Monday, December 19, 2011

visit to Kate's

Arrived safely last week and have been fairly busy ever since.  There is always a lot going on here, probably because the kids have so many activities outside of school.  There is Scouts (Alex), Guides (Sarah and Olivia), swimming (Olivia and Alex), flute lessons (Olivia) and probably a couple I've forgotten.  Also it's almost the last day of school, so there is an assembly today at Green Lane (Alex ) with singing and suchlike.  I'll go over there to hear it.  Tomorrow is a half day for all the kids, so they will come home having eaten their fill of Christmas goodies.

And, speaking of goodies, we baked yesterday.  Kate's family blog has a photo of the goodies - 10 different kinds of cookies!  Most of the baking was done by Sarah and Olivia, with Kate supervising.  Alex helped a bit, decorating and suchlike.  I washed dishes - LOTS OF DISHES!  I did make one batch of peanut butter/chocolate squares - a no bake cookie.  After the baking, we went to an Christmas party down the street.  The hosts were a couple of guy whom Kate and Geoff didn't know very well, but they were really nice and Kate knew many of the other folks who were there.  I hadn't realized how many old folks live on this street.  At our end, there are mostly younger families (like Kate's), but almost everyone at the party was my age or older.  I guess the younger folks were busy with other activities.  I chatted with an older guy originally from Australia (he's lived in England for 50 years) and then with a woman who teaches at one of the local schools.  (Not the school where Kate is  working).  It was a nice drop-in sort of party, but that many people talking in a small space is hard on my ears. 

Saturday night we had dinner with a family whose daughter went to nursery school with Sarah.  Because Kate and Carolyn became friends, the families get together every year at Christmas and sometimes in between, despite the fact that Sarah and Amelia went to different primary schools.  Now that they are both in secondary school, they are together again.  Anyway, I've also gotten to know Carolyn and Brian, and very much enjoy seeing them when I'm here.  Their neighborhood is one of the few that REALLY DECORATE for the Holidays.  Even by American standards, that neighborhood is over the top in lights and animated displays.  We went out for a walk to see all the decorations which were spectacular as usual.  After dinner, we had a bit of music.  Kate, Olivia and I brought our flutes and clarinet (Sarah also plays clarinet) and Amelia play piano.  Geoff once played piano, so he had a turn plunking away on a couple of carols.  Carolyn just sings, so we did some Christmas carols with just instruments and some with various combinations, including voice.  Kate has a book of Christmas songs with three parts - for flute  and the same parts for clarinet.  We've been playing them with two flutes and one clarinet and having a great time at home. 

We haven't done much serious shopping, as Kate tries to avoid the malls in the weeks before Christmas.  However, I've been checking out all the charity shops (thrift stores) in two nearby communities.  Haven't bought much, but I like poking around to see what English people donate.  The clothing seems nicer that what one finds in the US thrifts, but I think it's just that the stores here are all small and are more selective about what they put out.  We did go to Wimbledon on Saturday because Kate and Alex were packing groceries at one of the stores - an activity to benefit the Boy Scouts.  The girls and I wandered around the street and 'Centre Court' (shopping center). The girls had Christmas money to spend, so they enjoyed the shopping.  The stores weren't nearly as crowded as I expected, except for one store that had about 20 people in line.  Sarah was buying something so she cued up and Olivia and I surveyed and purchased pastries at a kiosk in the mall.  Mmmm, good.

The weather here has been cold and a bit drizzly.  One morning it snowed (sort of ) on and off.  The snow was more like falling slush, coming down in big gobs, not flakes and melting as soon as it hit the ground.  It rained several evenings, so there are lots of puddles, making walking not very enjoyable.  I suppose there is a chance of snow for Christms, but it's not very likely.  Last year they had a lot of snow in December, but that is unusual for this part of England.  Alex is keeping track of Christmas - he tells us each day how many days are left.  I think he would say it's now FIVE!  (Or maybe six, depending on how you count it.  Not long, any way you look at it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The Bain senior chorus sang twice recently.  First was on Sunday at HCC with one of the choruses at the college.  We sang in the Smith Theater, which has wonderful acoustics.  We really sounded good, I think.  The HCC chorus only sang with us for a couple of numbers, but it was great to have all those young voices joining us.   We sang again at Heartlands (assisted living place) yesterday.  The audience seemed to enjoy the music, although they would probably have enjoyed Christmas carols more.  We did sing one familiar Holiday song, but the others were not directly related to Christmas, except for a spoof song that starts:  I'm so baroque at Christmas.  It very funny, using tunes from the Messiah with amusing words about being broke at Christmas.

I'll pack this afternoon and be on my way tonight.  Can't wait to see the grandkids. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another busy week

I've been fairly busy the last week or so.  Among others things, I wrote and mailed Christmas letters and cards to about 40 people; tried to sell my pottery at a the senior center; went to a craft show; had a doctor's appointment; and went to the theater; in addition to the usual music rehearsals and volunteer activities.

The pottery sale was a bust.  It was very poorly organized - no publicity.  The tables weren't set up before the doors opened.  Some people with tables were not selling, just showing off their wares. (I think that is just weird for a craft show!)  At least one person was selling used jewelry, not handmade stuff.  It wasn't supposed to be a yard sale!  The only people who came to the sale were the usual seniors who come to the center and they weren't buying.  None of us sold much.  Frankly, it was a big waste of time.  We won't do it again, that's for sure.

I have received my first Christmas card.  It's from my step-son and his family and is a collage of photos of him, his wife and the kids.  Even a photo of the baby who is due December 24!  My cards went into the mail today.  I'm glad to have that done.

The craft show I attended on Saturday was a pretty good one, not overwhelmingly large.  The place was mobbed!  Evidently it's a popular show.  There were about 140 crafters. The only thing I didn't like was that there were too many people selling jewelry.  This seems to be a problem at craft shows this year.  After the first 4 or 5 booths with jewelry, it gets a bit boring.  However, it was a pretty good show, all in all.  I didn't buy much - a pretty hand-painted ornament and a small ceramic face.  There were only two tables with ceramics.  Of course, I always look for that. 

The doctor's appointment is a rather humorous story.   I had called and asked for a prescription for getting the shingles vaccine.  However, when I went to pick it up, they said I had to come in to see the doctor because there was something on my records that needed to be followed up on.  So, I made an appointment and when  I came in for it, the doctor asked me why I was there!  I had to laugh.  (It's a practice with several doctors and I don't always see the same one.)  Luckily, I knew that the reason for the appointment was to discuss one of the findings from a physical exam I had months ago.  So we discussed my bone loss problem.  For various reasons, the only treatment that I can use involves hormones.  And here's the kicker - one of the possible reactions to this is -  HOT FLASHES!   Isn't that a hoot?  I'm 70 years old and I thought all that was in the past.  Life can be interesting.

 Sunday night I went with two friends to see 'The Sound of Music' at the Olney Theater.  It had not gotten good reviews in the Post, but I thought the cast did a good job.  The children were especially good, with wonderful voices.  Going places with elderly ladies is interesting.  Both of these women use canes and walk slowly, which is hard for me, as I always seem to be in a hurry.  There was some mix up with the seats, and we stood around and waited for the house manager to straighten it out.  Finally I made a bit of a fuss and insisted that we be seated, as one of my friends has trouble standing for any length of time and I was afraid she would collapse.  Sometimes you just have to be a bit pushy.  We were seated immediately, in better seats than our original ones.  The only thing I don't like about going to that theater is driving there in the dark.  The roads are full of curves and have no street lights, as it's in a rural area.  Still, I was the only one who could have driven there in the dark.  Anyway, we got there and back, safely.

Tomorrow  the Bain chorus has a rehearsal at Howard Community College for a musical performance we will be doing on Sunday.  We will be singing with a small choir from the college.  We know the music pretty well, but I understand that the theater we will be in is not good for small groups.  We will be rehearsing tomorrow, so at least we'll get an idea of what the acoustics are like.  I have no idea if we'll get a large audience or not.  That doesn't really matter to me.  I just enjoy singing with a group.

We've had unseasonably warm weather recently, but it may be ending tomorrow.  I heard a weather report that we will get rain all day, with a chance of snow tomorrow evening.  I"m glad I don't have to go anywhere that night.   Perhaps winter is coming after all.