Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

What a week.
I think I ran myself to a full stop, last night saw me in bed at the same time as my 9 year old and waking up almost 11 hours later...I really needed those zzzzzzz's!

We started the week (last Monday) with maybe 15-20 cm of snow, and I collected my baby brother from the airport (minus his wife who didn't make it through Libyan passport control as her exit visa was non existant). Ed and I spent that evening down at Lulu's with a load of expat friends celebrating a birthday and getting rowdier as the night and the drinks wore on.

Tuesday I had another trip to the airport (good job it's only 20 minutes away) to collect the parentals who were bringing with them an essential part of Christmas day - the pud.

Wednesday and another airport trip to collect missing wifey, the two of them (Ed ' Dear) then went into Düsseldorf for some retail therapy (apparently the opportunities for such exercise in Tripoli are almost none existant).

Thursday was the last day at school for Jas (Ben finished mid morning on Wed) and we went along for the carol singing which was followed by a half hour play put on by Jas's class. It was being performed in the music room, one of the only classrooms in the school to have carpet and so all the adults were told to remove their (theoretically) snow encrusted winter boots before entering - except for those parents (about half) who came after the thing had actually started and therefore missed the de-schoe-ing command.
After escaping from the school we went into Essen for the last day of the Weihnachtsmarkt, had planned to have some Glühwein, but the weather turned against us, becoming bitterly cold and starting to snow, not nice, even when you're dressed for it.

Friday was Christmas Eve, and I had a plan. Get up and get into Kettwig for 8am, in order to get the turkey from the butchers, yummy cheese from the market and whatever else I needed but didn't yet have (afterall, it is impossible to have too much food in the house over Christmas) from the (not so)supermarket.
Slight problem with the plan.
It had clearly been snowing for some time and the amount of snow outside had now doubled.
By the time I'd had breakfast Simon had seen the extent of the snow and declared that he would chauffeur me (I knew that Audi Quatro would be useful some day) and so he did, dropped me outside the butchers to wade through seemingly thigh deep drifts to get to their door and after I'd thrown the bird onto the back seat I was told to go to the cheese stall 'just across the road'*. Then to the supermarket - always a tricky venture when accompanied by a man who doesn't usually do the food shopping but who is partial to all the little nibbley things that I normally scoot straight past, at least he helped pack it all!
We then had a dilemma. The roads were horrific and friends up the hill on the other side of the river were due to be meeting us at 11 for coffee and to bring us the crackers for the 25th which they'd brought back from England the previous weekend**. A quick call revealed that we would have to go to them as they had even more snow than we did. I think Si was quite gleeful to be told this, up the steep and hairpin bendy hill in thick snow, a perfect challenge, almost too easy for Simon - although the snow plough coming down the hill didn't think so.
After the escapades of the morning we didn't venture out again, it snowed and it snowed all day, I was just glad of a houseful of guests who could be relied upon to entertain the children and shovel snow!

Christmas Day dawned bright (it's amazing the effect of a little daylight on a ton of brilliant white snow) and not too early (the older the children get the more amenable they are to the suggestion that 5am is not a happy time for parents to be woken) and we had the ritual present opening ceremony before I had to get stuck into the dinner preparations.
And then it was all over for another year, the freezer is fully loaded with turkey for pies, the garage is overflowing with empties that need to go to the bottle bank***, the bins are all full (some more than others, due to the Thursday and Friday bin men not making it along the road through the snow****) and the beer and wine levels are considerably lowered.

Boxing Day (or the 2nd day of Christmas according to the Germans) was its usual respite after the storm, no-one desperate to do anything but maybe get some fresh air. I refused to cook and booked a table at the local Italian, which was nice, but would have been better if, when I'd booked I'd asked for a non-smoking table - ho hum. And it started snowing again.

Which brings us to yesterday and the start of the exodus, Ed left first, the parents had time to try the Christmas cake, which leaves us with Dear who goes tomorrow just a few hours before the the guests arive for New Year's Eve!

I wonder how much sleep I can get tonight?

* through the deep drifts on either side of the road and then the knee high snow between the market stalls and back again.
** Christmas crackers are clearly not a German tradition as you can't easily get them here.
*** it was one of the jobs I wanted to do before Christmas (clear out before starting a new hoard) but the piles of snow everywhere put the kibosh on that.
**** apparently the various refuse collection companies have said that if they don't make it then we can take our refuse to the recycling site and they wont charge us - loving the irony.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Snaps 44

Our house on Christmas Day, although our neighbours icicle display is a little more impressive...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Reviews #10

Sebastian Faulks - Birdsong

I've probably read this book 3 times at least now, and still it staggers me with its beauty, and yet when I say that to people and they then say,
"what's it about?"
and I have to say that it's about the First World War, specifically the grim life in the trenches, understandably people do a double take.

I think I read this for the first time with my book group in the UK and I found it so incredible that I have since read anything and everything that Faulks has written (most of it good, but none of it has had such an impact on me as Birdsong) I also recommend it to everyone, I even got my husband to read it for heavens sake (and his reading matter of choice is either some work related business bore or Top Gear/Stuff magazine).

I've just reread Birdsong for bookgroup because that particular bookgroup meeting occured on November 12th, the day after Remembrance Day and it seemed an appropriate choice.

The story starts before the war in 1910, our hero Stephen is in France on business, he falls in love with a married woman and they run away together, leaving chaos in their wake. It doesn't work out and Stephen is forever haunted by this love. The story is mostly about Stephen and other soldiers in the trenches, the futility of war, detailing the minutiae of their lives - how the tea tastes of the petrol that had originally been in the cans it's been brewed in, how the dormant lice within the seams of their clothes can never be completely removed, the lies that the officers have to tell their foot soldiers, denying to themselves the certain death they are being sent to and the sheer infinite number of men, young and old who died and yet were never found.

There is another storyline running also, as the young(ish) grand-daughter of Stephen decides she wants to know more about the Grandfather she never knew, at one point she visits the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing and is shocked by the seemingly endless number of names inscribed on the monument,
"Nobody told me" she says, "My God, nobody told me".

That line is probably one of the reasons I keep coming back to this book, to remember, and also why I will keep on recommending it to people who haven't read it (even recommended it to a German friend last week, found the link on Amazon.de for the book in German and emailed it to her) I have toured around Brittany and visited areas where trenches have been preserved and where land is still fenced off due to the possibility of unexploded bullets and seen the memorial at Bayeux, at sunset, when the light turns everything blood red, we should never be allowed to forget the extreme lengths to which man will push himself, never forget.

If you haven't read it, do, please.

Monday, December 20, 2010

1 Rule for them,

and a different rule for me...or am I just becoming increasingly paranoid?

This is something that's been gnawing away at me for well over a week and I think I have to finally give vent.

At least 10 days ago I was dreadfully organised and started my Christmas present wrapping, specifically those presents that needed to be posted off somewhere. I then packaged them up into boxes, wrapped them again in brown paper and trotted off to the local post office. I took with me the few Christmas cards I needed to post too.

So I had 2 boxes, each a little larger than a shoe box, but not too heavy, 1 smallish jiffy bag and 6 Christmas cards, all going to either England or Ireland, just a quick hop across the canal (as the Germans call it) not far at all. And my bill? 50 euro...now I always mishear/misunderstand fifty and fifteen when spoken in German but even so, I wasn't amused to get no change whatsoever from a 50 note...

The guy commented that my cards cost 3 euro each to post because they were a 'funny size'. I don't know about you, but I choose cards for the picture/joke/message first and size second (although I certainly steer well clear of those huge padded numbers that come in their box) but these cards were smaller than the average card and would certainly fit through even the meagerest letterbox (which I thought was what the rule was - pay more if it don't fit, no?)

There was nothing I could do about it, just suck it up, I thought to myself, forget about it, at least the job's done, parcels and cards sent...but then this last week I've been receiving Christmas cards from the UK, and it was the last one that tipped me over the edge. From my sister in law, and it's A5 sized at least, just about fit into a letter box, and how much stampage did it have?



Where is the logic in that? I. DO. NOT. UNDERSTAND.

Maybe I need to be more German in my approach to this matter and either not send any cards or maybe I should argue the case with the guy in the post office, it just seems to be ridiculous to have to pay more for the postage than for the card, especially when it is only going across the canal and when I know I can order parcel after parcel from Next/Boden/M&S and pay only £6 per awkwardly shaped box....mutter, mutter, mutter.

Phew, vent over.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Snaps 43

The Evans family Christmas tree 2010, decorated mostly by Jas, although I did the lights & the fairy and the higher branches she couldn't reach and unlike 1 friend I didn't reorganise the baubles after she'd gone to bed!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wort des Jahres

There are over 1 million words in the English language and I was rendered speechless to discover that the German language has fewer - way fewer, in fact 600,000 fewer according to my 'official' source...I found this fact so shocking because whenever you compare 2 books, that are the same book, but one is in English and one German then the German book is always, always thicker, and no it's not down to thicker paper/larger print, therefore surely there must be more words in the book. Maybe it's just because Germans can never say anything briefly, a note home from school will normally be a side of A4, mostly blather and wind that you have to hunt through in order to divine the actual message, it's annoying to put it mildly.

The sheer volume of words in a language also makes understanding what people say to you tricky, you say one thing and they respond with something that doesn't match the template you had prepared which leaves you looking, as usual like someone who doesn't know what they're talking about! There are 3 words in German meaning 'to dare', 3 words for ducking and yet then there's the word 'das Rezept' which can mean either a prescription from the doc or a recipe (à la Delia/Jamie).

The number of words in the German language is growing every year, although a lot of these words I don't have to learn as they're imports from the US and the UK, things like 'It Girl' and 'Aftershow party', and every year the German language celebrates a new word in the 'Wort des Jahres'*. Last year the word was 'Abwrackprämie' - coined to explain the rebate a customer could get from buying a brand sparkling new car whilst consigning an old wreck to the knackers yard.

This year's is yet to be decided, so here's the short list:

Lobbylitiker - noun, describes a politician who is not interested in the people they represent but is instead guided by larger concerns and industry.

Schäubeln - verb, to publicly expose a co-worker.

App - noun, straight from the English that one.

Afrika - noun, another obvious one, because of the summer of football...

Radicalminski - a Soviet style revolutionary, who is willing to sacrifice anything for their beliefs.

I wonder which word will win? Watch this space!

Meanwhile, on the otherside of the pond the Yanks of course have their own 'Global Language Monitor' which has already forecast what the most popular words of 2011 will be...a tad extreme don't you think? Although bearing in mind the misuse of the language that occurs at the hands (or should that be tongues?) of the Americans I don't think we should put too trust in their belief that 'Twenty eleven' will be the most popular word of 2011, especially when you consider that the top word (according to them) for 2010 is 'Spillcam'. Personally I think that the people behind the 'Global Language Monitor' need to revisit the definition of global.

* word of the year

Rulebound or...

...just plain bonkers?

Last Friday the weather got a little bit warmer and then it started to rain and so the thick layer of snow that we'd been living with for the previous 10 days gradually, gradually disappeared.

Bliss, I was able to walk the dog and drive my car without fearing for my safety on Saturday and on Sunday...Monday was also a good day - up to a point. It was bitingly cold but the forecast said there was only a 20% of us getting snow...

If this is what 20% chance looks like I dread to think what 100% certainty is...

And I thought I'd successfully put the kibosh on any more of the white stuff falling by getting Jas fitted out with proper, sensible (i.e. German) winter boots* and ordering myself some equally sensible (although not German**) winter boots to try and keep me upright in the slippy conditions (so far I've landed on my rump twice - am now avoiding that particular spot).

The snow started early yesterday evening and although it probably only snowed for 2-3 hours it did so with single mindedness so that by the time it stopped (as I was about to go to bed) there was a good 2 inches on the ground, maybe 3 (having looked at what 2 inches is and thinking back to the depth of said snow as I shovelled it this morning). Joy.

Here in Germany the law says that each homeowner is responsible for making the path outside their property safely passable (on foot btw, I don't have to clear the road as well thank goodness)
between the hours of 7am and 8pm. That's fine I guess, although 7am on a non school day is pushing it a bit, in fact 7am on a school day is hard, I need at least 1 cuppa before I'm up to the physical labour that is clearing snow off 40 metres of paving. But the locals of course take this VERY seriously, as soon as it stops snowing they're out there, snow shovels at the ready, I'd thought I was imagining this anality (gotta be a word surely?) but I have evidence, and not just from me:

- Anne in Werden (just along the river) was woken up at 3am (3am!) by the caretaker of the apartments next door clearing snow.
- Rachel in Kettwig Altstadt witnessed all her neighbours pretty much shoulder to shoulder clearing snow at 11pm as it was still snowing.
- I was encouraging the dog to go outside for one last time around 11pm and could definitely hear that distinctive scrape, scrape of a snow shovel. I realised who it was when I eventually got out there at 7am, my neighbour's father. He lives around the corner and clearly has WAY too much time on his retired hands. When he clears snow, he does it properly (surprise) the whole path will be clear & by clear I mean spotless, if it weren't for the huge-mongous piles of snow he builds you wouldn't think it had ever snowed, first he shovels (the complete width of the path, not just a snow shovel wide track through for him, oh no) and then he brushes away any errant flakes. So he'd done this last night for his daughter (whose husband is in Sweden and therefore exempt (like my own husband) from shovelling duties) and then today he was back waving a snow shovel around again (well there was nothing else to do as it hadn't snowed again - note the use of the word 'hadn't', since he took himself off to do something else - polishing the wheels on his car maybe, it's snowed again, not much, but just enough so that you know it has) The man clearly has not enough to do - I wonder if he's for hire?

One 'person' who's happy in the snow - Logan;

* waterproof, heavily treaded and fleecey lined for warm tootsies
** German winter boots whilst seriously practical are the epitome of ugliness and a girl has got to maintain her standards - which reminds me, a friend went on a date last week (snow was still on the ground) and the date dared to pass comment on the unsuitable nature of her footware given the weather conditions...do we think he's going to get another date? Somehow I doubt it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Snaps 42

It's the season for the Weihnachtsmarkt, here's the one in Essen:
well, part of it anyway!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I don't know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with snow.

There's a part of me that is forever a child, seeing the snow & thinking how great it will be if the schools are closed, but the reality is quite different.

We've had snow (and when I say 'snow' I don't mean a pretty sprinkling, this is thick, compacted & frozen to the ground stuff, that will only give up its hold on the earth if attacked with venom and salt.

But, keeping in mind that I try to be a 'glass half full' kind of girl (unless it's the last bottle being passed around and then my glass is definitely empty and needs a refill - NOW) I shall approach this in a fair manner and give you the positives and negatives of snow according to me.

On the plus side.
1. I love the sound of snow crunching underfoot, it's a great sound and if it's making that noise then it's probably not wet 'n soggy snow that is waiting to soak through to your pinkies.
2. The dog always comes back from a walk clean, wet perhaps, but clean, this means less sweeping up after him, bonus!
3. Everywhere looks prettier when bedecked with snow, everywhere.
4. The dark mornings aren't so dark, what little light there is reflects off all those white sparkly surfaces, meaning that the early morning walk to school/in the woods with the dog are almost pleasant (if it weren't for the ungodliness of the hour).
5. It is against the law to eat salad when there is snow on the ground, trust me, they have rules 'n regs for everything here, salad being verboten is surely in there somewhere.

The negatives.
1. It's cold.
2. It's slippy.
3. When it starts to thaw the world goes very quickly from pretty to pretty hellish.
4. Shovelling - in 8 days I have lost count of how many times I've had to shovel the paths & steps, Simon always seems to be away & Ben does such a rubbish job of it he mightn't have bothered, maybe he didn't, maybe he just hid round the side of the house for half an hour?
5. I have to plan my route to anywhere with military precision, our own road isn't cleared and has a high ridge of snow down the middle that scrapes alarmingly on the underside of my Cooper, so I try to go out the top end but then I have to detour along other roads to avoid a nasty slippery hill, the road parallel to ours is half closed it's so slippery.

I'm in a grump today because I woke up to find it snowing again & as I write this it's still snowing, and to add insult to injury I did a full comedy fall on my way home from walking Logan, both feet lost contact with the floor as I went up in the air and then whumped back down, taking my weight on my arse and my hands, or more particularly on my right thumb, which is slowly turning a pretty shade of purple - should get me out of shovelling duties in the short term eh?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Yesterday was December 6th and Nikolaus came.

He actually visits between the 5th & 6th but the children only get to see the results of the visit on the morning of the 6th.

It's yet another tradition that Germany has that England doesn't and that we have therefore had to adopt. The children go to bed leaving cleaned boots waiting for St Nik, who visits in the middle of the night with his big book. In the book is written all the deeds and misdeeds of the children, if the children are thought to have been good then they wake in the morning to find their shoes filled with goodies - traditionally nuts, fruit and candles*, but if they've been bad then they might find potatoes, coal or twigs.

The first year we lived here Ben craftily told me that St Nik came on the 9th, he wanted to check out if he existed or not. This backfired splendidly on Ben, as my neighbour had decided to play at being St Nik to the ignorant Ausländers - I am forever in her debt as the look on his sceptical face as we left the house to go to school and discovered 2 little sacks of sweeties, was, as the ad says 'priceless'. It also meant that the small gifts I'd bought as the St Nik pressies could be held over till Christmas itself. Double whammy.

Since then I've managed to get with the programme and actually write the date in my diary so that I don't forget it, but I declared it a sweets only zone this year.
The children in Germany get their Christmas presents on the evening of December 24th and in England it's the morning of the 25th, consequently I stupidly made a rod for own back our first Christmas and the children got 1 present each on Christmas Eve (from German Santa - who I think is the Chriskind...but I need to look into that one further) and then their normal present load on Christmas morning. If you then add in the need to think of something for St Nik to bring on Dec 6th...it's a nightmare, so this year was just sweets & they seemed ok with that.

Ben has been regaling me with stories about what his friends received, Timo got a ticket to go and see 'Starlight Express', presumably the rest of his family also got tickets, which for Marcie (younger, gymnastic star of a brother) is probably really cool, but Timo isn't amused, especially as Ben has been to see it already and declared it to be pants (we all thought it was amazing but then since when have 13 year old boys been the epitomy of taste?) whilst Paul G got a new Quiksilver jacket that is apparently so garish he is probably visible from the space station, so I think Ben's quite happy with a haul of chocolate that is his and his alone.

* I think most kids would be straight on the phone to Childline if they found such items gifted them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Doing a Desmond

That'll be a reference not to Desmond Tutu but to Desmond Morris, whose books on animal behaviour were much read throughout my Zoology degree course, specifically The Naked Ape & Manwatching, except in my case this was Germanwatching (not naked German - shudder).

I've had a busy weekend, bookgroup on Friday evening (I might recount that tale later in the week - as & when I remember it...what can I say, but much much red wine was drunk) then Saturday we went and got the Christmas tree (as you will already know if you checked out the latest Sunday Snap) and Sunday afternoon was our little Christmas Cocktail shindig, so much to prepare and on top of that it decided to snow - all day Saturday and then with serious intent, all day Sunday - nasty English, wet 'n heavy snow it was too, 2-3 inches of the damned stuff, that has since frozen, nice.

Back to the Germanwatching and new words to describe the natives:

- Organised. The Christmas tree place just a 5 minute drive from us was crazy busy on Saturday, we'd thought to grab lunch there, no chance. Got a good tree though, after walking through driving snow in sub zero temperatures to the far end of the field as we dismissed tree after tree as being 'too tall', 'too wonky', 'too dead', 'too small' and so on. Fortunately, pine is nice and soft and a tree just over 6ft tall doesn't have too thick a trunk so it didn't take Si too long to saw through it.
As I said, this place was heaving with natives, all buying their trees and carting them away. But why were they buying them in the 1st week of December when the tradition here is to put up the tree on Christmas Eve (needless to say this is why our tree is up early - standing proudly in the front window for all those passers by looking up and staring through the windows (that'll be everyone walking past then) to see and think to themselves 'bloody Ausländers*') I put this question to my tame German today (that'll be Muna my German teacher) and she says that everyone buys their trees early ('cos if you leave it too late then all the good ones are gone...well that's a self-fulfilling thingy then) and then they leave them outside in the garden until December 24th - this would be presuming that none of these early buyers have male dogs then.

- Black; the colour to wear. I know it's flattering to almost everyone (except those with a certain skin tone anyway, eh Rebecca?) makes you look chic, everything matches and it makes you look slimmer/taller etc. But when everyone decides to wear black it's like being at a funeral, dull, dull, dull, and no longer a fashion statement surely, more of a uniform. I'd have worn red to my party if I could have found anything in that colour in the shops here, went with a jade-y green frock instead and impossibly (for me) high heels, which my feet were relieved to be out of when the last (of the black clad) guests left!

- Teetotal; well they might as well be. Pretty much everyone who came on Sunday lives close enough that they were able to walk here, they even pointed this out to me (especially my neighbour) as I served them their first glass of mulled wine. But after 2 glasses they pretty much all started raiding the fridge, for all the wrong reasons, they were after water...at a party...when they're walking home.
What's that all about then?
It's just a good job I'd made 2 different alcoholic beverages, 1 a mulled wine and the other a cranberry punch (the punch being the fact that the cranberry juice was diluted with cassis) because this meant that most people were keen to try both before switching to water. Imagine if I'd only made the mulled wine! Next year I'll have to have 3 concoctions to offer!

- Overprepared; this morning Si had to be at the airport at 8.45, it's a 20 minute drive in decent weather if it's not a Monday morning, otherwise maybe 60 minutes. Si's lift turned up at 7.10, Si was still in the shower, not packed & certainly not dressed...but his colleague was keen to point out that there was thick snow on the ground and long staus** on the autobahn. I don't think he was too impressed to be kept from his steering wheel while I had to entertain him (desperately needing to get into the shower so that I could get Jas to school) for the 10 minutes or so before Si was ready.

- Lunacy; 'Wetten Dass' is a godawful show (imho) on German tv which everyone here watches, it is the most watched show in Europe apparently and the guy who compères it makes a hugely sucessful living out of it, so much so that he no longer lives here amongst us mortals but in Malibu amongst the stars...Saturday was possibly one bet too far, the 23 year old Samuel Kochs bet that he could somersault over 4 (or was it 5?) moving cars using springy strap on thingies. He managed the 1st, passed the 2nd and then didn't get enough height to clear the 3rd properly,
he's in hospital now having undergone emergency surgery and we wait to see whether he can walk again, let alone jump or somersault over cars.

* Ausländers = foreigners
** Staus = traffic jams

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Snaps 41

Cutting down the Christmas tree.

I know it's ridiculously early and it will be tinderwood by Boxing Day but we have a house full of guests tomorrow afternoon and I want everything to be festive with a capital F

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Groundhog day

It's that time of year (December 1) when Jasmine's school make us all (parents and pupils, but if you have younger/older siblings please don't allow them to talk or run around or in anyway attempt to enjoy themselves as they will be a distraction and that is VERBOTEN) gather together in the school grounds to celebrate something, winter maybe? Being freezing cold certainly (-6 plus windchill = a feels like temp of -15, f*****g freezing in anybody's book).

The children have spent a couple of weeks making paper and glue lanterns at school which they then suspend from a short wooden stick and stick a lighted candle (none of this new fangled electricity allowed, oh no, we need the opportunity for ignition of complete lantern and possibly child to add to the frisson of excitement engendered by a walk through the snowy woods in the pitch black (apart from the flickering candles that is - if the force whatever Siberian gale doesn't blow then all out).

First we got a song or 2 (I don't know the words, although 1 did seem to be to the tune of 'Auld Lang Syne') then the children went off through the woods with minimal adults accompanying - not because we didn't want to (although actually, I really didn't want to, I'm in the woods often enough as it is with the dog & I prefer to be there when it's light and I can see where I'm walking, I find it safer that way) but because they don't want parents coming along with electric/battery torches and chattering to each other and spoiling the atmosphere for the children.

While the children stumbled through the woods trying to keep on their feet and to keep their candles alight we stood around in the playground making small talk and getting slowly sloshed on glühwein (I knew there was a good reason for going) then the children got back, there's more singing, but NO talking from the adults (on pain of death) and then we got to go indoors where each class put on an individual little show (happy face) - in Jas's case it's a fraction of a show we will see the whole of on the last day of term (when other family members can come along too*). At least the classrooms were warm.

Pity those parents with the misfortune to have 2 (or more) kids at the school - how do they manage to be in two differnt classrooms (quite possibly in 2 different buildings) at the same time in order to witness their little darling's performance and record it for posterity (or youtube)? That's when spouses come in very handy - if you can persuade them to leave the comfort of their centrally heated offices early...

Next year Jas will be in year 4, so I only have to revisit this experience (standing around in the freezing cold flirting with hypothermia whilst listening to kids singing) once more.

The event itself was almost eclipsed by my walk home, going past the house of the man who has security and gates and cameras, there were what appeared to be 2 security men outside his gate, busy conferring. Odd, I thought, not seen that before. Then I rounded the bend to our house and could see 2 cops on the junction ahead, pacing around. Really odd, I thought. As I was leaning out of the window, 5 minutes later, trying to see what the cops were up to, Ben rang from the other side of said junction, where he was babysitting, he also wanted to know what the cops were doing...it turned out they were just waiting for the truck with the road salt...I almost wish I hadn't found out now!

Roll on groundhog day 2011.

* that'll be you M&D & Ed!!