I'll do the traditional Year in Review meme tomorrow but for now, here's a month-by-month account (from what my shoddy short-term memory can provide) of what's happened since then...
So, in September my leave refreshed so I had two weeks off, during which I don't think I managed to do very much at all. Over the weekend in the middle (20th to 23rd September) we went on a family holiday to Perran Sands (a Haven holiday park in Cornwall) with Darren, Andrea, Jade, Chris (her boyfriend) and Helen (Paul's mum). This was enjoyable but knackering, and ended up costing a lot more than first anticipated as we all had to put towards the car hire / petrol.
Also the weather was poo as it was foggy / rainy for most of the weekend.
We drove down on the Friday and made pretty good time. On the evening we went to the "entertainment" which consisted of X-Factor reject Danyl Johnson (he was from the Year of Jedward). Actually it wasn't that bad, though the entertaining element was more from humour than anything else. :P
On the Saturday we... did something? I think we spent the day wandering back and forth between the arcade in the resort, one of its many overpriced bars, and the caravan. The fog was too thick to go anywhere (even though Chris was happy to drive, the general consensus was that it wasn't safe enough) so we had a bit of a wasted day.
On Sunday we went to the Eden Project, which was amazing. It was still foggy as we arrived but the sun did come out at lunchtime (when we were wandering around the Rainforest Biome in sweltering heat), and at one point just before we left we could see the fog rolling back in again. You definitely need a whole day there, but it's well worth a visit if you're down that end of the country.
Sunday evening we went to a local pub for a meal, which was amazing (and quite reasonable considering the standard of the food) - also the only proper food we had all week. Despite having a meeting shortly before the holiday whereby we agreed who would bring what (tea, coffee, stock cubes, herbs etc), the only thing we did in fact cook was breakfast, as on the first night we had chips from the resort's chippy (which were awful and overpriced), the Saturday we ordered pizza from the in-house Papa John's (which was nice but, y'know, pizza) and Monday we subsisted on pasties and scones. Having said that, we did take a packed lunch to Eden Project that consisted of variously-flavoured sandwiches, which was actually quite nice. (Also, their ice cream is amazing! I'd say it's worth going just for that!)
On the Monday we drove home again via Newquay, where we had Cornish pasties and cream teas and didn't walk on the beach, though we looked at it from the roadside. The journey back took longer than the journey there, as we stopped off at the Worst Toilet in Britain (I was sensible and did not use it) and some services along the way. I was basically asleep for most of that journey anyway...
It was enjoyable, but I think the weather probably put a damper on things. Since we had a car I had suggested beforehand a trip to either Tintagel (mythical home of King Arthur) or Boscastle (it has a witch museum!) but the Saturday was a write-off thanks to the fog. Also it took a lot to overcome my inherent DNW about holiday parks in general, though the caravan was lovely (except Paul and I had one of the twin rooms which was basically the size of a double bed - we pushed them together but there was literally four inches in which to manouevre at the side of it).
I suggested to Paul afterwards that if we were to do it again then hopefully by next time I might be able to drive, which would significantly reduce costs as we would have two cars - Chris could take Jade, Darren and Andrea, and we could take Helen. I think there was also a suggestion of getting two caravans instead of one so we'd all have more room - even though we spent the evenings playing board games there would be nothing to stop people congregating in either caravan before parting ways at bedtime.
Also: living with both Paul and Darren was certainly an experience. I have no idea how Andrea puts up with him, but I suspect she wonders the same about me. :P
Funniest moment by far was on the Saturday night. Paul was outside having a cigarette and Jade was kneeling on the sofa staring out of the window at him; Chris then came into the room, grabbed onto her legs and pushed her head-first against the glass - obviously, the only thing Paul saw was her face-planting against the window. She moaned about having a headache for most of the night but thankfully saw the funny side of it a day later. "Why did you head-butt the window, Jade?" became a catchphrase of the weekend. :D
(Also: Andrea trying - and failing - to make everyone jump by hiding behind a bush and leaping out at us. Considering she'd left the caravan about 10 minutes before we did and then "disappeared", it wasn't hard to figure out where she went. Having said that, Darren and Chris managed to do the same to Paul when we left the apparently haunted pub on Sunday night, which was brilliant.)
Oh, shortly before going I also made another rainbow cake for a colleague's birthday party - half-size this time: four layers in red, orange, yellow and green, with buttercream filling and covered in white chocolate fudge and glitter sprinkles. She still hasn't managed to send me the photo yet but it looked impressive from the outside. I charged her a tenner but I think in future it needs to be at least £15 for half-size and probably £25 for full-size. (PS: Those are mates' rates if you want one!)
October was the month of my birthday and I was off for three days (16th to 18th). I had various plans for this short period of leave but most of them were scuppered (again) by the weather. I wanted to get a haircut on my birthday but as it was raining I didn't leave the house until we went out to Brown's for my meal with mum and David, courtesy of a 40% off voucher from Jayne at work (her husband is in a Mitchell's & Butler members' club thing so she had loads of them to give away; apparently Brown's are come under M&B, which is weird because all the other restaurants on the voucher were Harvester, O'Neill's, etc - pubs, basically). The meal was outstanding as usual, and I got a free glass of fizz at the end of the night because the waitress couldn't find a candle to put in my cheesecake. :D
Oh, the week before that we also wenrt to the Danny Elfman concert, which was amazing. Unfortuantely I was somewhat pre-menstruall, and also still a little irked with Paul from the night before (he'd gone out with Dan and drunk a load of whisky without any food, thus forgetting where he lived - I was not impressed, to say the least). He'd been "off sick" on the day in question and seemed to be in a bad mood himself, so I think I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have done.
I mean, this was a live concert (BBC Concert Orchestra, a choir and boy soprano) of Danny Elfman's music from Tim Burton's films - something I did not realise I wanted until it actually happened. We almost didn't get tickets because I thought it would sell out really quickly, then Paul found a spare £50 in the bills account so we were able to go - then we got upgraded because there were seats going spare, and even on the night people were being upgraded when they arrived. But yeah - basically this was a thing I had unconsciously yearned for since the age of 16, and whilst I did enjoy it, at the same time it was a struggle to keep the overpowering sense of "meh" at bay. :(
Danny Elfman was even there, performing songs from Nightmare Before Christmas with the live orchestra. I managed to get half a video before they caught me but the sound didn't come out - in fact I've still not yet managed to get the photos on Facebook because I keep forgetting... (I took quite a few shots of the artwork projected at the back, and of Mr Elfman himself, but my camera zoom is fairly rubbish so you can't really tell it's him...)
I also managed to lose my programme because I accidentally left it on my seat when we left, and in the short space of time during which I realised and went back for it, someone had nicked it. They didn't print enough programmes and we arrived early so were lucky, but clearly some opportunisitic latecomer decided to steal mine instead. I did briefly consider putting out a plea for it back on Tumblr (as it's quite good for signal boosting that kind of thing) but couldn't be bothered in the end... The only evidence I have of my programme is the Instagram shot I took of the foreword by Johnny Depp. :(
I think actually the concert just brought out a whole load of feels relating to the fact that Tim decided not to allow his artwork tour into London, and that the exhibition in Paris constituted the "European" element of the tour. He did this because he hates English press - yet he lives in London and is notoriously an Anglophile. The thing is, if I'd known he was going to do that, I would have found a way to see it in Paris, rather than holding out in futility for it to arrive at O2 - and now it's finished and I didn't get to see it.
The concert played three locations on three dates - Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh (I think - initially I was sure it said Leeds but I think it was somewhere in Scotland after all) - following a sell-out run at the Royal Albert Hall. I'm sorry, but three dates and three locations does not consistute a "UK tour" prior to shipping the thing out to the USA (where doubtless it will play every state). I am insanely grateful / lucky that one of those dates was for Birmingham, but it still sort of stings that we are still considered a miniscule dot of a country where everyone has infinite means to get everywhere within five minutes - not even taking into account that Ireland is a separate land mass! (Also, apparently at the RAH performance Helena Bonham-Carter was there singing "Sally's Song"; the provinces are not important enough for that treatment, clearly.)
I just... yeah. I love you, Tim, but sometimes the decisions you come to make me very unhappy, and you seem content to alienate your UK fanbase on a regular basis. Considering you live here, that really isn't any way to gain fandom loyalty, you know?
Also it just furthered my desire for a Burton/Elfman/Depp version of POTO, which is not helped by the fact that Tim apparently did concept drawings for such a beast which have never seen the light of day other than some deep, dark recess of the internet somewhere. You have no idea how badly I want this to happen.
Um, yeah. I think I might have reached that age where birthdays are a reminder of how OLD you are. :P
Other than that, on the day after my birthday we went to see the new library. (More photos I have yet to put on Facebook.) I really like the Shakespeare Room, and oddly enough the fifth floor was not as terrifying as the third in terms of height - I suppose it's that aeroplane thing where the higher you are, the more it's just like looking at Googlemaps. :P
We also went ice skating at Leisurebox (formerly Planet Ice), which was reasonably priced but I suck at it even more than I did when I was 16, because in the interim I've broken my right foot twice and my balance is rubbish. Considering they've entirely refurbished the bowling alley downstairs, I was expecting the ice rink to look better, but all they've done is replace the shiny stuff on the ceiling. The walls are still a mess, the ice is uneven in places and it really looks grim. Once upon a time it was the Olympian ice rink where figure skaters trained - these days it's an embarassment.
When we arrived it was empty except for about three people - then a group of ice hockey players turned up and started zooming all over the place and being idiots, loitering by the side where I was trying to relearn how to skate. AND THEN a group of schoolkids turned up and also kept loitering, so we stayed about an hour in the end. Not sure if I will go back again as even though I enjoyed it, it was knackering. I still really want ice skating lessons, but I need to know if I can actually get the hang of it first - there was an ex-figure skater in there giving me free tips, but my legs and feet plainly refused to cooperate, presumably out of ankle preservation.
(Of course, the festive outdoor ice rink was continually rammed to the gills every single night despite being overpriced. Maybe if more people were aware that the ice-rink had reopened they might have more money with which to refurbish it properly. There is a whole generation of now-teenagers who have no idea it even exists.)
Nothing much happened in November as far as I know. :P We bought some fireworks for Paul's mum's birthday but managed to set off the best one really early (because there's no way to tell from the box what they'll do) so we all went back inside fairly early and played Pictionary on the Wii instead (Paul got me the Wii Draw pad for my birthday).
Oh, except for the first two of my five pre-Christmas concerts this year: Karl Jenkins (The Armed Man and other bits) and Mozart's Requiem. Choir is already being a bit faily this year so far. For the Jenkins, Adrian was not conducting us (because Mr Jenkins himself was - just as well I didn't take any CD's to get signed as obviously we weren't allowed anywhere near him at any point - and anyway he seemed a bit of a grumpy sod) so he was sitting in the third row amongst the tenors and sopranos, which happened to be my row. I arrived late to rehearsal due to bus failure (of course) to find that nobody had saved me a seat, so ended up wherever there was room. In fact the secretary (Sue) offered me her seat and sat elsewhere.
Of course, during rehearsal Adrian was sat down in the stalls so he could supplement Mr Jenkins's sparse advice with some of his own. (One particular descant of the medley pieces was so under-rehearsed that Mr Jenkins decided we shouldn't sing it at all, which was rather disheartening; also I think I might have mentioned before that the general feeling amongst choir members was one of boredrom towards the music, which is all very well but not entirely professional considering the bloody composer is the one conducting it.) Adrian had been allocated a seat before rehearsal but it was taken up by another latecomer to the tenors; so by the time we go to the concert there was an extra body in the row and not enough seats, resulting in a kerfuffle as we tried to sit down and I found myself homeless. Another soprano in the row moved elsewhere but I can only begin to imagine how awful it must have looked to the audience.
As a result of this we are no longer trusted to find our own seats - the membership secretary is allocating them herself. We don't know what criteria she's using for this but I suspect our audition scores might have something to do with it - for every concert so far I've been stuck on the back row. Those of us who ended up in this position tried to make ourselves feel better about it by deciding that it was because we obviously Knew Our Stuff - becuase surely it makes more sense to put the stronger voices on the back to encourage people, rather than not?
It also means that half the time you're not sitting next to anyone whom you normally sit next to in rehearsal, so the audible space around you is completely alienating. By a stroke of luck I ended up next to Jenny and then Chris for both Messiah concerts this year, but some of the rest of the time I've been stuck next to operatic wannabe soloists who, whilst confident, are quite often wrong.
We were given the opportunity to provide feedback as the new seating arrangements - apparently it makes lining up easier, though I can't quite see how as everyone is still just as confused as before - and I felt like commenting about the Adrian situation at the Jenkins, but decided not to bother. The PTB have spoken and even though most people I've spoken to seem to think this allocated seating malarky is complete nonsense, I very much doubt it will change.
Bah. I had hoped that having a year off might chill me out a bit regarding choir, as at the point when I went off I was feeling more and more ragey about it... I was looking forward to going back - and did enjoy Messiah this year as it had been a while since I'd done it, though less so the Christmas one as - again - we were sorely under-rehearsed for some pieces - but I suspect the stuff like this is never going to change, and this feeling that we can't even be trusted to organise ourselves into seats. It does not exactly improve morale.
So yeah, I will see how the year pans out, I guess, and then make a decision either way. It might just be time for a change of scenery. The experience this choir has given me has been really valuable, so maybe it's time to use it elsewhere...
I also attempted to sell tickets to people at work, which initially seemed to be successful before most of them pulled out at the last minute. In the end I managed to sell two for Messiah and three for the Christmas one, though the person who ordered the latter then couldn't come, whcih I didn't discover until the week beforehand (she paid me anyway). Hopefully, as there's only two concerts in the next two seasons (as opposed to the massive concert-dump that is December), I might actually get people to come.
This reminds me that I also need to do a separate post regarding the latest series of The Choir: Sing While You Work (which, as anyone who has been watching will know, featured Birmingham City Council), but it may well be quite long so I'll leave it until my week off. :P I've been sitting on it since April and I just need to get it off my chest now.
December has been the usual panic of Christmas, to be honest. I was off on the 11th and 20th as shopping days, and am off tomorrow, but my proper leave starts on 6th January as that wasn't in the school holidays. (Same problem here as in Legal in that we need half-staffing and most people have kids.)
The past two weeks have been quite disjointed really - I haven't done a full working week since the start of the month and on Friday it felt like Monday so it's mostly been confusing. I've been so tired and so skint that by the time Christmas finally rolled around I really couldn't be arsed. (On Friday night I slept for about 12 hours.)
It has been enjoyable though. We had slow-cooked shoulder of pork this year instead of turkey, though it ended up being a little overdone because I (stupidly) forgot to weigh it and just assumed it was 2kg like we'd ordered, but the flavour was lovely nonetheless. That plus the 1kg of diced lamb (for Paul's birthday curry on Wednesday) came to under £20, so a lot less than a turkey would have been at least.
We did the food shop at the new(ish) Five Ways Morrison's, which is AMAZING, and which was desolately quiet on the Wednesday evening when we were there. If it's like that all the time I'll go there more often - plus their deli is ridiculously impressive.
Gifts-wise it was the usual array of DVD's and booze. Paul got me GTA 5 which is AWESOME, and he ended up with Hitman: Absolution (from me), as well as Skyrim, so we've both been X-Box fiends the past few days. (Just as well we didn't get GTA for the PS3 as it needed 7GB spare memory to install, and I would have been verrah verrah upset if I couldn't play it after waiting since September for it. :P)
Actually, upgrading the PS3 memory is one of 2014's projects, along with sorting out the living room finally, now that we have a plan for the new TV unit. I just want to get the piano in situ and get the room sorted now, as it's been planned in my head for ages and I'm in desperate need of spatial cleansing. (Clearly, swapping the two upstairs spare rooms did not help, mostly because the larger one, now the office, is still full of boxes. :P)
Also? We have mould on our bedroom ceiling, which I'm not sure is due to condensation on the windows or an actual damp problem, though given it's spread all along the external wall I'm guessing the latter. And now our upstairs lights don't work (unrelated to the mould, I should say), following the bulb blowing in the spare room in the night, so either way we need to speak to the landlord soon.
ALSO ALSO, hopefully next week will be in possession of a cat. :D A lady at work took in a stray and I offered to have it, though I need to speak to her this week about the finer details, and obviously we need to get pet insurance...
AND FINALLY, Paul is currently off work with stress. He started a new job in October and personally I think it's a combination of things related to both the new job, his horrible old job AND all the stress earlier this year about his dad, which have finally come to a head, rather than solely the lack of time in which to do all the things he's offered to take on in the new job - which he's taken on to show willing due to imminent job cuts. He's been off most of December and has leave booked from the 2nd to 10th January anyway, but yeah - he's been having panic attacks out of the blue and is just generally not himself. He came with me to do the Christmas shopping and really disliked the crowds, which is not like him at all. I'm trying to stop him drinking so much because it's clearly not helping - last week he became really maudlin - but it's a bit difficult when the house is full of Christmas booze. :(
And he's not sleeping; I'm hoping at the very least the GP can give him some sedatives, because his lack of sleep is disrupting mine as well, and I'm also shattered as a result, which I suspect is making me rather less supportive than I should be. Plus, you know, all my crazy is probably going to compound matters, because I get tired, frustrated and grumpy and am still trying to cope with household tasks on top of working, because he either won't do what I ask, forgets to do it, or isn't well enough to do it. Basically, it's rubbish, and I will be SO GLAD when this epic fail of a year is over with. :(
PS: I also have some major familial stress of my own right now that includes, but is not limited to, the fact that my mum is no longer talking to my grandmother, and my dad is still the world's biggest dickbag. Frankly, that's just the tip of the iceberg of my own family drama RN; we have a situation where I want to do everything in my power to help, but my powers do not include infinite amounts of money. :(
So there we go - four months in fast-forward.
I'm thankfully on leave tomorrow, and we're going to Lloyd's for bad movies. Paul's birthday on Wednesday, so I need to get curry any outstanding ingredients before then - I'm planning on doing filo-wrapped Brie for starter, and lamb curry for main, as I've not yet had chance to use the new pestle-and-mortar my mum got me for my birthday (it's a huge Jasper Conran granite one and very sexy). Back at work Thursday and Friday and then a week off, thank goodness.
Work wise I'm quiet today - hence the entry - because all I have is eight sets of outstanding minutes awaiting signature from one particular Chair who never.signs.anything - she has minutes in her draft folder from October (we're supposed to send them out within 20 working days!). No meetings for me this week either as there's only three in the diary. Next week apparently it's insane so obviously I picked the wrong (or right?) time to be off. ;)
Okay, I think that's quite long enough. New Year Meme tomorrow, as well as trying to finish the already belated Christmas JC fic I promised Denise, which ground to a standstill in mid-December when my brain decided to give me voracious unrelated plot bunnies. I just need one final push to finish it.
Over and out!