Ticking over

Some post-Christmas news…

Amber's black eyeAmber has a black eye (Millie bumped into her while carrying a tray or something).

My dad has been in hospital with a hernia (or something).  He’s fine and back home now, but will be having an operation to fix it soon.  It’s not so straightforward a procedure as usual because of the immunosuppresants he’s on (as are all heart transplant recipients).

In better news, I received my first birthday present yesterday (it’s my 40th on the 15th January), from my parents: a Blu-Ray read/write drive for the computer.  Last night was spent fitting it – which was, of course, nowhere near as easy as it appeared.  Fortunately I am a bit of a whiz when it comes to ‘pooters so it’s now done.  However, I’m left wondering: what do normal people do if they want a new bit on their PC?

Thanks very much for that, Mum & Dad, it’s just what I wanted.  However did you know?? 😉

Everyone else – the bar for presents has been set pretty damn high…

Just saying. 😛

I’m working from home today – wasn’t planning to, but no one from my department was going to be in and only one other person on my whole floor.  The killer blow was that the canteen would be shut.  So I’m at home.

On the minus side, I need to spend the afternoon writing an article about expectations for recruitment in 2012.  Sigh.

Christmas 2011 – we made it

Christmas 2011 for the Carter family was always going to be a tricky one.

Fortunately, it was tricky in expectation rather than actuality.  Despite all of us being nervous at our first Christmas without Trev being here – and despite everyone having a moment or two at some point during the festivities – we enjoyed ourselves, as you can see in the photos.

Amber, opening presentsI was struggling to get ready before Christmas, both in the sense of buying presents and getting in the spirit.  We had arranged with my parents to go to Swindon for Christmas.  The Lovely Melanie’s parents are away in Australia visiting her sister, Kris, and Swindon just seemed to be the natural place to go this year.

Being with all the family felt almost desperately important for us.  Conny took the entirely understandable decision to get the hell away from everything and visit India, but I felt rather responsible for ensuring that my parents would be OK (my Mum in particular), so Swindon it was.

Millie, opening presentsMy parents’ left their car in Bexley the last time they were here for us to drive back.  Just as well, as there was no way we could’ve gone on the train or coach with all our presents.  And that goes double for the journey back when the girls had all their new toys and gifts!

So, we arrived in Swindon at lunchtime on Christmas Eve to a flurry of visits from the rest of the family.  On Christmas Eve Uncle Rich came round in his ambulance car and Millie got to sit in there and turn the flashing lights on (she even tried the siren very briefly, but that scared Amber).  Then, the girls went to bed and we went to visit our friends the Mays for a bit of “grown-up time”.

That was pretty fabulous, both because it’s always a pleasure to see the Mays (Rich May and I have been friends for almost 30 years now) and because another old friend was there, one of Trev’s very best friends from school, whom we haven’t seen in a long time and had long since thought lost…  Good to see you again, Baz. 🙂

Millie and Amber and presentsThe girls were pretty good at sleeping in on Christmas Day.  I was kept awake worrying that they might revisit my own Christmas Morning sins upon me, by waking up at three AM and then asking every 15 minutes whether it was time to get up yet.  Amber, however, slept right through until seven; Millie woke up a few times and eventually came into our bed to sleep but made it through till almost seven in the end.

By George, they had a lot of presents!

Seriously, the pile flooded out to cover half the living room floor!

But with the girls by now being highly-trained present-opening machines most of the fuss was over within 30 minutes.  My presents – and the Lovely Melanie’s – took rather less time to open, but I was very happy with an array of computer games, books, CDs and chocolate. 🙂

Rich, Millie & AmberOne thing that truly helped with the expected difficulties of Christmas Day was my brother, Rich.  As a paramedic, he’d drawn the short straw and was working Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  A stroke of good fortune meant that he was stationed to cover the area of Swindon where my parents live, so when not on duty he was able to wait round at theirs for any emergency calls.

He came and went a little bit as emergencies demanded during the day, but was there for the bulk of it and for Christmas Dinner.  His presence really helped, I think – the comings and going broke up the day a bit, but also it was just good to have him there for a good part of the day.  Seriously, thank you, little brother, for being there on Christmas Day; your presence really helped make Christmas for me.  I’m glad you thought the same, too.

The Lovely Melanie and I went to the crematorium to see Trev’s grave Christmas morning, but even that potential flashpoint wasn’t as miserable as it might have been.  We put a mince pie on his grave, wished “him” a merry Christmas and were a little bit sad for a couple of minutes.  Then we went home again.

Millie, Amber and OCDMy Uncle Jason was there when we got back, and it was good to have him there, too.  His jokes might be terrible, but there’s a time and a place for them – and Christmas Day round my parents was most definitely the time and the place. 🙂

Amber spent most of the day playing with her cleaning set – broom, hoover, mop, etc. – pretending to clean the whole house.  And when I say “most of the day” I really do mean “most of the day”.  Either she really loves that present or she’s suffering from OCD.

When Rich finished work in the evening his wife, Carla came round with Izzy (my niece) and Christmas flared up all over again, with presents galore for everyone. Amber made my evening by doing that thing kids can sometimes do so well: just before bedtime she ran up to me and whispered “I really liked all my presents, Daddy,” which made the whole day just about perfect.

We went round Rich & Carla’s house Boxing Day night for some more “grown-up” Christmas and had a thoroughly nice time.  Plus, it’s always nice to be able to swear again after so long in the presence of your own parents and your own children! 😉

Yesterday morning we drove back to Bexley – once again, in my parents car (they took the train, there being barely enough room in the car for two small children, two adults and lots and lots and lots of presents), and today I am back at work.  Sigh.

In recognition of my having to go back to work today I would like to thank my wonderful wife for letting me play computer games most of yesterday afternoon and evening.

It wasn’t just Skyrim and Modern Warfare 3 – I did have to sort out the hundreds of pictures we I took while we were away using our new camera, a Nikon Coolpix S9100.  The “old” camera had inexplicably stopped focusing properly (particularly at vital moments, as mentioned previously) so without a moment’s hesitation I selflessly stimulated the economy by buying a new one using my credit card.  And very pleased we are with it, too. 🙂

As mentioned before, I’m unfortunately working at work for the rest of the week, so my Christmas is effectively over, but it was good while it lasted.  Thanks to all of my family for making it such a good one against the odds.

Trev (and Conny), we missed you, but you would have been proud of the way we pulled together in your absence.

Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone.

We’re in Swindon, and having opened a literal mountain of presents (well, the girls did) the Lovely Melanie and I are about to go and visit Trev and lay a mince pie on his grave (IWTWHW).

It’s still early Christmas Day, and a lot could still happen, but I’ve got the feeling today is going to be OK.  That rather than simply “getting through it” as I had feared, we might actually enjoy it.

In worrying about today I’d been sat thinking about it alone inside my head, what hadn’t entered the equation was the healing power of simply spending time with dear old friends and family.  The family might at times be a double-edged sword for us now, with such a noticeable absentee, but friends truly help compensate for that.

Thanks to everyone who has texted or emailed their love and concern the last couple of days – that has, as always, meant a great deal to me – I hope you all get the best Christmas ever.

x

p.s. Conny, if you should by chance get to read this in India, I hope you’re having a good time and that everyone there is looking after you.  We look forward to seeing you when you get back. 🙂

Christmas Book

Hot off the presses (so to speak) below are a few sample pages from Millie & Amber’s Christmas book that I’ve written and drawn for them this year, entitled Millie & Amber’s Adventures Through The Misty Window.

A few people asked if they could see some pages – which is very flattering – so here you are…

Millie & Amber's Adventures Through The Misty Window 1

Millie & Amber's Adventures Through The Misty Window 2

Millie & Amber's Adventures Through The Misty Window 3

Millie & Amber's Adventures Through The Misty Window 4Millie & Amber's Adventures Through The Misty Window 5

I would like to point out that I am by no stretch of the imagination an artist.  However, I have read a lot of comics, which I hope gives me at least some vague idea of the styles and techniques available (even if I can’t draw them!)

Untitled, by Millie

That award-winning poem in full…

She is as smooth as a rabbit,

She is as soft as a pillow,

She is as gentle as a hamster,

She is as noisy as an elephant when he stomps,

She is as big as a cow,

She is for riding,

She is my horse, Petal.

My horse is my friend.

I really rather like that – and not just because I’m the writer’s father. It has a naive gentleness to it.

And let’s not forget that I have a Master’s degree in Literary Criticism, so I know what the hell I’m talking about!

Speaking of literature – last night saw me up until 1am finishing the girls’ Christmas book, which is still – like Millie’s poem – untitled.  I’ll try and post some images of a few pages here this evening (I’m at flippin’ work at the moment…)

But how about we get interactive for Christmas?  Let’s have a poll to see which title is best least bad.