Humbug and other sweets

Two months ago today we boarded a FinnAir flight to Hong Kong. Two weeks ago we parted company with our beautiful Hampshire home. The process, barring a few formalities, is complete. It remains only to sort out utility bills. Southern Water wants to charge me £100+ for water during the period the house was empty and unused. As we were in HK we could not take a meter reading so they have estimated our usage. I had warned them a long time in advance that the house would be unoccupied but hey, they say I should have given two days notice of sale and so they can estimate the reading at whatever they like unless I can give them the actual reading. Which of course I can’t. Rogues.

Nevertheless we feel settled in our rental apartment. My walks have been slightly curtailed by events, dear boy, events. The odd lunch has intervened. A day of work. Some minor contributions to the wedding preparations. But I do have a new improved, whiter than white, Daz sparkly walk. Non-bio of course. This has been introduced to try and capture two extra sites of possible bird interest. Instead of looping round Harlech Road I know go up and over the Peak. This is an extra climb but worth it. Then I have worked out how to include Pik Shan Path without doubling back on myself. The problem with this is that it also means my walks now take considerably longer. No point in simply walking through or along these paths. They must be explored. That takes time. My longest absence was 8 hours. No lunch.

Carrying the camera gear is not too bad. The Fuji performs adequately enough. I keep tinkering with my technique as I try to find the best way of using what is admittedly a much slower autofocus than the old Canon bodies. I have added the 80mm macro lens to my armory, effective 120mm. I have carried it for 2 weeks in my backpack and hardly used it. The bugs are, as it were, snug in a rug somewhere and not coming out to play. And the birds stay over the hill and far away. Hence the order of a 1.4x tele-converter for delivery today.

There is little sign of Christmas here. Somewhat surprisingly we received yesterday two physical cards. Real ones you can touch, handle, read and throw away (recycle) later. I am in favour of a virtual Christmas. In an ideal world I would virtually ignore it. We do have a proper Christmas lunch. Each year we decamp to the club, where a buffet is available. This could, I suspect, feed a small country in remote parts of Africa, for a year. It is the one day of the year when the dress code is slightly relaxed although the younger cost centre was refused entry a few years back for ‘inappropriate footwear’. Quite right too. But jacket and tie are not mandatory. Mobile phones may be used for taking pictures but not of course for making calls. The meal always starts with lobster served at the table. I am not allowed shellfish so usually one of the others wolfs mine down. I on the other hand will ask for extra stuffing. There is an obligatory visit from Santa. I always try to see if I can spot a bottle of Black Label sticking out of his coat pocket but it seems club rules forbid even a modest snort on this occasion. Probably the designated sleigh driver will have a tincture or two after his ordeal is over. I know the guests do. The trick is to wait until the desired foodstuff is almost finished, and then join the queue. By the time you reach the front a splendid new side of beef / turkey / pork / venison etc. will have been produced and the juices are soon dribbling down the chin (or chins in many cases). The Christmas bread and butter pudding is a thing to be treasured and devoured. Away with the traditional pudding. Stick a sprig of holly in the B&BP and ho ho ho, you too can weigh like Santa. Go back for seconds or thirds. Help it slide down with the club’s superb chocolate mousse. Perhaps a token slice of fruit to assuage the conscience. Followed by coffee. Mrs. Ha and I are teetotal so we shy away from the brandy sauce, the butterscotch schnapps and the lashings and lashings of Bolly. This then is pretty much our sole concession to Christmas. A couple of hours of sheer unadulterated gluttony. It would be no great challenge to turn into a pumpkin at 3pm.

At some point I do try to find some Christmas music. The first challenge this year will be to find the CDs, as yet unpacked. I don’t think my family really ever appreciated Noddy Holder screaming “it’s Chrissssssssmaaaaaas”. So I will go for something a little more genteel. Slade was never Easy Listening even in the 70s. Which reminds me that I have also so far overlooked to plumb in the rather antiquated CD player. I am sure that millennial child will do everything by Wi-Fi or shout, “Alexa, play some Christmas carols”. I don’t think our CD player has valves that need warming up but it definitely has wires for the mains and the speakers. Our outrageously smart TV connects to something that looks like a speaker (but may be something completely different) by Bluetooth. Except it doesn’t. Despite several visits from John Lewis’ tech team and a couple from the Sony engineers nobody ever managed to get it to work. So we resorted to yet another cable. I was also assured that I could ‘stream music from my phone to the TV’. Fascinating but for the fact that I a) don’t have any music on my phone and b) have no idea how to do it even if I did. How much simpler it was when Christmas morning consisted of a darned sock containing a few nuts, some squashed satsumas and chocolates, a Rupert the Bear annual and a battery powered Dalek. The Dalek was happily not full size and as far as I recall never exterminated anybody. Dad occasionally hoped it would. His mother gave him the same present each year. Well, similar anyway. He would get an ounce of St. Bruno Flake and a Giles annual. And socks. Always socks. Each year he would go through the pretence of having no idea what was in the paper package. He would shake it and make some outrageous guess whilst Granny H smiled happily thinking what a wonderful surprise it would be for little Jimmy.

Far-fetched as this may seem to the youth of today (who is the youth of today? Has anybody met him?) it is largely true. So simple. And that is why I have such a jaundiced view of Christmas today. It has lost all meaning. As one cartoonist wonderfully captured it this week, the Three Wise Men would today probably bring Gold, Frankincense and Bitcoins. And on that bubbly note, I wish both my readers a very happy holiday and please remember to give thanks to the good folk of Alabama. Amen.

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27 thoughts on “Humbug and other sweets

  1. I still get socks, grey ones.

    I remember, while still believing in Santa some seventy-five years ago, being a bit puzzled why mum was always so furiously knitting the weeks before Christmas.

    Came Christmas morning, where the five of us would bolt downstairs. We would be greeted by lots of grey socks dangling from the mantle piece above the coal heater.

    Of course, there would be some low cost toys. They would always break down on the same day. The tennis ball would end down in a cast iron drain and the blow-up balloon deflate. But the grey socks were timeless and lasted and lasted.
    Enjoyable post, Andrew. A happy Christmas to you and Mrs Ha.

    • Thank you Gerard. And to you and your family. I had forgotten the balloons. Dad used to rub them on his hair and stick them to the ceiling. Happy simpler days.

  2. Loved reading this post and yes, I know that I wrote on mine that I would be absent for a while. But of course I don’t follow often follow what I say or write and there are exceptions.

    This was wonderful because I agree with you about Christmas. In fact I detest Christmas and would like to run away or hide in a cellar this time of year. I just don’t celebrate Christmas but get presents for my sis and my children. I have not much to be happy about but again there are exceptions, My son is doing ok except for pretty severe depression. My daughter is coming along much better except for eye problems and a shoulder that needs surgery. My sis is now demented but seemingly pretty healthy. I am still trucking and a mean old woman.

    I love the fact that you and Shirley enjoy a simple Christmas but as you have written, it is surely not the same as it once was. I think you and Mrs. Ha have much to be thankful for. Getting back to HK was another giant step but the two of you did it and Lu Lu came through like a champ. And now the other daughter is getting married. That is wonderful. I am sure you and Mrs. Ha will be glad when the grand day is over.

    And last but not least, I have been quite happy today after learning that the nice folks of Alabama finally came to their senses. I must add- hallelujah. Trumpsters and Trumpettes are not happy in the house and senate. I can sense their misery all the way to Texas. Yee haw.

    • Yee haw all round, Yvonne. It’s not the GOP itself I loathe but DT. There is good and bad in all political parties but he has no place in decent society. Christmas is for children and good Christian folk who wish to celebrate as was intended. I am quite happy without the sock and Rupert Bear annual. A healthy happy family is all I ask. You carry a lot on your shoulders and deserve some peace and goodwill. No tinsel required. I can’t resist another Yee haw.

      • All right! Yee Haw all around. DT is made enemies of so many countries. His lack of common sense and his love for bullying is not working with North Korea nor Palestine or Great Britain. And there are more world leaders that do not like him. Now the tax law that is about to be passed is not good news for underlings. It benefits the super rich who are the big donors to the repubs in election years.

    • If I had a cellar I would be in it – and only emerge after the dreaded New Year celebrations. Such terrible memories. The HK family will be descending upon me next year, so that should lighten my spirits.

      • Build your own shelter Willo. It can double up as a nuclear bunker. Stock it with goodies and 1970s Morecambe and Wise Christmas shows. You can survive it. It will soon be over.

      • That sounds really nice to have your HK family coming next year. Consider your goof fortune that you have a family that will visit. All the best to you and thanks for the comment.

  3. Grenadine in lemonade with a morello cherry; a wooden box of tangerines wrapped in tissue; two plastic bells free with the soap flakes to hang on the tree; the smell of Poppa’s after dinner cigar. That was the real Christmas. Anything else is a charade. Roll on 1st January, I say. But seasonal good wishes to you and yours, Andrew. I shall think of you with the bread and butter pud alternative and wish we’d done the same 😊🎄🎄🎄

    • Thank you Jenny. Warmly reciprocated. Ah yes, the plastic bells. Probably made in Hong Kong. Not sure about the cherry though. I am the Ghost of Christmas Past 👻

  4. You have collected quite a crew of bah-humbugs around you, it seems. And, that includes me.

    Christmas was simple, but wonderful all those decades ago in wintery prairie Canada. The local school board gave each child a mandarin orange, some nuts and a juicy apple. We thought there was nothing better in the world.

    Yes, I agree about the result in Alabama. I don’t even get so excited about our own election!

  5. We’ve never had elaborate Christmas festivities. The nicest part is having the family together and the second best thing is anticipating the start of the Boxing Day test at the MCG.😀 Happy Christmas to you.

    • Well Worth hope the Ashes are still alive on Boxing Day. A sort of fight back today but a long way to go. Agree 100% on family. Here Christmas is a distant runner up to The Winter Solstice, Lunar NY and probably the Mid-Autumn Festival. So nothing special for the locals. Happy Christmas.

  6. Glad things are coming together in your new home.
    I’m with you, and most of your commenters it appears, I only enjoy Christmas, because I get about 3 wks off!
    For the last 5 years, we’ve gone South to enjoy the milder weather and get away from family 🤤 OK, I’m joking there, but hubby’s side is full of kids and other grandparents, that they don’t have time for us and we schedule Xmas sometime in January. My father is in Hawaii and my brother can’t plan anything, as he plows for a city and can get called in anytime.
    I feel there is less and less fanfare every year… not so much in the ‘I’m going to buy myself Xmas gifts’, but in the decoration of houses and parties. Neither my hubby’s company nor mine have parties.. but thank goodness the Xmas bonuses still happen! 💰

  7. Its good to see you kicking about you and the Mrs,I’m glad you are somewhat back to your old self and I hope that I will get to see you more regularly,A Merry Merry, aflalala or as it was Sheldon

  8. I’m only a month late reading this mistletoe epistle. Christmases are a bit flat these days now that the children are grown, but to my surprise there is a new ritual of cooking Christmas dinner with my son. I had to chuckle, because his gift to us was a bluetooth speaker for the (not terribly)smart TV. When the hoopla is over I creep gratefully back to my studio where my old cd player awaits.
    May your New Year be full of joy and posing birds and butterflies.

  9. 😂 you’re like my Mum she was amazed over Christmas that I put You Tube yoga videos on her tv to exercise to and introduced her to Amazon Prime box sets she didn’t even know she had because it’s with her Amazon account to get free deliveries. She had her phone announcing to the world who was calling her and couldn’t figure out how to stop it and just have a ring tone. It’s just all too much trouble. She loves Christmas though and wouldn’t like virtual cards, well it would be difficult because she doesn’t do Facebook! Hope you settle in your new home happily this year 🙋🏼

    • I was exactly the same. Amazon sent me a letter asking why I never watched the free movies! They don’t do Prime in HK unfortunately so its bye-bye Amazon now. Settling in fine, thank you Charlotte.

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