulls -- both of which would be far more unpleasant to remove.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I thought online shopping was meant to be easier than offline?

Panic! Amazon's free super-saver pre-Crimbo delivery is almost at an end! Must buy stuff for family in the next few hours! I am thwarted at every turn. The oh-so-carefully selected gifts turn out to not be in stock or not available for 10-13 days -- far too late! People must have gifts to open on Christmas Day -- it's the law! Back to search, back to finding something that's good enough, rather than perfect. Then, Amazon insists on rechecking my credit card because I'm sending stuff to a new delivery address; yes, one that I chose from my PREVIOUS delivery addresses. Gah!

However, it's not quite as bad as another store I used. I got all the way through the ordering process, didn't face a query even though the billing and shipping addresses were different, and hit send -- only to be told that my goods would be sent out within 28 days. THAT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE! Not in the run-up to Christmas. Which means I now need to go back to Amazon and find something that's small enough not to break the bank but isn't just cheap tat. Panic, panic, panic.

Curses and swear words have been freely used in these hallowed halls. The cats (and PJ) are cowering in a corner. Christmas 2009? Is cancelled.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tis the season to be jolly!

So we put the first of our decorations up yesterday.

Ho ho ho!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

First blood

Aw! Shin's made her first kill -- a little vole/shrew that she dragged in the other day and decided to play with on the stairs. I distracted her with the curtain and then removed her victim to its final resting place -- our dustbin. It was a touching moment.

However, since then, Shin has demonstrated that she's adorably stupid. She keeps bringing in dead leaves with long stalks that look remarkably -- and by remarkably, I mean not at all -- like a dead mouse. She's incredibly proud of herself, making lots of noise to announce her hunting success, but has failed to realize that killing a leaf is not much of an accomplishment. Walking through the house is like tramping through an autumnal forest, with dead leaves crackling underfoot. However, I guess it is better than being ankle-deep in dead rodents.

Nin hasn't yet bought in any trophies, but she has learned to knock open packets of kitty crunchies off the shelf and push open the sliding cupboard door to access the Pets R Pricey fish-flavored kitty-crack treats that are her drug of choice. Clever girl!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Recent sunsets

Pretty, aren't they?

TV shows I'm watching

As the days and nights get colder, it's time to skip walking round to the pub -- too dangerous, what with all the ice-filled potholes in our lane -- and to huddle up with the cats in front of the TV. Luckily, there's been plenty on:

1. Escape to the Country: For the days when I finish work early and need some decent house/countryside porn. If only the couples featured on it weren't so terribly bland. And, if only some of them actually bought a house. I know it's supposed to be about helping people clarify their ideas about what and where they want to move to, but the show lacks the big emotional money shot at the end when there's no purchase.

2. Little Dorrit. Ah, BBC/Andrew Davies costume drama at its finest. The first few episodes were a struggle, given the huge number of parts and the rampant overstaffing by the Beeb's favorite actors -- look! It's Alun Armstrong and Amanda Redman from New Tricks! Oh, and Freema Agyeman and Eva Myles from Torchwood! -- but it's all falling into place. I was rather cross when the Beeb postponed last Thursday's episode in favor of a Panorama special about a nasty woman who was extremely nasty to her daughter. It just didn't seem necessary to upset those of us who much prefer fictional nastiness to reality-based nastiness. Anyway, I'm hoping that Arthur and Amy finally get it together this week and will be rather sad to see the end of the show.

3. The Devil's Whore. Another costume drama, this time set in the English Civil War and produced by Channel 4. Now, I studied this period for A Level (20 years ago, admittedly) but I'm totally confused by what's going on. It feels like an in-depth script was produced at some point -- enough for a 20-episode show -- but the channel balked at the time and cost involved and hacked it down to a more manageable 4 shows. Two years pass at a time; characters that previously hadn't met are suddenly greeting each other like old friends; the central character often seems oddly peripheral to most of the action -- and swapped ideological positions pretty damn swiftly, moving from monarchist to Leveller in the blink of an eye; and Oliver Cromwell clearly rode into town on a combine harvester. It's not bad, but it could have been so much better.

4. Combat Chefs. This is my guilty secret. I never thought that a show about the British Army's catering corps -- on Five! -- would be so interesting.

5. Top Gear. Hurrah! It's back again. And with Kevin McCloud -- bliss!

Right, time to make some dinner and plan tonight's viewing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Crimbo kitties

Hurrah! Tis December 1, which means just one thing -- advent calendars! Although ours is a secular household, I refuse to believe that advent calendars really have anything to do with religion; they're all about the chocolate, just as Blue Peter's advent crowns were all about the potential to set your house on fire. Anyway, this year, we -- okay, I -- got the kitties an advent calendar from Pets R Expensive, our local quality petfood store. They quickly embraced the Christmas spirit, ignoring my detailed explanations of the little doors and Christmas, choosing instead to fight each other (and the box) over the catnip treats contained within. Sibling rivalry at its finest; the next 24 days are going to be such fun!