Friday, 31 December 2010

From ice flows on the river to dull drab and damp

All round this has been a strange Christmas. Finally after five weeks of snow and ice has really started to disappear and we can finally get about fairly easily again. In the weeks leading up to Christmas it looked like all the best laid plans would come to nothing. Our Christmas invite for this year involved people arriving from deep within the Highlands where they were icicles longer than 3 feet hanging off their roof, someone’s mother trapped up an inaccessible road covered in ice, the hostess and her daughter somewhere in Germany where for the first time in living memory transport was being disrupted by the snow and  us constantly digging out our driveway to get up to the road only to wake the next morning and find it just as bad as before. I have had lots of exercise recently! It has ruined my nails!
This is an austerity Christmas, we could have just put up a fake tree which I saved from the dump a few years ago but this year I decided to dig up the tree from the front garden which has been growing for about 10 years and for the last four or five has had permanent mirror balls hanging from its branches. I’m not a great fan of Christmas decorating the tree has always been an interesting focus for the time of year and feels quite pagan  which is more where my sympathies lie. A couple of weeks ago there was a two day mild period when the snow finally left its branches and I was straight out to dig up the tree. It was a lot tougher than I had anticipated with the ground being so hard and thick roots heading off in every direction, branches being low to the ground didn’t help and I wanted to look of a natural tree rather fun the stereotypical symmetrical Christmas tree. I certainly got that and at just under 8 feet tall is quite impressive.
I used to like to collect glass ornaments to supplement the ancient decorations from various childhoods which fill the decorating box but this year the only addition is a cute blue plastic dolls shoe which I found in a buried sandpit from Julie’s childhood over half a century ago. It is the sky blue Cinderella number three for any collectors out there. Decoration of the tree took 2 ½ CDs though most of the work got done during Marianne Faithfull’s broken English! Something a little punkish certainly speeded  me up.
Everyone managed to the Christmas dinner which was mainly a reunion of friends whom managed to get out to France for the opening of my exhibition in May. As agreed token presents were exchanged, there must be something in the air that caused us all to go out and buy fine porcelain mugs of varying designs, each saying something about the person who bought the  mug and what they thought of the taste of the person they were buying for. An interesting game! I also handed out certificates each offering a souvenir picture of their choice from those which remain from the French exhibition, that way as they have to visit me again fairly soon!
At home we gave each other a supply of gas for the heating which has been running fairly hard for the last five weeks. I did get a real present, not really a Christmas present that a birthday present which took over two weeks in the post and only arrived on Christmas Eve. From a very understanding sister I received a small Chanel bag containing a bottle of nail colour, a little bit more adult than my normal choice this time “509 Paradoxal”. I thought I had seen my last bottle of Chanel, quite my favourite was a superfine ground pigments. Shame that the snow clearance has take it’s toll on the nails which had been cosseted for this round of socialising.
Normally we would walk around the town to distribute cards to friends and days would vanish with impromptu bottles of wine and meals but this year few ventured forth on the ice and those who posted all their cards found that they took two weeks or more to travel a couple of streets away! Two arrived today, one posted on the 11 th. The other yesterday and further away. Now that the snow has cleared from the roads except where it is piled in hills of ice there has been a sudden rush of dinner invites. The one where one of the other guests was a bishop stands out, nice guy and happy to laugh. At one point I complained about some of the kindergarden versions of the bible in use now instead of the ancient poetic versions from the past then stood back to watch. I don’t care about the bible just the language! The Queen had been on about the 400 year old King James version which they seemed to like but tended to use some other intelligent translation of greater scholarship… By then I was deep into hair and shoes with the hostess…
Our turn to stage the new year’s day lunch party so had better get up and go shopping, well in a few hours time this morning.
I am trying to think if I did anything interesting this year for a round up post, shall sleep on it.
May this New Year bring my readers all they wish for.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas to Christmas.

Christmas to Christmas from C Russelle on Vimeo.

This is not for everyone. It takes an age, 13.5 minutes of your life and you get to choose your own musical accompaniment since I don't wish to upset anybody by advertising their music here. I would recommend an evening raga for suitable mood and length. I used to be a serious photographer but I can only see a blurry screen on the digital most of the time but have learned to relax and wave it about with fingers crossed.

Until quite recently I would dodge any camera even in the distance but it was pointed out to me recently that I now smile and encourage its examining eye. The ravages of time and testosterone have ensured that I am no beauty but I can live with what I have.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Happy Christmas to all (except one)

Christmas is looming and all the long laid plans to spend it with friends may well come to nothing because of the snow and ice which has now been around for nearly a month. If all else fails we have a cupboard full of beans! Tonight we had a better celebration anyway, a solstice / Yule meal of an exquisite roasted runabout chicken and the most expensive bottle of wine in the house courtesy of a friend.
We should have been visiting Glasgow today for my gender clinic appointment but since the car has only ventured out of the garage on those two days of brief thaw last week the thought of driving 190 miles just to say hello to a friendly doctor who just really wants to see that I'm still alive hardly seemed a sensible risk. Hopefully this ghastly snow and ice will be gone by February when I get the next appointment but sadly so will the exhibition Julie wished to see. Waste of a good haircut, he could have seen me looking at my best, the next appointment is two days before my next hairdressing appointment! Oh well.
The Christmas tree which has been growing in the front garden for nearly 10 years put on such a spurt of growth this year that it had completely filled its allocated space. For about the last four or five years it has had a set of mirror ball decorations hanging on it all year round since I was unable to remove them once the tree started to grow. What a huge effort it took to dig out, the ground being so hard and access through the branches so difficult but now it stands about 8 feet tall with a fair degree of character rather than me normal idealised symmetrical Christmas tree. Perhaps there is something of a pagan in me as I enjoy “celebrating” the tree with decorations collected from many sources. For many years I've been buying new glass ornaments to supplement those collected from various of our family and even friends who thought they were throwing theirs out only for me to catch them! This year, partly because of the snow and ice and partly through lack of cash the acquisition of new decorations is in abeyance but I did find one new decoration when I dug up a bright blue "Cinderella number three" toy dolls shoe which had been buried in Julie's sand pit probably at the end of the 1940s! The pit became exposed when I started digging out the route of a rampway through the garden and after two days soaking came up like new and is now front and centre on the tree.
Despite not being able to get our car out onto the road on the hill behind the house others have had little problem arriving at the front and we have had numerous meals with friends in the last week or so including an almost birthday party for me which is excellent because nobody had to sing though these days that does not embarrass me as much use to.
Julie used to send their huge numbers of Christmas cards and send them all over the world at great expense. This year the order placed in early November has only just arrived and was half what she normally used to send, big saving there. Each year she sends out an annual report to many of her friends but not having access to the cheap works colour printer this year she hasn't sent out to many actual sheets but has moved into the electronic age. Though having seen her friends six page PDF Christmas letter thing next year she is setting her sights higher and all at next to no cost, getting the message at last.
Getting the message at last is the widest circle of friends many of whom sometimes only have the Christmas catch up Epistle. This year everybody has voted our letter the most surprising and interesting, I can't think why! The phone has not stopped ringing!
My greatest disappointment at not being able to get out these last few weeks is not finding a decent pair of earrings for Christmas. I was even more disappointed when my friend's wife turned up with sparkly crystal Christmas trees hanging from each ear and all I have is the clip on Christmas puddings which she gave me last year when I said I had nothing to wear, I wasn't sure she hadn't done this as a form of torture since the clips are so hard. Some form of improvisation is required here to save the pain on the ears.
We have been saved the expense of special paper to wrap presents this Christmas since there aren't any! We are each getting gas for the central heating and that is difficult to wrap, as presents go this is the best we could possibly have hoped for and are both delighted.
I have just seen the time and I have just seen the time and have to get up fairly early to see someone so there is no time to post any pictures, hopefully I will get some  up soon.


Sunday, 12 December 2010


Some things are rare and a ME ME ME day is one of the rarest.
Mobility has been severely restricted for two and a half weeks and I live in what should be and for a long time was a magically charmed corner of the country being one of the sunniest and driest places where snow was never more than a brief amusement and usually melted before it could be recorded on film.
When I first came here as a student 40 years ago everyone warned me that I would need thick coats and strong warm boots to survive the Arctic conditions  but I have survived wearing sandals ever since I arrived! When I finally got the car up the drive and onto this slippy hill yesterday to go to my hairdressing appointment a couple of miles or so along the river in the next town I was in the car before I realised that sandals might not have been the best choice that day. As it was I was able to skip over the piles of ice and rivulets of meltwater a mere 40 feet to the salon from my parking place and on opening the door found piles of abandoned boots from all the other customers.
This was only my second visit to have Sally cut my hair but already we are like long-term pal’s and I am now able to relax and enjoy the experience, no wonder some people go so often. She forgave me the cheap home colour job and was not too harsh about it's lack of perfection in evenness! The time flashes by quickly when you’re enjoying yourself and am happy to let her use her experience to cut it the way she thinks it will suit me. I’m sure she has a long-term plan about what she would like to try but is prepared to take me there in stages. This time I paid more attention to her lesson on how to use the hot air brush, her eyes lit up when I told her I had bought one as instructed, we are on this project together!

Thank goodness that the snow has begun to thaw and finally Julie is able to get out and  see some of the world again even if it was only a trip to and round the supermarket to stock up for the next deep-freeze forecast to start next week. Nice to have a pile of fresh vegetables again. We had hardly packed everything away at home and scrambled a few eggs when it was time for me to head off again, this time to visit Ali  for the session of electrolysis which I was unable to reach on Monday because we were both snowed in. I had apologised to Sally about the hairy state of my upper lip and chin explaining that it should have been  cleared days before, she said I had less than many of her other genetic customers! After all these years perhaps the end is in sight, a quick social visit is all that it takes to tidy up these remaining stragglers. Ali is great, insists he wants to do something with my eyes so she played with the eyelashes, curling and dying  them as well as waxing the eyebrows back into  a neat shape all the while chatting about the disaster of being cut off by the snow, the family had all pulled together along with the local farmer and his tractor to clear the road whilst all their richer neighbours failed to lift a finger to help. What started years ago as a customer client relationship has long turned into a  friendship so it all got a bit emotional when I insisted on making a contribution towards the cost of the farmers help or a Christmas treat to cheer her up. Money is no use if you don't do something interesting with it, I don’t have very much and we will not be giving each other Christmas presents just for the sake of it  though we have joked that we will each receive a large quantity of gas each towards the heating bills as this year’s present and this sounds like the perfect present.

By the time I set off home it was starting to get dark as I sailed through the lakes of meltwater and then joined an endless line of traffic heading towards the city centre. This gave me the chance  to confuse other motorists by being polite allowing them to cross in front of me or join us on the main road, they just don’t expect this and get into a fluster of confusion for a moment more used to road rage and aggression! The slow speed of traffic allowed my brain to come online and I realised I was passing a footwear outlet so decided to risk getting stuck in the car park for the chance to buy some shoes which wouldn’t let  in water. I could not believe my luck! By some miracle they had something to encase my enormous feet. I found one pair of boots which fitted, who cares what they looked like or what they were made of or the fact that they made me an extra 2 inches taller than I already am, they fitted! The view from up here is amazing! Until yesterday the only shoes I had were bright red patent leather party shoes and the last thing I was going to do in those  was walkabout in salty slush.
I was soon on my way home and luckily the one-way street up the hill had been cleared and from the top I was able to gingerly make my way back down towards my driveway and bump over the ice to get back into the cosy garage. There was a little time to tidy up around the house,  lay the dining table  for five and quickly get changed before friends came round for a meal. There’s little more congenial than an evening sipping wine and sharing a meal with friends especially when all the preparation was done the day before and you are able to fully engage without missing much of the conversation. Our design professor friend over from Canada once more and the couple he likes to visit on these trips provided ample entertainment for the evening as the reminisced about interesting events in their crisscrossed lives. Sometimes at times like this I can feel like I’ve missed out on so much possibility in this life but then again have done far more than I ever imagined I would even though many people would find my life quite boring. One interesting fact I have noticed, and others have too, is that over the last couple of years I have become less vocal at these dinners and more content to sit quietly in the background and just enjoy the company. Who would have thought I would transform into a wallflower!
Thankfully on the Saturday the nature of the thaw has changed and we have not been left with great lakes off slush and the ice appears to be sublimating and with luck we shall drive  off to a Sunday lunch with little trouble and even more important somewhere to park when we get there.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Break out tomorrow!

The low road here has sort of been cleared, shame the huge piles of ice now block the drainage channels and drain covers!

Hairdressing appointment so will get out onto top road and slither down to the main road, which is now fairly clear, to the next town along the river come what may!

Have to arrive with hairy chin and lip since could not get to electrolysis on Monday and have afternoon time slot arranged.

Not much getting through to the supermarkets in the city according to the news since the east west motorway has been closed for two days and others difficult to pass, fuel has run out of many petrol stations and only now starting to get through again.

Naturally I have a GIC appointment in less than two weeks on the other side of the country!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Unfriendly picture.

On following friends lists I have the worst image on blogger, not even blank but a question mark in a blue square!

I have removed and reinstalled pictures on my profile and on my google profile to no avail. Does anyone have any suggestions how to fix this, google help does not!?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A post in the colour of dirty snow

Dull pictures compared to those others have posted!

Just about the longest time between posts. It was getting a bit messy and depressing here with name calling and harassment going on in our usually quiet supportive corner of the net. Once I got into read and comment mode posting slipped out of my mind and I lost my thread!
My neighbour is almost back to his old self though gets a bit tired in the afternoons, they have been back round for a meal with us which gave me an hours exercise to dig out a safe path.
A few days vanished with another cold then the snow started to fall eleven days ago and has fallen everyday since. Nobody can ever remember anything like this before and certainly nobody has experienced thunder and lightning with snow round here before.
Our local taxes no longer get us road clearance even though the local health centre is on our street, we are category 4 which is as low as it is possible to be and a nuisance being on a hill with snow and ice right down to the edge of the main road, not an inch of braking zone to play with going down and no help with traction to get back so have not moved out of the garage since the 23rd of November and have no idea when we will ever move again.
Luckily I decided to make a supermarket trip that evening before the forecast snow “showers” and did a normal weeks shop. The first flakes were falling as we left the car-park, for once I decided to garage the car even though it was a little wet otherwise it would be lost under a frozen snow drift at the bottom of a slippy slope. We have a few shops in the small town where I live but when I went out to see if there were any basic supplies available yesterday the last delivery they had had was on the previous Saturday and many of the food shelves were bare and what was remaining took some imagination to transform into a meal. This evening at 9 pm. I made another trek to the shops with more success returning with eggs, milk, bread and even some vegetables and a bag of apples and most important a few heads of garlic! If we can stop inviting folk round to eat we are OK for perhaps four to five days.
We should not be grumbling about this small quantity of snow and the few inconveniences and only two power cuts compared to a friends experience he was telling us about just after my last post. He was in Antarctica making photographs when a storm started up so their group took shelter in a camp for 50 people and since there were only twenty odd in the group that seemed cosy enough. The storm grew to encompass the whole continent so more started to be drawn to the camp’s safety in what became a white out blizzard where you could not see a hand on an extended arm! Eventually there were over 200 in the tented camp waiting out the storm. After 17 days all the food ran out and they were without any food for the last four days before the storm broke. The last week or so had been our busiest scheduled week for six months and all has been cancelled, even medical appointments in the same street since the doctors can’t get here! I think of our friend and all is put into perspective.
The country has ground to a halt, most trains have stopped and the road bridge over the Firth of Forth has been closed to traffic for the first time ever because of snow, it was opened in the 60’s. Friends have reported seeing -17 C, 1.4 F though there have been some lower readings reported on the news. My first year in this country 40 years ago I saw about four flakes drift past  the window while I was recovering from an appendix operation and have survived most winters wearing sandals since. I have had to dig out boots, not as inelegant as they could be being Italian, which I used to walk the hills many decades ago just to be able be able to get over the mess created by the inept clearance attempts which have all been made to block any drainage when we finally get a thaw.
That should have just got posted but here I am a day later having like many others spent time digging out through the eight inches of snow. Once out many just slid into parked cars since they have no idea what to do on snow and ice many seem to thing that it has no effect on grip or braking at all! Food is slowly getting back into the shops but there is a limit to how much I will risk carrying in these conditions. The roadside salt bins being empty someone is making a killing selling bags of the stuff in carry-able portions, one in each hand aids grip but my the arms ache when you get home. I am hoping for an escape on Monday to get an electrolysis clear up session on lips and chin and round my hairy nipples, Ali says that I am now just a typical female customer!