nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
Here I am in the bosom of my family (TM), which is very enjoyable and not really giving me any time for writing or relaxing with a book. My plans for a couple of Yuletide treats remain unfulfilled. But it is fun even though the weather isn't. Today involves the preparation of vegetables plus the Boxing Day ham, a walk during the dry bit in order to get outside, last bits and pieces, and early dinner at an Italian restaurant in order to give my young nephews something else to be hyper about. I am giving them foam swords; in my defence, their parents asked for them. Kids' fake swords these days are amazing, I have been going around the place striking ninja poses.

Anyway, it's Christmas Eve so time for some carols, which I've been listening to while wrapping presents. O Holy Night is a classic example of something that is good in the original (have Roberto Alagna) and got translated into Victorian twee English that carefully erases any political statement, but even in English it has an excellent tune. Oh yes, and it also needs singing by someone competent.

Enter, obviously, Jussi Björling. Really, no-one does it better:



Not quite as stupendously sung, but a lot of fun, is the HP Lovecraft filk version, Unholy Night:



Best of all, the scene from Frasier, in which Martin Crane attempts to sing it:



I am summoned to the parsnips and it has started to rain again. At some point I must dash to Morrison's, but clearly not yet.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Cinderella, Scottish Ballet. So it turns out that what I really like in ballet is plot. There were fewer dance pyrotechnics in Scottish Ballet's production than in my recent cinematic Nutcracker, but I know very little about dance technicalities, and all I can say is that the choreography was charming, dancing looked very good to me, the orchestra was excellent, and Cinderella actually has a proper story*. As is the mark of a good ballet, I spent the next couple of days balancing on one leg and pirouetting around the place. The dancer playing the Prince had an extraordinarily young face that looked about 16, though the internet tells me he is about 26, which worked really well in terms of plot and characterisation.

All that plus the fantastic Edinburgh Festival Theatre, which has stalls the price of a London upper balcony containing comfy seats, ample legroom, good sightlines, and in the foyer a large bar and decent lavatories (the latter not actually in the foyer).

Carol, dir. Todd Haynes. I strategically skipped this in Oxford as it was on later in Edinburgh, which meant I got to go with my father and youngest sister (Mum being under the weather stayed at home). It was terrific, beautifully acted, and shot with enormous sympathy for the complex characters. While obviously the main focus of the film and its critical attention is the central love story, it also has quite a lot to say about class and how this relates to Carol and Therese's specific situations and options. I shall definitely be seeing it on DVD and will be going back to look again at Haynes' earlier Far from Heaven, to which it feels something of a companion piece.

Star Wars A good straightforward fun space adventure film, it does what it sets out to do, and it entertains the audience while doing it. Characters aren't deep, but they are deftly sketched by the story and feel plausible, and the plot moves at a good clip while remaining comprehensible, and it was blessedly free from stopping the action for pointless thumping. It looks good, the music is stirring, and it has Harriet Walter flirting with Chewbacca**. In short, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I look forwards to the next one.

And Then There Were None What with one thing and another we didn't end up watching a lot of Christmas TV, but this was terrific. Gripping throughout, growing more and more tense as it progressed, and though I've not read the book the fairly minor alterations seem to have been neatly done. Performances were strong all round, but Maeve Dermody should be particularly recognised as an utterly convincing Vera. Personally, I like to think that were I trapped on the island with a serial killer I'd consider setting fire to the house, but on the other hand I would not be hampered in my actions by worrying about being exposed as a murderer.

All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride Christmas Eve on BBC4 ventured into Slow TV territory with this delightful two-hour film of a couple of women driving reindeer sleighs through northern Norway. It looks very cold, and very snowy, and there is no soundtrack beyond the ambient noise, and we taped it and it was perfect to watch on Boxing Day morning.

*Though I note the Wikipedia summary "After travelling across the world and meeting princesses with no success, the Prince begins to search his own kingdom, trying the slipper on every maiden who attended the ball. Back at Cinderella's home, love has allowed the Prince to defy the laws of time and space; though it is only the morning after the ball, he has already travelled the world and back again in search of his love."

**I'm wondering how that casting conversation went.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Apparently it is 8 January 2016 today. I’m not sure how it can be so, but reputable sources say that it is, so I suppose I must believe them. A whole week into the new year! A whole week gone at work. Work has actually been quite good; that is, it has been much the same as usual, but I have had vastly more energy and inclination for it than I did in the last couple of weeks of term before Christmas.

Anyway, I had a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas holiday, including:

• Many delightful presents. I am particularly hoping that the digital radio will get me into radio listening more regularly (not just the cricket). I’ve dropped the habit in recent years, which is silly because I really enjoy it.
• An excellent train journey up, a very trying journey down.
• Much food, including the successful cooking of the hare. You get an enormous quantity of meat for £8.50 on a hare.
• Visible snow twice! A miracle given the weather. We had one actually cold day, on New Year’s Day, which happily involved a walk, although the pace that three year olds walk means that I had to go and run up a nearby hill and then catch up half-way through in order not to freeze.
• Some splendid entertainment, of which reviews to come, and also the karaoke, which was a great success. Middle Sister’s rendition of Dire Straights’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is fortunately greatly improved since I last heard it and is now quite impressive.
• No work for a fortnight, and most other people being off for all of that, meaning few emails to return to.
• Surprisingly little reading, including only a tiny bit of Yuletide. I am looking on that as some fanfic treats to look forward to in the rest of winter.
• Some successful sales shopping: after saying I was not getting winter work skirts any more, I bought a new one, also drinking glasses, a warm cardigan, and if I get to the shops this lunchtime, possibly a work jacket. [ETA: I didn't get a jacket, it turns out that the reason it was marked down was that it looked like a sack when worn.]

The train problems were caused by a damaged viaduct on the west coast line and a tree on the east coast one, both caused by the absolutely appalling weather in northern England and southern Scotland. Seeing some of the areas of Leeds and York that flooded was staggering; there were areas that haven’t flooded in many decades looking like rivers. Meanwhile Cameron is claiming that he’s investing new money in a Leeds flood scheme, when it's the same money already announced, much of which the council came up with. I would like to think that this ‘winter’ is a wake-up call to the whole country and its politicians on climate change, but I fear it won’t be.

And speaking of the weather, according to the Independent “the coldest winter in 58 years is expected to hit the country.” I think we can all say “yeah, right” to that one. Still, there was actually frost this morning for only the second time this season, and a bit of moderate chill will be no bad thing. Meanwhile it has been -40C in northern Norway, with some interesting pictures. Though I can’t link to the best ones, because this is the week of the Tour de Ski, so I can’t look at any websites that might have skiing news on until I have got home and caught up with the videos. There is nothing like watching winter sports each night to ease the return to the office routine.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
Best wishes in enjoying the presents, the food, the company, and the season in general, and may those of you participating in Yuletide receive excellent fic in exchange for your efforts.

ETA: There is snow on top of the Pentlands for a present, a most unexpected sight from my bedroom window given recent weather!
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
I am in the bosom of my family (TM); it is very pleasant. I have wrapped presents, made mince pies and iced the cake, and am wondering vaguely where the last couple of days have got to. Inevitably they have not had hours of them dedicated to writing, though I did get a bit done on the train.*

Ah, Christmas television, where would we be without you? Tonight's special is a two-hour sleigh journey through northern Norway. I shall be at my sister's for the evening, so have requested my parents tape it.

If you find the prospect of two hours of staring at a reindeer's bum is just a bit too much, try two minutes on how to chop wood like a Norwegian instead. Personally I want to know how to write a best-selling book on something completely random like how to chop and stack wood.

*The 5 hours 45 min train journey turned out to be very easy. I admired the fortitude of the people who had started that morning in Folkestone and were heading for the Cowal Peninsula, hopefully in time for the last ferry.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
Work is over for the year, and now all I have to do is some laundry, ironing, paint my nails, pack, wrap presents, alter two pairs of trousers, get to the station, catch the train, write fic on the train, hand over presents for sister's family, meet sister for lunch, wrap the rest of the presents, ice the Christmas cake, do any late supermarket shopping, catch up with The Bridge, and then I can relax.

OK, I might be spending two hours this morning watching skiing, but I shall be ironing/sewing/writing Christmas cards at the same time. Oh, life is hard, weep for me, I have a whole two weeks off work and will be spending most of it in a home containing both my family and a dishwasher. The only real negative is that I have been on a bit of a WIP-writing role, and that will stop completely, because it always does. I might manage something short and separate, though. I shall try.

Anyway, in honour of heading for the relatives in the decidedly non-frozen north on Monday, I bring you Robert Benchley's "A Good Old-fashioned Christmas", a reminder to those of us who don't get to spend this time of year at a marvelous old-fashioned farmhouse somewhere in Vermont that we are not actually missing out. My copy has illustrations in it, but there wasn't a convenient source for them on the internet, and the office has a new photocopier that I have yet to learn to use properly so I couldn't scan it.

Thus without further ado, and courtesyof the people at Canadian Gutenberg, whose attitude to copyright seems rather more relaxed than ordinary Gutenberg:


A Good Old-fashioned Christmas )
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
And the goose is nowhere to be seen, which is fine by me. However I am going to have a go at hare over the holidays. My mother, who suffered a traumatic hare cooking incident more than 40 years ago, the reason that neither of my parents has cooked one since, has stipulated that it will be ordered fully prepared and jointed. Apparently there is a reason that they are cheaper to buy with the skin still on. On a less meaty culinary subject I have made mince pies, as last year I didn't have enough.

The Christmas tree is up - actually, it has been up for a week, which is too early,* but if I only put it up this weekend I'd only have it for a week before going away. The tinsel on the stairs is less successful, and needs another attempt. I have five more days left at work before the break, which is both good and terrifying. I was off for two days with a cold this week, which was not great timing. I suppose it is better than having a cold over Christmas, and hopefully it will be mostly gone by then. I have done almost all of my Christmas shopping, so I can relax about that.

Anyway, here (on LJ...) is the Christmas tree by special request of [personal profile] azdak so she feels less premature with hers!


*I have to say it is too early in case people think I don't realise this.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
Currently in the garden.

I have given in and accepted that for all their inconveniences I like real Christmas trees, damn it, and I have bought one, taking advantage of a Homebase "sale". Years of picking Christmas trees in childhood have given me ludicrously stringent standards, which assume greater importance the smaller the tree, so this process took some time as I had to ensure that I had absolutely the best tree of the range of perfectly serviceable ones on offer. In any case, I have ended up with one that is 3 1/2ft high and of a good shape with a promise for future growth (and my still being able to lift it for two more years). I think I need a longer string of Christmas lights.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
The sea of presents (mostly for the baby*) spreads out from the tree like a dragon hoard (without the superheated fire). There are vast quantities of food, there are ten new Wimseyfics in Yuletide, and best of all my room is next to the baby and he is not waking me. It is raining, but you can't have everything. As my sister and I put it the other day:

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas
Just like the ones of childhood fame.
Where the puddles glisten
And we all listen
To hear the splashing of the rain.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I get.
May your Christmas be the best yet
For we know it surely will be wet


*For those not following closely, he is not mine.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
* I do not quite have a cupboard as yet, as though great strides have been made the next bit really does depend on my finding the hammer. Of course, it would help if I looked. In the meantime, I shall arrange to borrow one.

* I considered overcoming ingrained Christmas tree snobbery and buying an artificial one, but couldn't do it however sensible it would be, though I claim that this is in large part because half the point of a Christmas tree is the smell. Which is why a small blue spruce is sitting in a pot on the patio waiting for a reasonable time to be brought in. 3 years of stabbing myself with Norway spruce needles made me think that a change of species might at least be reasonable.

* In the way of things, I found myself yesterday inventing the Christmas Hamster. Why not? They live in the desert in the Middle East so it is at least as topical as Father Christmas, or Iceland's cannibal Yule Lads. The Christmas Hamster run around all night at great speed carrying presents to children in its enormous cheek pouches. Perfect!

* The Killing III is exciting, isn't it? I have heard a criticism of one early episode that it relied a little too much on coincidence. I give you therefore the real reason why Sarah Lund missed the train:


nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
It appears to be the last day of the calendar year. How did that happen? Christmas has been busy and enjoyable, though I have failed to get to the hairdresser and it has rained far too much for my liking. I have had some lovely presents and eaten a great deal of very nice food.

Said food included not only the usual turkey, gammon, wine, sprouts, mince pies and so on, but the dinner served in the film of Babette's Feast*. Some of my close relatives claim not to be fannish: I think that when said bunch of people spend several hours re-enacting a film complete with key moments of dialogue ("Blinis demidoff", "I was the chef at the Cafe Anglais") complete with facial gestures, claims of non-fannishness fail to convince.

I give you cailles en sarcophage as a crowning achievement of 2011. I am particularly proud of the pastry heads.



*There were a few differences. Turtles are not obtainable by the UK domestic cook, we used rather cheaper wines, and we omitted to hire a 14 year old boy to do the serving. A savarin, however, turns out to be very easy to make.

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