The other night I was sitting in the same carriage as six boys, aged between maybe nine and 12 years old, who were playing word association.  It was fascinating!  I had to hide behind my book to stop myself correcting certain things, most frustrating, but it was a really interesting dynamic.

“With chicken you always have basmati rice” so “pilau” was not allowed by their leader after “chicken”.  The leader was a little strict, I felt, and clearly a bit older as he seemed embarrased at mention of “girl”!   He somehow managed to veer back into a comfort zone of footballer names and various sports though!

They were kind of sweet.  “Gary Glitter”, then “child molester” and, interestingly, “Childline” was another chain.  Shanghai, in Japan *agh*, came up but the leader chastised him for not knowing it was in China.  Hurrah!

There were also lots of references to gaming, which meant nothing to me, and I was a bit disappointed when versions one, two and three came up in succession; where is the imagination?!  They then broke out into the Hokey Cokey, which one boy was adamant was the Hokey Pokey.

You may wonder how I remember all this but it was so funny that I wrote this while listening to them.  Leader declared “rich” could not follow “royalty” as “they live on charity”.  Then a rendition of Postman Pat was sung, though it degenerated with alternative lyrics.

“18”, then “USA”, on the grounds “I’m going to the USA when I’m 18”.  That was the leader, who wouldn’t let the others dispute his logic.  There then ensued a geography lesson on Las Vegas, which one boy was getting distressingly wrong!

“Poker”, “chips”, “KFC”, “eggs”, the latter which was disputed but defended “because southern chickens lay eggs”, maybe I missed one but then “teepee”, and I’m not sure how that slipped through.

There was then a discussion on The Life of Brian.  Leader then wanted someone to say “galaxy” after “stars” so he could say “milky way”, so “galaxy” replaced “shiny”, but he objected to “snickers” after “milky way”, which I thought was not in the spirit of word association and should have been allowed.

“Greed”, “anger”, which was initially dismissed but kept in because “greedy people get angry”, to which leader said “ok, because they are both emotions”, then “emoticons”, “sad face”.  Then a discussion on emoticons and a link was lost.

Then, almost verbatim, with novelty punctuation on my part:

Da vinci, code, treasure, pirates – how treasure from code? – Captain Jack Sparrow, bird, eggs – already had – small birds – no, go back – bald eagle, owl, barn, sheep, bacon, gammon, lamb, Easter, egg – done that – bunny, Lenny – what? – Of Mice and Men, Bob – George makes more sense.  Then a big dispute and it was changed to George, Russian, federal, Blake – what? – George Blake, the Russian spy in WW2 – Trident – I said Russia – vodka, ICBM, bomb, bang – not a word – shell, hole, crater, crate – what? – He said crater, I said crate, a box, then crater.  They go on ships – no, freighters not craters – just say artillery – artillery, guns – no, say terrorists – Hook ,Peter Pan, crocodile – actually it was an alligator – Ali – as in Ali the Alligator …

Then things deteriorated with discussion over excess use of names.

I know it was blatant eavesdropping but I found it fascinating and they filled 30 minutes of my train journey and made me want to play word association!  I did get leader’s point about getting the others to sometimes change their words so he could say his good/cool/interesting words, it’s much more difficult to manipulate the trajectory when there are more than two people playing.


Today is Thursday and I was only yesterday in possession of my passport and visa to fly to Ethiopia on Saturday.  I handed my passport in to work about three weeks ago and was told it would take three days to process.  Yet it only went in at the end of last week.  This is not how I like to roll.  At first I thought I was just too paranoid/anxious/anal, but I think it’s reasonable to be stressed about feeling a bit last minute, particularly when it’s not me that was late handing everything in.

Also, I am going to a country whose entry requirements include that no recording equipment is to be brought into the country without supporting documentation, ie a description of why you need it and what it does.  To do my job properly, I need recording equipment.  Not without huge – extensive and huge – issues, the equipment is being sent separately (though I have reason to believe that hasn’t been sent yet either) but I need backup, for which I have no documentation.  The backup is my own mini microphones and laptop.  Are they going to be confiscated?  It’s tense and I will only not regret accepting these three days of work if my flight leaves and arrives on time (it’s an overnight flight, due in c07:45, so with Sunday at leisure/in a sleep-deprived fug), my friend and I get through customs without visa or luggage issues, the equipment is through customs and in the hotel and the job isn’t sitting silly long hours and isn’t littered with names we have no idea how to spell.  I’m not optimistic, to put it mildly.

As for the job itself, I’ve been asked what it is by a few people. Well, all I know is it’s “something to do with a British construction company”. This is also not how I roll.

I am disorganised in some respects but where travel plans and a few other things are concerned, I am organised and don’t like not feeling prepared, for what I don’t even know.  I do not like feeling this uncertain about something I think could have been made much more straightforward.  I would also like only to have been parted from my passport for the three days necessary, not over two weeks with it sitting in a drawer in an office.

To add to all this, and possibly why I am so twitchy about things, I have twice had immigration “issues”.  I was detained at Denver airport in November last year and made to feel like a criminal (passport taken away and sent to a holding area before being grilled.  By two different officials).  But, worse, a long story, I was held in a small white room with no windows for about three hours after I entered Japan with inadequate paperwork (also a long story, but I hadn’t done anything criminal or illegal).  To make matters worse, I couldn’t speak the right kind of Japanese and no officials could speak English so I was spoken at in frustrated, angry Japanese.  For about two of those hours, while they smoked.  I will not be made to endure anything like that again.  Mind you, awful though my white room experience was, my overriding thoughts were that my luggage would be checked and my stash of cheese would be confiscated!

If all goes horribly wrong, eg no visa or I am deemed to be a prying journalist, and I get deported, at least I will have “interesting” material for a blog post. I have also learned that it is better to do some things yourself and that “exotic” places should be the reserve of holidays not work destinations!

I am now the very proud owner of a standard lamp.  I had been looking half-heartedly for one for years and I’d even bid on a few at auction, but they always got snapped up and/or were expensive.  The other day, I found this one for £40, rewired and with the wood in good condition.  I didn’t buy it.  I then went home and looked on eBay, where I discovered they are quite expensive, so I went back to the shop and got the £40 one for £35.  You probably can’t imagine how excited I am about it.

Last night, I sat on this comfy (but ugly) chair, put my feet on the foot rest I’ve borrowed from my mum, switched the standard lamp on, put my chocolate cake and tea on a little table next to the sofa, wrapped myself in the blanket, Izzy the cat sat on my lap and I had an overwhelming “aaaaaaahhhhhhhh” feeling, the kind that only a simple pleasure like a standard lamp, comfy chair, cat on lap, cake and tea can elicit.  I was so happy, warm and content.  Only problem was it was only 7pm and it all made me incredibly sleepy.

Standard lamps remind me of Friends in the opening sequence when they’re in the coffee shop and there is a standard lamp by the sofa (have I remembered that correctly?!).  It also reminds me of my mum’s lounge as there has always been a standard lamp there and mum hates using the main lights.  It’s a cosy and comforting connection.  I keep staring at the lamp with its rich brown, simply carved stand.  It amazes me that something like that can make me smile and want it to be dark so I can use it.

I think I have been getting a bit misty eyed recently and far too influenced by idyllic images of reading papers in bed and hunkering down at home.  I feel like a Christmas card picture.  Next, I’ll be wanting a big fireplace, the mantelpiece of which I can lean my elbow on as a whippet curls up in front of the fire … no, I don’t think that’s right, that’s not what ladies do, that’s men with flat caps and shooting rifles hanging above the fireplace.  No, stop, it’s all wrong, I am perhaps a bit more modern than I think!

Back to my standard lamp, while I may be sniggered at for such a lamp love-in, it is far more effective than ceiling lights when you want to read.  It creates a feeling of being bathed in gentle light that is far better directed at what you’re doing on your lap, eg eating cake, than a mere light from the ceiling.  It really is quite a joy to behold and to sit under, though I fear my evening social life may suffer and I run the risk of being a bit of a lamp bore.  I am also now going to be on the look out for a nicer lamp shade, how exciting!

{30/10/2012}   Piling clothes on chairs

As a child I was incredibly messy.  It has been, indeed is, hard work but I am much tidier than I used to be.  Except where clothes are concerned.  I have a large blanket box and a small comfy chair in my bedroom.  To see the surface of either through mounds of my clothes is very unusual.  I have no idea why I can just about keep the rest of my home tidy, just not where clothes are concerned.

Looking around my bedroom now, the chair and blanket box are covered and there are a few piles on the carpet too.  One of the blanket box mounds is a pile of clean clothes that need putting away.  It really annoys me that I have never managed to put clothes away as soon as they are removed, whether back into the wardrobe or straight into the laundry basket, or when they are in a basket, having just been washed or dried.  However, I do actually manage to put underwear straight into the basket or back into its home where appropriate, so it really is just outer clothes.

Is the clothes thing just a reminder that I once was very messy or is it just a reflection of my attitude towards clothing, which isn’t that great!  I have never been particularly interested in fancy walk-in wardrobes or special shoe cupboards, etc.  I suppose it probably is, to an extent, a reflection of my lack of interest in clothes.  As a rule, I wear them because I want to and have to.  Of course I want to present myself well but I don’t think that’s how I usually choose what to wear.  I have always believed I am one of those people who can have a beautiful suit and shirt, for example, that on one person can look really smart and striking, but on me I will still look ever so slightly scruffy.  Hmm, maybe that’s because if it were my suit it would have been dumped unceremoniously on a chair at some point so would be ever so slightly creased?!  I am not a clothes horse and I don’t get particularly excited about clothes.  Likewise, I have never lingered over fashion pages, have no interest in spending designer money on designer clothes and am not big on matching.  So, yes, I guess my treatment of my clothes probably is a reflection of my attitude to clothes.

However, it really is annoying that I do the clothes dump thing!  Now I’ve written this, I am going to have to tidy them away.  But it really is a chore that I don’t want to do at all.  It’s also something I write on pretty much every To Do list I write, “Put clothes away”.  I have also just registered that I have a load of dry clothes hanging up to add to the piles of clothes in my bedroom.  Oh how doubly annoying.

I think I’ll have a coffee to fuel me ready for the clothes-tidying session I am now going to have to endure … if I can do it uber fast before I head off for the train.  Excuses, excuses!

If all goes to plan with work, I will be flying to Ethiopia on Saturday night.  I realise that I know very little about Ethiopia and don’t know what to expect from Addis Ababa and I find huge interest in thinking about my expectations of a place before I read anything or go there.  So here goes – this could be a very short blog – this is what I think Addis Ababa might be like.

Ethiopia: famine, Band Aid, Abyssinia, Abyssinian cats wandering about, dusty.  Addis Ababa: smell coffee everywhere, shacks, no high rise buildings, colourful, frenetic markets, food sellers on the street, people sitting on the sides of roads, trees or plants covered in dust, noisy and busy, tall people, lots of different food smells, a lot of beggars and people following you around for money, mangy dogs wandering around.

That’s it, I think.  I have not seen much of Africa, just a few places in both Morocco and Ghana.  I am very much hoping the markets in Addis Ababa will be similar to those of Accra, which were a source of extreme wonder and fascination to me.  Unsurprisingly, I expect Addis Ababa to have a lot more in common with Accra than Marrakech and Fez, though I think Tangier’s more gritty, less touristy nature would have a tiny bit more in common with Addis Ababa.

I am going with a friend and we have one day off, which is a Sunday.  This disappoints me hugely as I am not sure the markets will be fully open and that is where I really want to go, if only to get a feel for the city and its people.  I love going to markets everywhere I visit, for me they offer a unique insight into a culture and I get a real buzz from them.  I am hoping to find some interesting silver to bring home.  I was given a beautiful Coptic cross pendant from Ethiopia, which I love.  It is a chunky, hand crafted, heavy piece of silver that I have always at times held for comfort because it warms up to the temperature of your skin.

As for the temperature, I have already had a look and it isn’t as hot as I was expecting, about 24 degrees at present, which I can survive in!  I also know it’s a city at fairly high altitude, hence I don’t need to take malaria tables (too high for the mozzies, whoop!).  It being that much cooler than I expected (I was thinking about ten degrees more) has surprised me but only because I expect it to be a lot hotter near the Equator and in a country with a painful history of droughts and famine.  But, yes, I know that Addis Ababa is a lot higher than the rest of the country, where those problems have been and are a reality.

As for the food, I have made reference to this already and it is the thing I am most concerned about!  As ever, I am looking forward to trying new things, I’m just worried I will be served something that is far too hot for my very delicate lips and mouth and I can’t abide the thought of leaving food in a country with so many poor and starving people.  That said, in Ghana I saw huge quantities of chillies added to food I would later eat and I survived ok, so maybe there’s hope.  I just need to steer very clear of the lime pickle that nearly caused me a mischief in Greenwich Market.  Oh, but after that distressing incident I did have a wonderfully thick, dark coffee.  I could live on coffee alone, right?! Oh, and I’d love to go to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.  The idea of spending a long time loving and appreciating coffee seems the perfect way to spend the morning after an overnight flight!

Now I just have to hope the job doesn’t cancel, my visa comes through ok and I do actually get to fly there.  Very exciting.  Now I need to read up a bit about Addis Ababa and prepare myself.

Once all this Halloween nonsense is removed from the shops, it is with certainty I say that the marketing of Christmas will commence.  I am already troubled to see mince pies and the like with sell by dates long before Christmas.  I do like a mince pie though.  I have already seen small Christmas card and decoration displays but I have managed to ignore them as they are not the norm.  Yet.  However, I have already had my first few discussions with friends about what we’re doing for Christmas.  It seems that the reason people plan it so far in advance is because it is complicated and there are too many people to juggle and please.

I, however, have an easy job of it, indeed always have.  Christmas was only ever with both my parents and anyone else we visited or who came over was the only variant, but there was no pressure.  Now, my mum and I decide where we will spend Christmas (mine or hers) and that’s it, job done, and anyone else who wants to join in or invite us somewhere is more than welcome to do so.  It’s when children, grandparents and in-laws (or equivalent) are involved that it becomes problematic and I have none of that to deal with.  To some people with big families, I guess that may sound a bit sad.  But I’m used to small Christmases and I like it that way.  It’s always a special day because there are presents and we always have a really elaborate meal and my mum and I share the food duties, mixed with bursts of TV viewing, the odd alcoholic tipple, a long walk and posh snacks and nibbles.  That’s my Christmas and the thought of spending it with various family members and having to deal with a large group of people probably arguing a bit, etc, horrifies me!  Although that said, we’ve often had Boxing Day or the day after with family, but that seems different because there is a strange pressure about Christmas Day to have a wonderful time.

Some of my friends have an annual stress about Christmas, mainly where to spend it and who to spend it with, and there are often compromises.  It’s a shame that it can be a huge source of stress and it’s a shame that so many people don’t feel they are able to spend the day how they would most want.  I have another friend who, to avoid all of this, readily accepts work on Christmas Day.  That way she doesn’t have to get involved in discussions about where to spend the day and can have a Christmas meal at home, exactly where she wants to be.

As for people who get asked about Christmas yet have no family or no family they can visit, that must be hard.  Then it’s about your family of friends.  I have had two Christmases away from my family, both in Japan where Christmas isn’t a holiday.  My first Christmas there, while I would have rather been at home with my parents (though it would have been enjoyable for different reasons), was fantastic.  I had 11 friends round to my tiny studio flat and we all cobbled together as many Christmassy things as we could (from visiting friends, food packages from home and expensive “novelty Christmas” sections in department stores) and, with two hobs, no oven, no grill, an electric frying pan and two mini microwave ovens used as convection ovens we managed to cobble together a roast dinner, which most of us had to eat sitting on the floor with chopsticks, for there weren’t enough knives and forks.

It is sad that so many people get their noses put out of joint by Christmas planning but, weirdly, it’s all part of the Christmas tradition, whether you like it or not.  I realise I have absolutely no point to make in this post other than that it’s time to start thinking about what to do for Christmas Day and that it can be challenging.  But somehow, whatever you do, I feel there is a degree of appreciation for the bizarre traditions of family Christmases.  It does after all give us something to talk about when we go back to work, whether a great day was had or a dreadful day was had!

{26/10/2012}   Not having a pension

I do not have and have never had a pension plan.  Until a few years ago I dismissed all encouragement to get a pension on the grounds I was far too young to worry about pensions.  While people have lost a lot of money on pensions, I do increasingly feel a bit jittery about the prospect of retiring and sitting in my bungalow/static caravan wrapped in every duvet and blanket I possess in an attempt to keep warm without having to turn the heating on or up for fear of not being able to pay my bills.  It’s quite a scary prospect, along with the fact I won’t have children to support me in my old age and whose warm homes I won’t be invited to!

From my early 20s I had always been adamant I would retire by 40 so I could travel the world while I was still fit and healthy, live somewhere I wanted to live without having to consider work and commuting and write novels based on my travels.  I suspect that over the past 15 years or so I would have needed to be somewhat more proactive, ambitious and driven to achieve retirement at 40.  So with that ruled out, I realise that planning for my old age is something I should address, as my mum often reminds me on the off chance I’ve forgotten.  But how on earth do I go about it and why would I want to have less money every month now while I have all sorts of plans on ideas on how I’d want to spend it to enjoy my life now.  It’s a rotten dilemma and I know it’s an issue for everyone and I do know I should consider my retirement more seriously.

Some years ago I decided that a mortgage, then eventually owning a property outright would be a pension of sorts.  But I’ve recently been reminded that getting a mortgage after 40 will be more difficult based on the retirement age being 65 and most mortgages being for a 25-year duration.  Yikes.  It all seems a bit harsh and I am realising there are merits to having a mortgage over renting in that you should at least get a house after 25 years with no monthly rent/mortgage.  As a friend of mine would say, sucking air between her teeth and moving her head to one side, “Mmm, tricksy”.  Indeed.

I know nothing about seeking independent, impartial advice on pensions or what kind of pension to go for and I don’t feel in a position to start contributing to one now (actually, I’d far rather just put some money under a mattress every month than trust any financial institution), so please don’t optimistically read on thinking I am going to come up with a solution!  I would actually far rather invest in something, ie something I could sell that would at least keep its value, than gamble on a pension.  If only I could have become a property mogul about fifteen years ago.  I’ve always loved the idea of doing up houses and letting them to people like me who would rather pay a bit more rent to get a home rather than merely paying into somebody else’s retirement fund.  Not helpful, but at least writing this has got me thinking about sensible financial things; this is progress indeed.

Most Saturday nights I contemplate getting up early the next morning to get a Sunday paper.  About three times a year, I do get a Sunday paper but probably only once a year does the reading of it match my lovely vision of papers, breakfast, tea, later coffee and lounging.  Today I will not be getting a paper, but I am considering my newspaper idyll perception.

I have this recurring image of clean white bed linen (impractical for newspapers in bed when you think about it!), a couple sitting in bed with the Sunday papers covering the bed, a cat or dog sitting on the bed, a cafetiere of coffee, the crumbs from the morning’s breakfast croissants and blue sky and sunshine coming through the window.  I fear at some point I was brainwashed into hankering after a middle class idyll.

While I do love the idea of a lazy Sunday like this, the reality never seems as good.  I have developed a sitting-around guilt.  It’s not that I feel I should be doing chores, it’s that I feel I should be doing something more worthwhile, like going out.  In reality, reading a paper (dependent slightly on the quality of the paper as I suspect the Sunday People is a bit of a cop out, not that I’ve ever even read it) is mind exercise.  So a few hours in the morning reading the paper and Sunday supplements is surely a good thing.  It just feels a bit decadent, which I know is ridiculous.

My Sunday realityis quite often a c9am get-up (though with the niggle I could and should have got up at 7, so by 9 I feel lazy), doing very little, often reading a bit of news online, pottering about with breakfast and an 11am contemplation on how to spend the day.  The lesson here is that I should get dressed at 7, walk c5 minutes to the nearest shop, get the paper and some croissants and be back in bed with tea, breakfast and the papers by 7.30, getting up at c9.30 and feeling more up to date on current affairs and like I’ve done something far more productive and enjoyable than lying in bed hoping I will fall asleep again and wake up refreshed and positively raring to go.

Another option could be to get the paper in the afternoon for pre-dinner down time, a time that I can easily waste, particularly on a Sunday.  However, I have a real problem reading newspapers after the morning because I have a major psychological issue about reading old news!  It’s enough of an issue that the papers are printed the night before!  Crikey, this blog malarky is revealing too many of my rants and idiosyncracies!  Writing this makes me wonder if anyone else shares my Sunday paper issues and images!

As for today, I will not be getting the paper because I have a friend staying and we are going out for adventures and excitement and have a whole extra hour thanks to the clocks changing.

{23/10/2012}   Painting nails on trains

There are a lot of things that annoy me, but one in particular I hate is women who paint their nails on trains or in public places.  The stench from those fumes drives me into a mild fury.  It is bad enough when people inflict the smell of pasties on you but I would rather a train full of pastie munchers than just one nail painter.  It stinks.  Oh, I am getting enraged again.  A nice-seeming woman sitting across the table from me on my morning train shortly before 7.30am yesterday sat down and immediately got out her nail varnish, chatted to her porridge-munching friend and proceeded to paint her nails.  Had it not been a fairly busy train, I may well have flounced off into another carriage, having first shared my views on public nail painting with her.  A shame I didn’t in a way because about 15 minutes later she did a second coat!  Can you imagine my indignation?

I recently moaned to a friend about someone else on a train who had painted her nails and fumed out the carriage.  My friend didn’t seem to object as much as I do and told me a friend of hers, who I know (a seemingly civilised person!), regularly paints her nails on the train.  I was very much outraged.  How can it not annoy everyone?  It is a chemical fume that intrudes up your nostrils and into your head and makes me feel slightly odd.  About three times a year I paint my own nails.  In my home, in private, with only myself to endure the fumes.  But somehow it’s worse on the inhalation front when somebody else is doing the painting.  Maybe it’s a psychological thing, ie it’s your choice to apply pongy paint to your nails so you deal with it.

I know it must be tiresome hearing my rants about things sometimes but I feel that people increasingly annoy me.  Society has changed a lot and I can appreciate we can all make good use of dead time, for example on trains, but why couldn’t pongy painter have done her nails at home and not inflicted the stench on everyone in the carriage?  Surely she must realise it is an offensive smell/fume releaser.

See, this all makes me sound like a moaning mini. But what’s wrong with a good book on the train, something unintrusive? She might as well have been smoking a cigarette, though at least the polish stench doesn’t infiltrate the fibres of your clothing as well!  Oh, to hear myself, I sound like a miserable old woman constantly moaning, but, really, I find nail polish a most noxious, foul and intrusive smell and it really annoys me that people think it’s ok to apply it in a confined space … so there.

I have never liked Halloween, never dressed up as a pumpkin/zombie/werewolf etc, never gone trick or treating and never enjoyed eating pumpkin pie (which my mum would make on the few occasions she felt obliged to buy a Halloween pumpkin).  All this pumpkin nonsense and the commercialisation is, as far as I can tell, an American invention and something I am appalled we Brits ever adopted.  Yes, I know it is a Christian word with (probably) pagan roots and that trick or treating is an old custom but  I hate trick or treaters, I feel they are glorified blackmailers (“If you don’t give us a worthy treat, we will do something horrible and scary to you.”). I also hate the fact seemingly normal every day food stuffs, etc, get daubed with Halloween pictures and ordinary things get Halloweened, for example “meghoul dates” or some such nonsense.  I guess it’s the commercialisation of it all that infuriates me.

I am ranting, I am well aware, but I don’t care because I have quietly put up with this nonsense in silence for years!  I hate horror films, suspense films, slasher films; basically anything remotely scary. I once had a hairdresser who gave me the synopsis of a horrific-sounding slasher film.  He terrified me and I had a bad dream that night.  I am not designed to be scared like that and it gives me no pleasure whatsoever.  So a whole day, that spreads into weeks to encompass the nearest weekend, that “celebrates” all things scary is just ludicrous and something to be dreaded.  And I won’t, won’t, won’t buy anything daubed with ghoulish pumpkins, spiders, zombies, etc, on principle and because I don’t want horrible things on the packaging of my sweets and treats, and certainly not my beloved Fondant Fancies shaped as mummies or evil pumpkins (they might not do this, but just saying)!

There may have been a few years when as child I felt a need to go trick or treating.  I have always loved sweets and I would have been driven to it in pursuit of sweets, I expect.  However, I have a feeling I was always too scared to go and I can’t imagine my parents being the types to to encourage the pestering of neighbours at night time.  I like the idea that trick or treating stems from a tradition of poor people, not just children, collecting soul cakes from neighbours as a way of praying for souls in purgatory.  So really it is a lot about death and souls, so the zombie, etc, thing and the fancy dress doesn’t come from nowhere, but I still resent this excuse for yet more commercialism.  Plus, I suspect financial treats rather than sweet treats are expected nowadays.

It also kind of merges with Guy Fawkes’ Night, though the death theme continues!  Mind you, I have now been reminded of the joys of apple bobbing and toffee apples so I’m kind of warming to the traditions of Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve.  I just wish the zombies and trick or treaters would bugger off and leave me in peace.  I think I would like it more if we all rejected the American jack-o-lantern gubbins and reverted to the Celtic tradition of it marking the end of summer and the beginning of winter and the gathering of warming winter foods and hearty feasts.  That’s not an entirely accurate or complete depiction of the Celtic history of Halloween but I like the idea of having a winter stew to mark the beginning of winter and other lovely warming foods.  Ah, see, I have gone from ranting and moaning to winter food and warming loveliness.  Hurrah for Halloween then!

et cetera