The Pig Yard

December 10 - This month has been dominated by the adverse weather conditions and of course the Christmas preparations. In the first week of the month we had a significant snowfall and despite a slight lift in temperatures the snows fell again in the week before Christmas and with daytime temperatures staying below freezing the snow was with us for several weeks. During this time our choice of vehicles is greatly reduced. The first off the road is the Porsche because of it's power and rear wheel drive it just doesn't behave in icy conditions. Next to stay in the garage is the Smartcar - with its short wheel base it has a tendency to pirouette in ice. So we spent most of the month driving around in the reliable Honda CRV which is a 4x4. The Honda never gives us any problems and like any car it still can slide in icy conditions its road holding gives us more confidence.

We travelled down to London to collect Jane's 89 year old mum for the Christmas break. She stayed with us for a full week and this changed all of our usual routines. During her stay she was reluctant to get up and so breakfast wasn't until ten o'clock and on one occasion she didn't get dressed until midday. It was a bit like having a teenager in the house.

Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

We don't often get to the cinema but we just had to see the latest Harry Potter film. The first film hit the cinemas nearly ten years ago so the actors have grown up with their parts and it's also possible to see the significant changes in the special effects that can be used. Of course the story line is adhered to as always and it's a cracking, fast moving tale which was a pleasure to watch.

The story line - Voldemort's power is growing stronger. He now has control over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to finish Dumbledore's work and find the rest of the Horcruxes to defeat the Dark Lord. But little hope remains for the Trio, and the rest of the Wizarding World, so everything they do must go as planned.

We wait with baited breath for The Deathly Hallos Part 2 due out in the summer and it will mark the end of a cinematic era.

Sharp Frosts

As it turned out December 2010 was the coldest December since modern records began in 1910 and didn't we know it. Despite our converted barn having thick stone walls, a modern cavity and thermal blocks forming the inner structure it was still a struggle to keep the house warm. Thank goodness for the wood burner which maintained a comfortable temperature in the living room. We certainly consumed a lot of logs and we were also using coal to keep the fire in overnight. Although we complain bitterly that we are paying extortionate prices for our Liquid Propane Gas at least we didn't have to pay the king's ransom that some people in rural communities were paying for heating oil. We heard of prices rising from 40 pence per litre in November  to over 80 pence in mid December.

There were some mornings when a mist from the previous evening was frozen overnight then everything turned to a glistening white. Trees were festooned with crystallised ice and the notion of a winter wonderland became a reality.

Sharp Frost

Canal walk

Canal Walk

On several occasions we left our cars in their garages to walk into Northampton on various errands. One of the best routes is to walk down the canal into West Hunsbury and then cross over to Sixfields. The canal has some great patterns frozen into it.

Snow on canal

Another walk along the canal when the snow was five centimetres deep. The barge in the photograph wasn't going anywhere with the ice several centimetres thick but we didn't risk walking out onto it. The difficulty with extremely cold weather is the reluctance to take one's gloves off to fiddle with a camera and therefore we don't have many pictures.

Snow on the canal

Christmas tree at home

Christmas Day

And so Christmas Day arrived. We were proud of our tree, artificial of course, and the house was ready for visitors. Jane had prepared for the meal the previous night and so it was a matter of fitting everything into the oven. The turkey takes up most of the space but she still needed room for roast potatoes, parsnips, Yorkshire puddings, etc. A tough logistical problem but she managed to feed all nine of us without any hitches. The dinner guests arrived just after two o'clock and Steve took some of them for a pre dinner walk giving Jane the chance to do the final preparations without interruption.

Dinner was a triumph and afterwards we all sat around drinking, talking and eventually giving in to the usual game of Pictionary. Once more the ladies were more in tune with each other and beat the men soundly.

At least we didn't resort to watching TV.

Steve had a success by buying Jane a silver bracelet which she seems reluctant to take off except to sleep and Jane had a success with a model helicopter that Steve is struggling to control without scaring the cats or crashing into the walls.

New Year's Eve

We joined up with the usual suspects at Nick & Val's. Val produced a delightful meal and then we sat around talking, drinking and preparing for midnight. We were staying overnight so there was no restriction on drinking and Steve took full advantage.

We watched Jools Holland's Hootenanny as this has become a bit of a tradition similar to our parents watching the "White Heather Club" and how we used to cringe at them. The Hootenanny usually has a load of acts that we've barely heard of and when they do play one wonders how they ever became famous or worthy of appearing on television. If you bother to follow the Hootenanny link to Wikipedia then you'll see what we mean. Even the stars like Kylie, Rumer and Alison Moyet produced lack lustre performances - no excuses that it was late on New Year's Eve because the BBC admits the show is recorded mid November and probably never gets anywhere near midnight.

So after getting to bed at about two we were up at nine with Nick producing a selection of bacon or sausage baps. We joined Nick & Val for a walk along the river before heading home to feed the cats. A good start to another year despite the rain.

New Year Champagne Toast

New Year Resolutions

What will 2011 Bring?

Who knows what 2011 will bring but here are some of our hopes for the next twelve months:

  • Sell the Porsche in early summer and revert back to a two car family

  • Find and purchase a plot of land for the community project and develop plans for our new house

  • Get to see our friends Susie & Jon at their home in Yorkshire

  • Spend a few days in New York

  • Cycle coast to coast

  • Revisit Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Glasgow Rene Macintosh buildings and our friends Tony & Jude

  • Revisit Masai Mara in Kenya

  • Steve to become more adept at web site design

  • Jane to join a choir or choral group

  • Keep our health and stay fit

If we do just half of these things then we'll be very happy.

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