Let's start with Friday. Work was mostly uneventful other than Jane (the Assistant Director) inviting everyone for a carousel ride at the German market at lunchtime. Unfortunately I was starving by the time they all headed up there and also had to venture market-wards to get presents for Jade and Patrick (Paul's niece and nephew), and immediately decreed that there was no way I was going to fight through the crowds to get to the carousel, so gave it a miss. Which was a shame. Maybe next year.
Jane came around again at about 3.00pm to tell everyone to go home, so I decided to leave early when we ran out of work and leave at 3.30. I was meant to meet Paul in the pub with his brother, Darren, as they'd been to a funeral and were on the same bus, but in the end Darren went somewhere else and the pub was rammed anyway. I now can't remember where we ended up... I think we went home and found a slightly less busy pub in Kings Heath.
We then spent the rest of the evening preparing lots of food for a party, and ended up with a full-scale buffet with four types of sandwiches, vol-au-vents, sausage rolls, two types of home-made cake, two types of pizza, and some other stuff, in an attempt to cater for veggies and non-veggies. Then frightened brought cheesy bread and hummous and herringprincess brought stollen and we ended up with even more food.
The party was surprisingly quite amicable, with very few arguments of the Lloyd-is-always-right variety. Lorna left earlyish and Naomi arrived lateish, with Lisa and her friend arriving in the interim. It turned out that her friend, 'Smelly' Jo, was an old KEVIHS girl, though I can't really remember her as she was about 3 years above me...
However, all of the combined stresses of Christmas and Paul's funeral resulted in some upset at the end of the night. He hadn't eaten anything and got very drunk very quickly. The first incident was in the kitchen when he'd already had too much to drink and fell on his arse on the floor. Lloyd helped him up and tried to tell him to go to bed, which I agreed with, in response to which he told me to "fuck right off."
I should probably explain that this type of behaviour is normal for Paul when he gets a bit tipsy and his 'punctuation swearing' gets worse than usual. Normally I just tell him not to swear at me and leave it at that. But this time - probably because of the funeral earlier that day - there was a certain amount of (unintentional) viciousness to his tone, so I walked off and left him to it. He also reaches a point of drunkeness at times when he turns into a six-year-old and won't listen to any sort of reasoning whatsoever, because he knows what's best - which is usually to keep drinking. I don't agree with it, but it's too bloody difficult and frustrating to try and make him stop, so I let him carry on.
Things carried on much as normal after that until he apparently also fell over in the bathroom (Lisa had to knock on the door to check he was okay - I'd given up by this point) and was then having a conversation - if it could be called such - on the landing. At this point Lisa was trying to keep him away from the bannister in case he fell over it, and - again - was trying to get him to just go to bed and stop drinking. And again, I agreed with this, and, again, he told me to fuck off.
I shouted something along the lines of "That's twice now - one more and you're sleeping upstairs!" and stormed off into the living room to the confused stares of various guests. Embarrassing.
About five minutes later Paul wandered back in wanting to talk to me and I pushed him back to the landing, where Lisa was standing very mother-like and forcing him to apologise. Except by this point he had the memory span of an amnesiac goldfish and had forgotten what he was even supposed to be saying. End point was that I ended up in tears and shut myself in the bedroom.
Lisa then sent him in to apologise, but again he'd already forgotten why I was upset and seemed to think it was some external force or another. I'd had enough of the party by that point and wanted to go to bed. I heard everyone leave - as it turned out, to Lisa's flat, where she entertained them with her singing bowl - and was then joined by Lisa, who was lovely and gave me a big hug. I went to the kitchen to turn off the heating (this is significant) and finally went to bed.
By the time Paul came to join me, he'd already forgotten I'd even been upset...
So, mostly a fun night except for the ending. My sincerest apologies for being a big drama queen at the end of the night. All of the Christmas stress had finally caught up with me.
Alas, the fun did not end there... On Saturday morning, I awoke to discover we had no hot water and no heating - yes, the pilot light had blown out. HOORAY. We tried re-igniting it to no avail whatsoever and rang Trevor to say that it had died. He swore profusely and instructed us to find a local gas repair man and get a quote for a) coming out and b) fixing it, and that he was willing to pay up to £60 for the former and £100 for the latter.
We went to the cafe for breakfast because there was too much washing up to do without any hot water, and did some Christmas food shopping, and by the end of the day Trevor had said that his mate Phil (who does all the heating/plumbing/electrics for the house) would come out as soon as he could and that he'd replace the boiler in the new year. About bloody time.
Luckily, the gas fire was still functional in the living room, and we have an electric blanket on the bed. Even more luckily, the gas bills account was in credit at last check, so that should cover the extra gas usage from having the fire on full blast for the past week.
Christmas Eve was punctuated by last-minute present-shopping/wrapping, and various family members coming over in the evening. It was a thoroughly pleasant evening and everyone seemed to get on who hadn't met before. We kept the kids entertained with 'happy cubes' (little foam jigsaws with six pieces that fit together to make a cube) and Patrick wanted to borrow my robot hand from EuroDisney but I refused to save his parents any more hassle. David incited Noel (Paul's other brother) into a film debate and everyone seemed to have a nice time despite the lack of heat - although it did mean we didn't have to put any of the beer in the fridge...
Christmas Day was quite surreal in its own way, possibly contributed to by the lack of heat. We had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with buck's fizz for breakfast, which was very nice indeed, and opened all of our presents. We had lots of nice things for the flat and some random things too.
We bought a turkey crown from Sainsbury's (and should have waited to get one from the butcher on Christmas Eve, as they were half price) which had its own little pop-up timer inside that told you when it was cooked... and it still took longer than it said on the box, so as a result our vegetables were soggy. Nevertheless it was very nice and there was still enough left for sandwiches on Boxing Day.
Christmas telly this year has been brilliant, and all of it on terrestrial. I still have about six hours' worth of tapes to get through, and obviously there was the obligatory Christmas Eastenders. Apparently 11 million people tuned in to watch Pauline Fowler kick the bucket, and I bet all of them were glad to see the back of her. There was no possible way the writers could have redeemed her, as they'd managed to write her into a corner of bitterness from which there was no escape. The Vicar of Dibley was also very cool. The only downside was that Sky One moved Hogfather from 6.00pm to 1.00pm without telling anyone (or, specifically, without telling Radio Times) so I managed to miss it. :(
I also watched Perfect Parents, an extremely bizarre one-off drama starring Christopher Eccleston about a couple who pretend to be Catholics in order to get their daughter into a local Catholic school. It started off fairly plausible and then veered off into the insane, but was watchable nonetheless. I was only watching because the idea behind the story was personally familiar - parents who will lie and cheat in order to get their children into decent schools. Some have been known to measure the distance from their front door to the school gates to prove they live within the catchment area; in my case I had to pretend I lived in Hall Green with an imaginery godfather who I'd never met in real life. ;) At least until second year, when they changed the rules and allowed girls in who came under 'West Midlands', rather than just 'Birmingham'. (And I now find it highly unfair that Sutton Coldfield comes under Birmingham when by rights it should really be West Midlands as well...)
Anyway, yes. The rest of the week was spent lounging around and buying heaters, which took three hours longer than it should have done due to the Argos in Kings Heath being shut and the big one in Birmingham being ridiculously busy.
We also went to see Night at the Museum on Friday afternoon, which was highly enjoyable, if completely implausible. I wasn't really expecting anything very intelligent from a PG film anyway, and enjoyed it for the cameos and special effects more than anything else. And the monkey slapping.
We spent New Year's Eve at Darren and Andrea's house party, which was enjoyable but noisy, and the combination of wine and shouting children gave me a headache. We got home at about 4.00am after waiting nearly an hour for a taxi, which drove off without us twice (god forbid it takes you more than 10 seconds to leave the house) so we had to ring for another one. Got up at 11.30 on New Year's Day to wrap Paul's birthday presents and attmepted to stay awake to get enough sleep later to be fit for work in the morning (i.e. today).
We also discovered on New Year's Eve, during the rainstorm, that the front window leaks, though it only seems to do so when the wind is strong enough. There is a visible crack in the plasterwork around the window frame so hopefully if we just get David to seal it for us it'll be okay. Meh. Stupid flat.
Lisa informed us in the afternoon that Trevor had rung to say that the boiler would be replaced this weekend. So hurrah for that, we'll finally have heating, and hopefully a boiler where the timer works for more than a month without stopping. He also said he'd refund us the money we spent on heaters.
And today I'm back at work. During my time off I also went on a little adventure to the local post depot to get my new printer cartridges, only to discover that the colour printhead is completely buggered and clogged up with ink. I tried cleaning it both through the PC and manually with a cotton bud, but to no avail. I suspect this is from when my red ink was leaking. It's surprising it's lasted this long, having been transported to and from university so many times. I have ordered another printhead at £36.00 from the Cartridge People, but if that doesn't work I'll just have to get a new bloody printer, which will probably, these days, require more RAM than I actually have. Annoying, really.
So, I shall sign off this entry and get back to doing some work, I suppose...