Dear Father Christmas

Dear Father Christmas,

Thankyou very much for all the wonderful gifts you brought me last year. I was particularly delighted to step on the scales in January to find I weighed the same as before I began inhaling festive chocolate. If you could repeat that trick for me this year, I would be most grateful.

I understand that I’m a little late with my letter to you this year. My tardiness, however, will not excuse an absence of glittery gifts beneath my Christmas tree. You are Father Christmas and Father Christmas is magic so none of your excuses about how the elves couldn’t make it in time, ok?

Once again I have been very good this year. I have reached things from high shelves for old people in the supermarket, I did my best to convert the Jehovah’s witnesses and I have only killed one squirrel.
When I have found it difficult to be nice, I have endeavoured to remove myself from the situation rather than tell people what I think. If this means not answering the telephone on a Sunday then so be it. In an extra effort to be nice, I even wrote a thank you letter to Cos when she sent me a necklace for my birthday. She is holding my Christmas present to ransom (or, more likely, she has not got me anything) until she comes over to visit us.

This year I would like Cos to stop buying me any presents at all. They are always cheap and nasty and hideously inappropriate. She didn’t bother to get me anything for the first 27 years of my life, it’s far to late to buy my affections now – although if she is asking you to help her buy my affections let the record show I may consider renting them in return for a 50mm Carl Zeiss Lens.
I would also like Strider to cop on. While I am pleased with all her work undermining the Welsh government from within, it would make Mammy very happy if Strider was able to think of people who are not herself a little more; particularly with regards to the state of her bathroom floor and how other people might feel when they go in there and see it. Let’s just say it’s a good job it’s the room with the toilet in it.

For a long time I have wondered if I want another cat. My old one doesn’t do much these days on account of having been dead for three and a half months. I know I eventually will get another one because otherwise my life plan of dying a crazy old cat lady will go unfulfilled, but every time I think of getting a new one it makes me cry.
With this in mind, I instead request an Alpaca. They are a bit like cats but you shear them and instead of chasing things and killing them, they protect them from all harm. They also do not wake you up in the middle of the night to let you know they still exist. If you bring me an alpaca, I promise to brush it and shine its hoofs and give it vitamin D supplements and name it Genghis. It will also be helpful should Mammy get some chickens.

Please be careful in the icy snow and driving winds. Alpacas get air sick very easily.

Lots of Love

Theo (Age 28)

Traditions

Ah, Christmas! How you do sneak up on a girl! One minute I am slapping the sun cream on and the next your festive twinkle has overtaken me.

This year, for a change, I am feeling rather organised. The cake managed to get made – this time without He Who Knows Everything braining himself on the garden furniture – and it smells rather lovely. When I say lovely, what I actually mean is Alcoholic. I have yet to perfect the trick of unwrapping it without needing to take a staggered step backwards at the fumes. Naked flames are banned for at least half an hour afterwards to let the vapours dispel.

What is particularly nice about Christmas is the rhythm of it. It pretty much follows the same pattern each year. Of course, nothing stays the same forever, but Christmas seems to assimilate new events into itself so they are swiftly lined up alongside the more traditional occupations of eating biscuits for breakfast and making fun of the Round Robin letters.

The newest tradition to enter into the Christmas pantheon of my household is for the hall ceiling to end up on the hall floor.

Regular readers may remember last years fiasco in which it was decided to decorate the hall, stairs and landing in the weeks preceding Christmas and in which a crowbar was taken to the hall ceiling for complicated reasons involving bureaucracy and which led to a longer than usual To Do list due to the necessity of rebuilding said ceiling before the builders holiday kicked in.
Happily, all the jobs got finished and a mostly merry Christmas was had by mostly everybody and we swore we would never undertake such a foolish enterprise so close to Christmas ever again. Then again, we had said that in previous years following a last minute decision to move house on the 23rd of December. We had found the experience to be a trifle incompatible with a peaceful holiday season.

This year, the hall ceiling has decided it wants to be included in the traditional festivities. Upon our return from Cardiff, we found it had colluded with the hot water tank and was sporting some new watermark tattoos and a pool of liquid beneath it.
Naturally, when He Who Knows Everything told me about this latest development, I sprang instantly into action.
“I shouldn’t worry about it.” I said. “It’s been doing that for the last week in our absence. It will have found equilibrium by morning. If that equilibrium is on the floor then I am good with it.”
HWKE considered my philosophy for a moment before agreeing and retiring to bed.

In more ordinary circumstances, I would doubtless have taken up anxious residence beneath the watery bulge, but these were no ordinary circumstances. Our ferry had been delayed for several hours while the heroic Captain Gerard donned his wetsuit to remove some wire from the propeller. By the time we staggered in through the front door, it was a full twelve hours after we had set out from Cardiff. The gallant captain had arranged a free carvery dinner for us, but all of that meat and gravy served only to make us full and less willing to do some midnight plumbing. If I came down in the morning to find my ceiling on the floor, I would place the blame squarely on the captain and his garlic roast potatoes.

In the end, the ceiling remained where it was. He Who Knows Everything got his spanners out and declared the fault to lie in some loose joints which had begun to leak in earnest after the lack of hot water flowing through them caused them to contract. He spent several days tightening them up and looking with puzzlement at the ceiling which still seemed to be leaking.
Eventually, he found the correct joint. He claims to have tightened it up and is busy with a roller and a spray restoring the ceiling to its original whiteness.

In other news: We have been debating about what size turkey to order for Christmas. Usually I request one as big as my head (because Christmas is the only time of year in which you get the chance to eat something the size of your head) but this year a slightly smaller one is being requested. Partly this is because Strider has declared she will return to Cardiff on the twenty seventh but mainly it is because of the absence of The Cat.
The Cat was always very keen on turkey. So keen in fact that one year, HWKE came into the kitchen to find she had managed to jump a six foot gap onto the kitchen counter top and was sitting next to a fang marked turkey with an innocent expression.
I’m really going to miss that kind of thing this year.

In Which He Who Knows Everything Learns Where Not To Park His Car

Depending on the amount of entertainment your life is filled with, you may not have noticed my recent absence. If you did not then I salute you heartily.
In a pleasant deviation from the usual, there were a number of reasons for the gap in recent blog entries. The first is that I was being quite lazy. I am often lazy. Luckily, my lazyness can be cunningly disguised through doing work and pretending to the world around me that it is the work I am supposed to be working on rather than the other work I have available to me. So it is that I am usually doing something but rarely what it is I am supposed to be doing. The number of blog entries I make are directly proportional to the urgency of the other things I have to get done.
The second is that it had been quite cold. Normally this wouldn’t prove much of an impediment to computer use but when it’s dark and the wind is howling around the chimney, the lure of the stove becomes rather too much of an evening.
The third is that we have all been Away.

As we are exciting folk, Mammy, He Who Knows Everything and I went to visit Strider in Cardiff. She was so thrilled at the prospect of our clogging up her sitting room and using her stuff all day while she was out at work subverting the Welsh Government from within, she even vacuumed. However, as this is Strider we are talking about, she was required to explain that while she had vacuumed, her vacuum seemed to be broken and that the more she vacuumed the dirtier the floor got.
The last time this happened, it was because she had vacuumed up three socks and not noticed. The time before it was because she didn’t know how to empty the dust from the container. She was swift to assure me this was not the cause this time around with, it must be said, more pride than the usual 31 year old displays at knowing how to clear fluff from a filter. After half an hour I’d removed four, three inch blockages from the various tubes of her cleaner and given her strict instructions not to let it happen again.

I have always maintained that Cardiff is one of the most underrated places in the UK. It is large enough to have really good shopping (including the brand new John Lewis which is the largest one outside London) but not so large you spend hours driving in and out of it like Manchester or Birmingham. The Millennium Stadium is one of the finest sporting grounds in the whole of the UK and because it is in the city centre, visitors get a chance to see Cardiff properly rather than being whisked from their park and ride to some outlying suburb.
What is also nice about Cardiff is that, to me at least, it always felt like a very safe city. I lived in Adamstown in a house I painted purple. On the insurance forms this was rated as the most crime ridden place in the city (Along with Roath, Splott and Cathays) but even so, it was only a level three insurance band. Strider studied in Manchester and lived in an area where it was cheaper to replace everything she owned than to buy insurance for it.
When I lived in Cardiff, I never felt afraid to be a lone female walking at night. That said, like any city it is important to keep your wits about you. There are drug problems and plenty of petty crime associated with them. It is also worth ensuring you know when Cardiff are playing Millwall and make a note to stay well away from anywhere any of the fans might end up but other than that (and the Llandaff flasher), I always found it to be really safe.

It is somewhat ironic then that Strider, who lives in a slightly better area than I did, has experienced much crime and annoyance during her time in the city. Since she moved to a first floor flat, she has been less troubled by young people stealing her laptop from through her bedroom window but she is always full of tales of the local kids causing a nuisance.
As we drank our welcoming cup of tea, she filled us in on their recent activities. Among other things, they had recently taken up breaking into cars and she advised us not to leave anything in ours.

About an hour later, a car alarm went off. I turned to HWKE.
“Isn’t that your car alarm?” I asked. I am finely tuned to the nuances of his car alarm. Until he was able to persuade the man at the garage to disconnect it, it had the habit of going off when the temperature on the dashboard reached 25 degrees. This caused much embarrassment in a variety of places, particularly when he couldn’t work out how to turn it off and Mammy and I stood at a distance shouting things which suggested to passers-by that he wasn’t the legal owner of the vehicle.
For a moment he looked uncertain. Then he shrugged and ate the plate of food which had been placed before him. Only when he was full of dinner did he go to check on his car.

Some time later he came back and asked Strider for some duck tape, some bin bags and a phone call to the Rozzers. Yoofs had broken his passenger window. They had also smashed the windows of four other cars parked on the street but not, I noticed, the one belonging to the Mazda coupe.
Strider sighed and rang the old bill. I begged her to ask them if they were going to catch the crims and lock them up in her community, but she failed to understand the reference.

What was so annoying about the whole thing was the wonton destruction of it. I wouldn’t have minded if they’d broken the window to steal something – HWKE certainly wouldn’t have minded if they’d stolen the whole car because bits fall off whenever he drives it further than 30 miles so he’s keen for a new one - breaking the window because they can is just amateurish.

The Rozzers came. They took HWKE’s name. They told us some bloke had seen the gang doing it and chased them in his car. It was all most dull.

So, Cardiff. Great City. Just not for parking your car in.