Apparently my last proper update was on 14th December. I will therefore try not to ramble on excessively as I update about Christmas...
So, on 16th December we had our Support Team Christmas lunch at Cafe Rouge, in the process of which I realised I'm turning into something of a food snob - the set menu was not as nice as their usual fare. (The same was true of Bella Italia - reheated chicken for the fail.) I had the lamb shank and it was incredibly fatty, plus the vegetables on the side were rock hard (normally their carrots are lovely). Nobody else seemed to complain, however, and I must say that the red wine jus that came with my lamb was delicious, as was the mash. (Also disappointing was my starter - I had the cheesy garlic mushrooms because I'd had them before under normal circumstances and they were absolutely delicious, except they'd replaced the flat mushrooms with baby button and they were a bit rubbery. I'm also fairly sure the cheese was brie rather than gruyere, though it's difficult to tell when it's melted. Bah.)
I swear, sometimes it feels like I'm working with a bunch of six-year-olds. Here are three specific examples.
- As a starter, Miss Chatterbox only wanted some bread and butter, which is not (AFAIK) available on its own on the set menu or the normal everyday menu. Though I suspect it may be avaialable as a side dish... Anyway, rather than doing the sensible thing and asking for some anyway (I'm sure they would have been more than willing to oblige), she ordered the duck liver paté because it came with bread and butter, ate the latter and ignored the paté. It looked really nice, too. I was half-tempted to ask to try some but thought better of it as I didn't think that would go down very well. God damn, I hate seeing good food go to waste. The thing is, if she'd just asked I'm sure someone would have given her the bread and butter off their starter and saved her the money.
- This is really me being a complete snob, but it was still mildly stupid. I mentioned to Miss Moany-Pants, in a discussion re: Christmas festivities, that Paul and I were planning on having buck's fizz with our breakfast. Her response was, "Ooh, buck's fizz. I'll go and buy a bottle myself!" I incredulously responded that no, the proper manner of doing this was to buy a bottle of (cheap) champagne and some fresh orange juice, but she was adamant to buy a bottle of pre-mixed buck's fizz nonetheless. Each to their own, I suppose; I've had the pre-bottled and it's okay, but you don't get the fun of drinking the rest of the champagne later on. :P
- At the end of the meal, those who'd ordered off the set menu (all but two of us) were handed a £5.00 off voucher to use before 12th February (very useful - no minimum spend required). Quite frankly, I think this is more than acceptable, as we'd patronised their Christmas menu and were thus rewarded. Noor and Liz had both ordered off the standard menu (both had the fishcakes, which I'm presuming were nicer than our set menu rubbish). Noor was not fussed in the slightest. After the vouchers were handed out, however, Liz made some excuse about not being comfortable sitting down and having to get to Next before the end of the lunch break, and shot off. We all left not five minutes later anyway, and hence everyone was quite confused as to why she'd left so quickly; I explained what she'd said to me, to which Carol (secretary) responded "No, she's upset because she didn't get a voucher. You can tell, because she went all red."
The phrase, "Act your age, not your shoe size", comes to mind. On getting back to the office there was an amendment for her so I sent Noor down to hand it over, not wanting to get caught in that particular conversation. Ye gods.
It's not just me, is it? I didn't think so.
The South Team Christmas lunch on Friday (18th) would have been better except that several people couldn't come (one of our cases kicked off during the week because all the parties were moaning that it was Christmas (OH NOES!!11one) and we shouldn't be removing the child. Because children are much less likely to be abused over Christmas, obviously. *eyeroll*) and the fact that Thai Orchid are made of fail.
When Sharn rang up to check they had availability, she asked if they had disabled access. They said yes.
When Sharn rang up a second time to confirm the booking, she asked, once again, if they had disabled access. They, once again, said yes.
On arrival at the restaurant, Natasha asked a member of staff, just to double-check, that they had disabled access, because we couldn't see any obvious means. The staff member confirmed that yes, they had disabled access.
Can you guess what happened next?
Yes. They had no disabled access. Apparently they used to have a ramp, but it wasn't up to government standards so they had to get rid of it, and had not replaced it. Their solution was "man power" - they were going to carry Lisa up the steps. Er?? No. I think no.
Our solution was therefore to ring her usual taxi firm, as they had a ramp in their cab, except I think it wasn't actually big enough to fit up the steps. So in the end David (bossman) took Lisa out for lunch somewhere else. Unfortunately, those of us who had already arrived to claim the table had already started eating, otherwise we would have demanded our deposits back and gone elsewhere. As it transpired, the restaurant gave us our drinks for free (and apparently gave our deposits back, though everyone was a little iffy as to how, due to bill confusion...), but none of us will be eating there again. Which is a great shame, as the food was really lovely.
That evening I went home to get changed into warmer clothing (bloody hell, it was cold) and we went to see Paranormal Activity (I screamed like a girl at the end and hid behind Paul) and go on the big wheel. There are photographs on Flickr of the view and some of Birmingham's Christmas lights, though not too many as it was bloody freezing.
On Sunday (20th) it was the Christmas concert. This went well, all things considered (despite a slight glitch in "Gaudete") and the audience demanded an encore of "The 12 Days of Christmas". Our audience participation song was insanely fun in the end, even though it was a nightmare to rehearse, and the cold weather was a bloody relief after baking in Town Hall's choir stalls. In the break after rehearsal I had a wander around the German market with Chris, who I normally sit next to, and she bought me a coffee afterwards. Which was just as well, as I'd had about three hours' sleep for some reason (I think Paul may have had a coughing fit) and was not on the ball in the slightest during rehearsal...
Paul and I went to the pub with my grandmother and uncle afterward for a drink (God, the Hill is a dive these days). She got propositioned by a regular outside, which was amusing (he offered to buy her a drink!), because apparently they looked lost.
The week after that was spent at work. On Monday night I don't think I did anything (thank goodness), then on Tuesday night we did the Asda shop. Another £120 or thereabouts, though about £80 of that was on alcohol. Of which there is still a fair amount left, so it wasn't a complete waste.
On 23rd December I left work at 3.30 to get to the butcher and pick up the turkey. It cost £41.00 in the end (10lb of bird), plus a jar of duck fat. I then went to Wilkinson to get a turkey tray and a baster, though they'd sold out of basters.
In the evening family were supposed to be coming over, but obviously it decided to snow. Paul's mum made it on the bus (surprisingly), and my mum and David finally got through the gridlocked traffic about three hours later on their way back from visiting his parents in Warwick. They were stuck on the Redditch Bypass for about 30 minutes due to the Maypole island being completely solid and unmoving. Darren and Andrea and kids did not make it (which was a shame as Jade was going to bring her boyfriend to introduce him) because Andrea herself did not get back from London until about 6.30.
Paul didn't get back until about 7.00, IIRC, and obviously had left his mobile at home so couldn't tell me where he was. I was just glad to have missed the bad weather by leaving so early.
The snow would have been much more appreciated a day later, as obviously I was then panicking about how to get to work the next day. It was especially annoying considering the weather reports had been predicting snow for about three days, yet still everyone was completely unprepared for it...
The amusement of the evening was Paul's mum knocking back three large glasses of Pinot Grigio without realising, getting up to go to the loo and realising she was completely pissed. She decided to go home at that point, staggered off down the road giggling like a loon, and apparently on getting home promptly stated to Noel, "I'm drunk!". Hee. :)
Christmas Eve was spent at work and was not relaxed in the slightest due to there only being three of us in thanks to leave and sickness (conveniently enough) - I was also trying to fend off a cold which had decided to strike the week before Christmas, and I'm still convinced I got rid of it through sheer willpower. So, I eventually got to leave at 3.00pm ish, met Paul and we went home to change before heading off to his mum's to hand over presents for Darren and Andrea, etc. We then went to the pub to meet up with Lloyd and Derek et al., which mostly consisted of covering Paul with glitter from Daniel's cards. Though Daniel did shower me in the stuff, too, at one point...
Aaaand then it was Christmas Day! We got up reasonably early and put the heating on, and Paul made breakfast. The scrambled eggs with smoked salmon were very nice indeed, but an hour later my stomach begged to differ. We opened our presents (if I'd updated sooner I'd give a list, but I can't remember all of them now... Paul did get me the Jar of Pens from Muji, though. :D) and then I started to feel sick. Apparently I really can't eat eggs any more that aren't hard-boiled to within an inch of their life... Eventually whatever was wrong managed to work its way through (TMI?) and I watched The Polar Express whilst munching on crisps to sustain myself, after which I felt miles better, got dressed and made a start on dinner. Weird, but I'm glad it passed nonetheless, as I was lamenting my best-laid plans going wrong...
The turkey, on weighing it on the bathroom scales, was calculated to take 2 hours and 45 minutes. In the end I was in the kitchen for a full three hours doing preparation, including stuffing and potatoes and everything else. I made us some gravy using the giblets that came with the turkey, by simmering them in a pint of chicken stock with some fresh herbs for three hours. It was a bit of a funny colour and refused to thicken until the very last minute, but tasted delicious (and negated the need to use the sachet of turkey gravy I'd bought as a contingency plan...) I did us balsamic roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, red onion and leeks, with hand-made pigs-in-blankets (Asda had sold out of ready made; I still have about 12 left to make from the pack of chipolatas...), and creamy mash. I was going to make Yorkshire puddings, but realised I'd run out of suet and didn't bother. There was more than enough food already though, quite frankly...
I also made my own stuffing, though it fell to bits after cooking as it was intended for actually putting inside the bird rather than serving on its own. Still tasted quite nice, though.
I have a photograph of the (perfectly-cooked :P) turkey when it came out of the oven, and a photo of the amount of white meat we pulled off it, to post at a later date. We got another three meals out of it (turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey and leek pie) and there's still 300g of white meat in the freezer, plus all the dark meat and both wings. So at least we got our money's worth!
The rest of the week was quite relaxed, really. We pretty much did nothing for about four days. On the Monday (I think) we went to AMC to watch Where the Wild Things Are, which was ruined by a couple in the row behind us talking all the way through, even after Paul glared at them about three times. He walked out five minutes or so from the end to complain - two security types came to have a look but did nothing as a result, and the noisy bastards continued to talk regardless, even going so far as to talk louder when the film was too inconveniently noisy for them. D: Stupidly, the children in the cinema were quiet all the way through.
Paul did get some free tickets (which we had to use by Thursday) but he's now threatening to not bother with the cinema any more as a result, especially given we had Paranormal Activity ruined by a gang of idiotic teenage girls sitting behind us ("I love laughing at horror films" - fuck off, you ignorant little twats) and later some boys who wandered in halfway through and made a nuisance of themselves.
It's a shame, because AMC used to be the better cinema. I really want to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D when it opens and don't particularly want to give Cineworld any more of my hard-earned money since they decreed bank holiday Monday not to be off-peak, so I'm sorely tempted to book in advance at IMAX and actually make an occasion of it...
If I'd updated sooner there'd be a rant here about the failed logic of spending money on a film and not watching it. I mean, just rent the bloody DVD if you want to talk through it, rather than annoying everyone else. In my day the staff would actually do something about it (Vickie and I were told off at the first X-Files movie back in '97 because we were over-excited and raucous, and we promptly STFU), and nowadays they just wander up to have a look then wander off again, and that's if they even bother...
On Wednesday we went to visit Paul's mum, and in the process arranged to see my mum that weekend...
New Year's Eve was spent attempting to use our free tickets and failing, as both things we wanted to see were not on. They were only showing Chrismas Carol in 2D, and Avatar in 3D wasn't on for about four hours after we arrived, so we gave up.
In the evening, however, we went to Darren and Andrea's, which was a pleasant affair for the most part. I did drink an entire bottle of rosé and remembered why same was a bad idea about four hours later when, despite being giggly and happy not ten minutes beforehand, I got upset over something stupid (though to be honest, the fact that Paul was pissed as a lord and had a two-minute memory span really didn't help; on the fourth attempt at explaining why I was upset, I merely got upset at having to explain again...)
New Year's Day was quite sedate; as it was Paul's birthday his mum came over and I cooked a lamb dinner. The potatoes weren't as crisp as I would have liked, but it was quite nice anyway.
On Saturday we went to my mum's for the most delicious dinner evar, and to see their new kitchen - very very nice indeed. (We had a crayfish starter and stuffed duck for main.) My mum and Paul proceeded to get through about five bottles of red wine between them, we had an argument with David about intelligent versus brainless films (which was mostly amusing except for Paul baiting me just for lulz), and we watched the majority of Moulin Rouge before Paul inadvertently upset my mum (he was being nice but it dragged up old deep-rooted issues)... She was okay after talking it through, I think... We left around 1.00am and endured the most terrifying taxi journey ever...
And that brings us to yesterday. I overslept somewhat and didn't get up until midday... In the evening I cooked for Lisa and her new bloke, Pete, and we watched Feast and the onset of Celebrity BB before bed.
And today I'm back at work. Obviously. :)
I think that's more than enough. :P