The Pig Yard

December - After the adventures of last month, December was bound to be an anticlimax, even with the prospect of Christmas. One highlight of the month was that Steve was appointed to the position of Head of IT and he is very pleased with the promotion. Another positive event was that at long last we managed to get onto broadband. In a matter of days we went from dial-up connectivity to a wireless, broadband connection that can give a connection to the internet from anywhere in the house (in theory).

Although we were behind with our Christmas shopping because of our Oz holiday we still found time to get out on some winter walks at the weekends. The best days are when there is a sharp frost and the ground is frozen hard.

We tend to go to bed quite late at the weekends, often after midnight, and so we're never up very early in the morning and even at this time of year we miss sunrise, therefore we find ourselves going for walks after lunch and as four o'clock approaches so the sun is setting. We then experience some interesting silhouetted trees against the sunset.

Whenever we go for a walk we find animals for Jane to make friends with. Prior to crossing this field we were chatting away when we suddenly noticed a herd of cows stampeding towards us but a few waves of the arms soon slowed them to a walk and then they lost interest. This horse was more persistent and just kept getting up close and personal with Jane - she had a friend for life who followed us all the way across the field until we reached the stile on the other side.

This walk is one we used to do when Dave & Lucie lived in East Hunsbury. This time we walked across the fields to Milton Malsor, along the road to the crematorium and then back across fields, under the M1, over the Grand Union canal, then home.

At this time of year the log burner goes into overdrive and Steve spends at least a couple of hours every weekend cutting logs and moving it down to the porch so it is stacked neatly. We get through about two wheel barrow loads of wood every week but it does depend on the type of wood as some give out more heat and burn slower than others.

All this effort is not wasted because the cats love it and they take it in turns to sit in pole position soaking up the heat. In this picture Millie is sitting there as if she is paying homage to her warmth god.

We do occasionally burn coal to keep the fire burning overnight however we only get through 5 bags of coal a year which is no great hardship.

Jane travelled down to Barnet to pick up her mum to stay with us over Christmas, she also picked up a speeding ticket just outside Dunstable, travelling at 48 mph in a 40 mph zone. This is the second time in six years that she has been caught speeding by a camera and on both occasions she was collecting her mum to come and stay with us. The most annoying aspect was that Bedford & Luton do not have driving schools so there is no option to save points on the licence.

We spent Christmas afternoon and evening at Nick & Val's with the usual suspects. We had a superb dinner with all the trimmings followed by an evening playing Pictionary - girls versus boys. The score was level at the end of the evening and so we agreed to have a rematch on New Year's Eve. Jane was again using her camcorder to capture the moment.

So on the last evening of the year we found ourselves back at Nick & Val's for a delightful meal of salmon parcels, spaghetti Bolognese and a selection of superb desserts. We had all been invited to stay overnight so everyone could drink. We played the Pictionary rematch with the girls winning in the last moments of the year. We celebrated the start of the new year with a glass of bubbly and then watched Jools Holland's hootenanny until two thirty in the morning when we all staggered to bed.

After only a few hours sleep we got up had a brisk walk returning to our 'hotel' for a cooked breakfast.

Moan of the month: Christmas lights are wonderful when they're alight but as soon as they go out you then have to try replacing every single bulb to find which one has blown. This year we bought some very cheap lights that lasted until after Christmas and then went out for good. The box said that only the blown light would go out and the rest would remain alight but these bulbs were made in China - mind you everything is made in China these days. We're just off to buy more lights in the New Year sales...