Our daughter's main Christmas present last year was a doll's house, or, to be more accurate, a doll's house kit. So far, we've put most of the structure together, and have been fitting a light in each of the rooms. To-day, we went back to the shop (a year later) to ask their advice - how to fit lights in the uppermost rooms without disfiguring the roof; the answer - wall-mounted lights, but they didn't have anything suitable in stock. Never mind, we bought some roofing paper - it looks like slates. We'll go back in a few weeks' time to see about these lights. This house will be complete - eventually.
But I think that we're OK. Even if progress is slow, it's reasonably steady; we didn't manage to do much during the summer, when there was work to be done in the garden. I think that what is good about this project is that every forward step is genuinely progress, and there isn't a deadline, so we can do good work as we go along.
We enjoyed the film; it seemed to be making fun of Shrek, which in turn made fun of the traditional fairy story. It was a clever story, and (to me) a satisfying denouement. But our daughter lost her teddy bear on the way. Grrrrr.
I struggle to find hope, at any time, especially this time of year, which we are told is a time of hope. There was the Boxing Day tsunami, and to-day we hear of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. I do not claim to understand politics, but I am always shocked to think that people have plotted to kill someone. To hate someone so much that you are prepared to kill someone; that I find unthinkable. But what do I know of real suffering? And if I blamed an individual for my plight, what would I do?
There is a cat who visits our house. I am uncomfortable about letting him in - surely he has a home to go to. The other day, our son tried to stroke the cat, and the cat scratched him. Not long after, our son had taken his revenge - some complicated action involving giving the cat a fright by arranging for his sister to shout into one toy radio while he, presumably, held the other close to the cat. I guess that it is too soon to try to teach him about loving his enemies, especially as on the whole he is fond of the cat. Perhaps you have to learn 'an eye for an eye' before you can appreciate 'love your enemies'.
But it would be nice to spend some time not anticipating the next crisis (how many times do you think that I've been interrupted already while trying to write this blog?). But, at least, to-day we did manage out of the house and to the top of Traprain Law.
Not so much for becoming essential Christmas viewing, but for giving me an hour's peace while everybody else watches it. I was going to be sociable and join the rest of the family, but with a couple of minutes to go, I decided that I just couldn't. I don't really know why I don't like Dr Who, but I don't, except for the 'wibbly wobbly timey wimey' episode, which wasn't really about him. So I've spent an hour flying (Microsoft Flight Simulator), and here I am, updating my blog.
On the whole, Christmas has been a success. The younger members of the family seem to be happy with their presents; Christmas dinner was enjoyed. I, to be honest, found it hard going. Still, I'm enjoying these few moments of quiet reflection, while the doctor, presumably, saves the world (again).
This morning in church, the Sunday School read a poem and sang a song. Each verse of the poem was read by a different child; each of our children read a verse. It was touch and go whether our son would be there. He was feeling better, but a few crises had to be resolved before we could leave the house. So, I suppose, it was with special satisfaction that I listened to him read.
And, another piece of good news: the slide rule has been found!
Until 2008, that is. Last day at work in 2007. An odd mixture of feelings - now overlaid with too much wine. I've phoned the pizza place; they're busy, not surprisingly; our pizzas should arrive in about half an hour. Too early to wish everyone a Merry Christmas; I expect to blog a few times before the big day. But, in case I don't see you again before the 25th, Merry Christmas!
A year ago, I renewed my subscription for the internet security suite sold by a leading antivirus company. In the weeks before renewal, I was bombarded with emails reminding me that my current subscription was 'about to' expire. The only problem with responding to these emails, which I did the year before, was that if, say, you renewed with a month to go, your new year's subscription would start from the day you renewed. Clever, eh? Eleven months for the price of twelve!
In the event, I only persevered with the software for a few weeks. The latest upgrade was just too much for my poor old computer to cope with. Not much point in being fully protected if you can't use your computer because all of its processing power is being consumed by the security suite. I started using a different antivirus program.
Imagine my horror when I received an email from the first antivirus company to say that they had automatically renewed my subscription, charging me £49.99 for the privilege. They still had my credit card details on file, and had, without warning, taken the money. Apparently their change of policy was in response to what customers wanted. A shame that they hadn't bothered to tell this particular customer.
Bottom line - the people who are supposed to be defending us against the bad guys are themselves, not to put to fine a point on it, crooks. By the way, I wouldn't be writing this if they had responded to my emails. I suspect that they deliberately make it difficult for people either to contact them or directly to change aspects of their account.
You are waiting at the bus stop. Your bus pulls up, behind another bus which is already at the bus stop, taking on passengers. What do you do? Recently, I walked to my bus, and waved at the driver to let me on. He shook his head at me, as if to say that I had done something naughty. I know, you are supposed to wait at the bus stop for your bus to arrive.
This evening, I saw my bus approaching. Another bus was at the stop, so I waited patiently. My bus disgorged some passengers, then pulled out. Angry, frightened, cold, tired, lonely, I raced after the bus. More in desperation than hope, I kept running to the next stop. As it happened, there was another bus just behind, which would also get me home. If anything, I became more desperate - if I'd waited at the original stop I would have caught this other bus, but now it was ahead of me. God was with me, I suppose, because what followed was entirely fortuitious. The bus which I now wanted to catch switched on its hazard warning lights. Passengers were alighting, and getting on to another bus in front. I arrived, totally out of breath; the driver said, "Don't give yourself a heart attack." I explained that the bus which I'd wanted to catch hadn't waited. Thankfully, this driver was kindly, and pointed out that I would still get to my destination.
So, what should I do in future? Walk along to my bus, and risk being told off? Or wait, and risk being left at the bus stop?
It's the only explanation I can come up with. A few weeks ago, we brought home some stuff from my parents' old house, including a rather magnificent slide rule. It must be about 4 feet long; it lay on my desk until (I think) yesterday, when I tried to find a home for it.
This evening, I was helping our daughter with her homework, when I suddenly realised that the perfect tool for doing the sums we were trying to do was - a slide rule. Not that I would expect, in the 21st century, that she should start using a slide rule to do multiplication and division, but that it would be fun to demonstrate another way to crack this particular nut. Sadly, I haven't the faintest idea where I put the treasured object. To quote a family friend, "It moost be soomwhair!" but where, Ah dinna ken! Fortunately, it wasn't the only slide rule in the house. My own slide rule, which I haven't used for 20 or more years, lives in the middle drawer of my desk, but after fishing it out, I thought that it might be nicer for us to use another of Grandad's slide rules, in fact the one I remember him using.
I always feel that there's something magic about a slide rule - the answer seems to appear out of nowhere - it's more magic than a calculator, because there's nothing hidden. Clearly, there's a wee man hiding inside the calculator, doing the sums, but everything about a slide rule is in the open. So this evening's experience was a good one, and I've encouraged our daughter to tell her teacher how she got the answers, maybe even to take Grandad's old slide rule into school (this one is a more manageable length).
But where, oh where is the other slide rule? I've even prayed, desperately - maybe you'll think that it's a silly thing to pray about, when there's so much trouble in the world - but my little faith can just about believe that God will help me to find something - after all, "It moost be soomwhair!"
The Christmas holidays are an opportunity for our family to go and see a film. I guess that it must have been two years ago that we saw The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. This year I've been thinking of going to see The Golden Compass, but I've just started to read the book, and suspect that I would be irritated by differences between the book and the film (and I've heard that there are some significant ones). So I was interested to watch a review this evening on BBC News 24 of Disney's Enchanted. Then we watched the trailer on apple.com, and everybody seems to be pleased with the idea.
To-day the team I work with had our Christmas lunch. We ate in a Chinese buffet restaurant. It was the kind of place where you can eat as much as you want. Last year I ate too much, coming away uncomfortably full. This year, I displayed admirable restraint, but somehow it wasn't as much fun. Ah well, at least I'm not bursting at the seams.
One of my colleagues, who works on another campus, took the trouble to-day to come to my office so that we could work together on a project. We are both attending a meeting to-morrow at which we'll have to make some sort of report. It's been so constructive to talk about things - so often I find myself having to try to make my point in a big meeting in front of senior people, and once I've opened my mouth I wonder if I really have any idea what to say. This time, hopefully, we can back each other up.
On my way home from work this evening, I called into Toys R Us, trying to meet my children's expectations. It was, you may say, a successful visit, though I wonder if I should rather be challenging the underlying philosophy of 'getting things for Christmas'. But then, we, as children, looked forward to unwrapping what Santa had brought (long after we'd ceased to believe in the bearded man from the North Pole).
And then there was a disappointment; a car racing game which our son was given at yesterday's party is no longer working properly - and I don't think that it can be repaired.
I'm just trying to find the energy to go out into the (possibly) drizzle; I need to cut the bottom off the tree (apparently, they paint the bottom (can't think of a better word) of the tree with something so that it doesn't dry out, but it means that the tree can't drink); then, we can bring the tree inside, and put it up (but we have to wait until this evening before we're allowed to start decorating (it)).
We collected our Christmas tree this morning; just one stage of the operation which is Saturday morning; I was glad that Musselburgh wasn't too busy.
Our children are up early - they have to be - so when it's bedtime, aren't they tired?
I don't remember ever before being so affected by the dark mornings and dark evenings. Maybe because I'm doing the 365 days project on flickr, I'm more conscious of how little daylight we get at this time of year.
Toys R Us (UK): don't entrust your delivery to DHL; according to their own website, they collected an item from you on the 22nd of October, and they still haven't got around to delivering it to your customer. As your customer, I emailed you, but you told me to phone DHL, which I have done.
Next time (although I strongly suspect that there isn't going to be a next time), I suggest that you post it.
Just to say that son is now able to ride his bike (except that now it is dark, so he's inside with his sister watching Shrek the Third). He was upset earlier at the thought that he will now have to wait five days before he gets another chance to ride his bike. I think that I understand.
Maybe I should get myself a bike ... currently, I don't own one.
To-day, I bought a BMX bike for my son - think of it as an early Christmas present. I wonder if my poor conversational skills (possibly Asperger related) affect my shopping. On this occasion we entered the shop, within a minute had seen the bike we wanted, and within 10 minutes were leaving the shop with the bike in our possession. I suspect that someone more adept would have taken longer, but in the course of doing so would have said and heard things that would have made buyer and seller happier with the process. I have always known, I guess, that I would be a useless haggler. But I'm happy - it's a gorgeous bicycle.