ME and Ophelia

Friday, December 23, 2005

59th Norwegian Christmas tree in London's Trafalger Square

Happy Christmas Blogmates

Hello Dear Blogmates,

The reason I am posting below copy of email sent to a friend December 22 is because it represents definite progress since last Christmas when I had to let the whole thing pass me by. I wish to file it here, along with the recipe, for future reference. Another reason is, I cannot manage to compose a new Christmas post from scratch as I need to catch up on my Africa blogs and finish drafting a post for Sudan Watch to publicise Christmas Edition of Spotlight on Darfur.

Here is a copy of the email, with [--] inserted to show where I've deleted personal identifying details:

" ... Had to look up the TV guide to see what day of the week it was. Today feels like Wednesday. This week has gone by in a blur.

Last July, I bought Christmas cards online from unicef to get them ready by Dec 1. Addressed most of envelopes but after missing deadline, decided to write them during Christmas and send in January as New Year cards. Felt guilty last week so called Guernsey and sent flower cards to family and friends. They arrived earlier than expected, so phone keeps ringing.

On Friday morning, before I'd eaten anything, nurse phoned at 8.30 springing her surprise visit 9.30 am same day for a cholestoral test. [--] phoned at 9am thanking me for flowers exclaiming "Where are you!" [--] phoned 9.15 am [--]. All of this inbetween trying to take a bath, feed Ophelia and sort mail. Can't recall rest of day, cooked something, think it involved tin of red salmon on hot rice with fruit and lemon. Went to bed early.

Saturday, wanted to stay offline and rest to email [--] Sunday. Email arrived from Catez of Allthings2all in New Zealand inviting me to host a blog burst on the Sudan, needing same day reply. Sorry had to turn it down. Fell into deep sleep on couch. Tap, tap, tap on window. What a surprise, it was [--] who always phones before visits but had no time. Under one arm was curtains. Under the other arm was more curtains - and a three-step ladder - [--] was in fifth gear.

Both pairs of curtains were matching, striped canvas and brand new. [--] found them at a charity shop and got them on approval to see if they'd fit. One pair did not fit main window but was fine for window by couch which overlooks brick wall. When [--] and I have five-minute ideas, they always turn into 2-4 hour projects with hours of work afterwards. Existing curtain pole was too long and heavy for [--] to lift so I had to get up on chair and help. Since we're both picky, there were lots of trips up and down on chair, trying something, standing back, discussing and changing back again. Curtain is up now and will look better after one foot is sawn from pole - and pole plus window frame and fixings are painted white.

The new curtain colours changed aesthetics of surroundings like lamp, cushions, chair covers and rug. One thing led to another and things from other rooms got swapped around. Figuring what to do with other pair of curtains, we decided on bathroom which meant finding a curtain pole and standing in bathtub trying curtain for size on pole. Worked fine. Now I have to find where I have stored fixings for pole - and get fixings and pole painted white and installed on window frame.

A few months ago, bathroom was stripped of carpet and shelving when new tongue and groove panelling was installed on bathtub. Walls should have been painted last Tuesday but only half of wallpaper was stripped, revealing 50 or more raw plugs and old screws embedded in walls. Either previous occupants over past 50-70 years had varying ideas - or the screws are holding up wall panelling which means walls will have to be paper lined before painting. As it's bone dry here with not a patch of damp anywhere, I wondered about the reason for the heavily embossed wallpaper in each room. Now I know why.

We then planned on how to affix a large mirror [--] had given me with no chain. And I showed [--] some recently arrived mail order items. We agreed they had to be returned. After [--] left at 6pm, I spent an hour or more re-packing the order. And cooked two days of chicken stir fry and rice but was too exhausted to eat so went to bed early.

Awoke early on Sunday feeling not very OK. Had chicken and rice for breakfast :) [--] phoned at 9.30am to discuss idea for painting something. [--] called back exclaiming "Where are you!" wanting to know what doctor said and did I want her [--]. Had to cut short another phone call from old friend in London. Eyes were burning but had to do more shopping online to replace the returns in time before Christmas. When over tired everytthing takes so much longer to do. Went to bed early, had a bad night, got Ophelia's routine upside down so she awoke 4.30 am to play and go out.

Monday 7am unlocked back gate and kept kitchen door open to hear binmen who pick up each Monday from inside back courtyard. They ran in and out so quickly, I had to rush down back steps and call out cuckoo to catch their attention to give them money for their Christmas box.

At 8am I phoned [--] to change visit from 9am that day to Friday as I could not get shopping list done in time and will need help preparing turkey, vegetables etc., and getting turkey in oven by Friday morning. Needed to blog Africa but only managed draft. My newsfeed now has 2,000 unread items.

We've had terrific sunny hot weather last few days, can sunbathe indoors around noon when sun shines directly in from open window. Put laundry load on washing on line. Rested in sun. Played around with some new makeup, choosing which lipsticks to give to my mother for Christmas. Tap, tap, tap on door - receptionist from [--] to deliver zinc tablets from doctor. Ten minutes later, tap, tap, tap ... mail order delivery ... and so it went on. Constant activity with too much walking around and not enough rest inbetween.

If I don't answer door, callers tap on window. If I don't answer phone, some people call my mobile. If I don't answer mobile, they get worried. By Monday I wanted to unplug it all and take Ophelia into back bedroom and shut door where outside forces couldn't reach us. But it might cause brother or [--] to drive over here and tap on window.

Last week, [--] took my mobile phone to [--] for new battery. Turns out screen was on blink and new phone was needed which involved four calls over 1.5 hours to and fro with [--] having to go from shop to another branch in next street. New phone has different set of buttons which means reading manual and another new thing this week to deal with.

Today, I arranged for courier to pick up mail order box tomorrow. Took me over an hour to complete returns slip, tape and label box. Phoned a shop to order multi vitamins (took three calls) Floridix and Q10 recommended by GP. [--] will pick them up, so called and left message for [--]. Wrote cheque for newsagent and card with Christmas money for delivery person. Finalised shopping list for Friday, wrote cheque authorisation letter for [--] to take to bank and phoned three local shops to have goods ready for pick up. Tomorrow, I have to phone butcher to deliver turkey on Thursday.

My new resting technique is not working under these circumstances. I'd secretly hoped to make it to my brother's on Christmas Day where his partner, her children, his children and my mother will be for lunch but doubt now if I can make it. Glad I didn't tell anyone.

[--] just called with a recipe for bread sauce, red cabbage - and this turkey paste by Clement Freud which I tried Christmas before last (and added few cloves of garlic under skin of bird) - it really is superb and results in perfect ready made gravy, great colour with no need for thickening:

1 dessertspoon Colemans mustard powder
1 dessertspoon Worcestor sauce
2 dessertspoon salt
1 dessertspoon olive oil
1 teaspon crushed or ground black pepper
1 rounded tablespoon treacle.
Mix everything well together.
Paint over turkey stuffed with fresh oranges, quartered.
Wrap in foil and cook.
Open up (and paint melted butter on top and breasts if desired) to brown during last half hour or so.

Merry Christmas dear blogmates - thanks for all your messages and another fascinating year. Please forgive me if I owe you a reply. Will try and catch up with everything in New Year.

Blog love from Ingrid and Ophelia xx

Happy Christmas

The 59th Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square was lit on 29 November, 2005.

Note, the first tree was brought over in 1947 as a token of Norwegian appreciation of British friendship during the Second World War. When Norway was invaded by German forces in 1940, King Haakon VII escaped to Britain and a Norwegian exile government was set up in London.

To most Norwegians, London came to represent the spirit of freedom during those difficult years. From London, the latest war news was broadcast in Norwegian, along with a message and information network which became vital to the resistance movement and which gave the people in Norway inspiration and hope of liberation.

The tree has become a symbol of the close and warm relationship between the people of Britain and Norway. Norwegians are happy and proud that this token of their friendship - probably the most famous Christmas tree in the world - seems to have become so much a part of Christmas for Londoners.

The tree itself, a Norwegian spruce (Picea abies), is chosen with great care. Selected from the forests surrounding Oslo, it is normally earmarked for its pride of place in London’s Trafalgar Square several months, even years, in advance. The Norwegian foresters who look after it describe it fondly as 'the queen of the forest'. This year, however, the tree will be chosen by a young viewer of the BBC’s children’s programme Blue Peter.

The tree is cut down one day in November during a ceremony in which the Lord Mayor of Westminster, the British ambassador to Norway and the Mayor of Oslo take active part. Most years, the first snow will have just fallen to brighten the otherwise dark forest. Local and international schoolchildren sing Christmas carols and the city authorities serve 'forest coffee' and sandwiches.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 12/23/2005 0 comments

Friday, December 09, 2005

And customary sun-downer of brandy and dry ginger ale

The oldest person in the UK has died at the age of 113.

Lucy d'Abreu, who was born in India in 1892, passed away peacefully at a nursing home in Stirling on Wednesday.

Mrs d'Abreu lived through the reigns of six monarchs, the turn of two centuries and almost every major discovery of the modern world.

Friends said that until the last she enjoyed food, books and conversation.

She attributed her long life to the grace of God and a "customary sun-downer of brandy and dry ginger ale".

Update 10 Dec 2005: UK's 'oldest' man dies, aged 111: The family said his long life was down to his positive outlook and, until recently, a daily half glass of Guinness.

[Recently, I completed an online health quiz that predicted I might live to 91. It won't be long before it becomes the norm to live to 120 and look like a sixty year old of today. I've blogged about this issue in the past. The ramifications are complicated and will change society as we know it today. Here below is a copy of a previous post]
- - -

Hormone could be the elixir of youth

Feb 17, 2005 report in the Scotsman reveals that scientists have moved a step closer to identifying the elusive "elixir of life" after extending the lifespan of laboratory mice. Dr Richard Faragher, an expert in anti-ageing biology at Brighton University, explained:

"There is a tremendous amount of interest at the moment in regenerative medicine, basically because it has applications in a very wide range of medical conditions. In this study the majority of the repair processes that they are picking up in the old mouse are from the activation of old progenitor cells by the hormone from the younger mouse. This means the old animal, for reasons that are not clear, is lacking hormones that make the cells grow.

It has the progenitor cells that could grow if you gave them the right signal, but the hormones that tell it to do this are not present. What they have achieved by hooking up the blood supply is to introduce these hormones and as a result they have found that the progenitor cells can still wake up."

While replicating such results in humans is still the work of science fiction, the finding could have far-reaching implications, both for medical science and for the youth-obsessed cosmetic industry. It may even leap-frog the necessity for stem cell research into understanding ageing.