Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our Christmas was lovely this year. We spent the whole day together, just the two of us (well, the dog too), made our meals together, and played games and with presents together. Very happy and peaceful. We filmed some footage of the day and I put it together into a movie for youtube: Please have a look; it's about eight and a half minutes long, but stick with it to the end (the end is the best bit). This is a picture from the first snowfall as Partner just stepped in the door. I think he looks very dashing (not to mention freezing) in his hat and wool coat.

The snow has now been washed away (thank goodness) except for a few tenacious bits in the road which were particularly thick with ice. It lasted at least a week. Partner and I actually cleared away the ice from the end of our street: we live at the end of a cul-de-sac, and the circular bit of road in front of our house had ice two or three inches thick on it. Partner was bringing the dog home from walking, and he said even she was slipping on it. So he went out with his high-tech ice-clearing tool (the flat hoe) and I joined him about ten minutes later with my high-tech ice-clearing tool (the patio broom) and together we got it all up and into three piles. I think the neighbors watched guiltily from their windows. One neighbor walked past saying something pessimistic about there being no point doing it, as it'd only get icy again. I felt like saying, what, you want us to stop? But I think that was his way of saying, yes I'm a big putz because I'll walk past you clearing the road in front of my house and I won't offer to help or even thank you. Not that I expect the neighbors to be grateful.

I think the end of our street would make a great setting for a sitcom. All the neighbors are very different from each other and are almost like caricatures rather than normal people. For instance:
  • The couple next to us are probably about my parents' age, and they have very loud arguments, and do home and garden improvements regularly (often at the same time). Neither Partner nor I really understand their accents, which is frustrating when trying to eavesdrop on their disagreements.
  • On the other side of us is a single youngish man with his elderly lap dog; he works as a security guard and keeps odd hours. Our dog likes to sneak into his yard to have a poo but I don't think he knows.
  • Two doors down from us are a family who never seem to answer their door. Once a police car camped outside their house all day, and though the car was in the drive, they kept the curtains drawn and would not open the door. Neither of them have a job though I've seen the husband doing odd jobs for the security guard neighbor.
  • Next to them are an old couple who have all sorts of unsavory relatives constantly visiting, get a new/used car every year, and sell the old car to someone else on the street. I haven't seen the wife for about a year. Maybe she died.
  • Then next to them (bear in mind this is going in a circle from us, so we are now almost opposite our house) is a twenty-something couple. He works all the time, and she knows (and tells!) about everyone's secrets on the rest of the street. She's very excited about me having a baby.
  • And directly opposite us are another middle-aged couple whom I would probably not recognize if I saw them anywhere else but walking out of their front door. Still, he is a such a gloomy bugger that he would complain even about ice being cleared from the street in front of his house.

I do know most of our neighbors' names though I suspect none of them know mine. I think together we could make great, if unintentional, comedy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Still more snow

Since I last posted, we got another snowfall, and the temperature hasn't climbed much above freezing. So we still have a few inches on the ground, making it beautiful and cold here. While out walking today I saw the snow was forming lovely crystals on long grasses in shady areas. I think it's from slight melt-and-freeze we've had for the past few days. The big community football pitch (soccer field) near us didn't have many footprints in it, so as I trekked across, I decided to stop in a pristine patch and make a furtive snow angel when no one was watching.

I am not at all confident about driving now, however. The roads are still very slippery; I made a complaint to the local council but I have yet to actually hear back from them: there has been no action about it. So I have only been driving to work and back, and walking everywhere else. I tried out my new birthday wellington boots today and stayed completely dry and was quite happy to walk through the snow. They gave me a small blister on my heel, so I guess that means I need to wear them more often to break them in.

My Christmas preparations are now mostly finished. The decorations have been up since the 2nd. I've got all my shopping done. The fridge is full of goodies and the presents are mostly wrapped. We set a budget for spending on each other, and I only slightly exceeded mine. I want to save most of our money for the baby anyway. I told Partner to count the presents already under the tree, because that's how many he's getting from me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A party in the snow

This week I've been working on a dress for a party we'd been invited to. I had a pattern for a top which I altered into an empire-waisted minidress (it wasn't a complicated alteration, but it did take me about three days to complete). I didn't want a maternity dress that made me look like a tent, I wanted something more fitted that emphasized the fact that actually I am fairly slender, I just happen to have a soccer ball in my tummy. It has a sweetheart neckline, slightly puffed sleeves, and a fitted waist (well, empire waist and back). This picture doesn't really show the dress well, but at least the soccer ball shows.

I bought some new black leggings to go under it the day before the party, and I looked at new shoes, but didn't buy any. Turns out, it was a good thing, because the only pair of party shoes I own (and they are fabulous) and had decided to wear were too slippery, so I ended up wearing sensible shoes anyway: it began snowing early in the afternoon yesterday and by the time we left, there was nearly an inch of snow on the ground. I took about three steps on the driveway in my fabulous shoes and decided to go back in the house and change them.

The party was at a friend's house in town, and the roads were already quite snowy, but we made it there albeit slowly. I got complimented on my bump many times, which made me happy I took the time to make a fitted dress, although as the evening went on, I was the only one who was sober and when people started staggering, I started to slightly worry for my safety. I don't really drink anyway--maybe a small glass of wine with a meal once every several months, or something fruity on a night out (usually once a year), though I know people lose their shyness after a drink or two, and that can make an evening more fun. Still, the staggering is a bit too far, and when people get to that stage, they are still having fun, but it's not a social thing any more. They are too drunk to notice other people and are just enjoying their own buzz. And it's not really fun for any sober people, or even people who are still at the one/two drink stage.

So we left at about 12.30; Partner had had a few (he wasn't quite staggering), which was the plan anyway, because as I can't drink I get to be designated driver. At this point there was about two inches of snow on the side streets, and the main roads weren't much better. We drove the whole way home at no faster than 30mph. I was frustrated--and a bit scared--because normally when there's even a hint that it might frost (let alone snow) the local council sends out the trucks to salt the roads. Obviously someone failed here, because none of the roads we drove home on (most of them main roads) had been treated.

This morning I woke up at 10.30, and my first thought was, "wow I've really slept in," and my next thought was, "it's so sunny," and my third thought: "I'm so not taking the dog out--it'll be slushy and muddy and horrible." But then I looked out the window and saw:
And I decided going out would be fun after all. True, it was still pretty slippery, especially on the sidewalks, but out in the fields we took the paths we normally don't take in winter because they're too muddy. We didn't get a speck of mud on ourselves, and the less-traveled paths were beautiful: all last summer's flowerheads and every twig of every tree all had a little cap of snow still. We saw lots of bunny tracks (four prints close together, a big space, then four more prints), and a sign fallen over and partially obscured by snow that said: DA THI. I thought about it for a while and decided it was meant to say DARN THICK. Meaning the snow. Or possibly the sign.

Friday, December 11, 2009

This morning I went out early to buy some fruit and vegetables at the market (much cheaper than the store) and then went to a new grocery store for the rest of the weekly shop. Last night it froze so that when I got slightly lost and had to turn the car around (I'd never been to this store), I could feel the tires slipping slightly on the icy street. I managed to stay on the road though; it probably helped that the front two tires are brand new: I got them last week. So I had an exciting and slightly scary moment, but all was well.

As I drove back from town I saw the lawns and fields were still frosty white; here in our village most of it has melted. We live in a little warm weather vortex; seven miles away it gets frost, but at our house it's balmy. A local man told me it was because we lived within the shelter of three big power stations: they're pumping out hot air constantly and it diverts the cold air away. Whatever it is, often there'll be storms over Partner's work (20 miles away) and completely blue skies at home.

When I got home I went out walking with the dog. Pictured is one of several small ponds at the wildlife area where we walk. She's getting much better at her "hush" training, though she didn't want to hush when she saw another doggie on its leash. When she's off the leash, or both dogs are, she's as friendly as can be. But when she's on it and sees another dog, it sounds like she wants to tear that dog into tiny pieces. At least the other dog owner laughed about it. Personally, I was mortified.