Well, Thursday and Friday evenings were taken up with committee meetings, but Thursday's was hopefully productive, and Friday's had the most gorgeous gingerbread and lovely dogs. I am intrinsically against small dogs, preferring big floppy gun dogs to small yappy fake things, but Clive's dogs are singlehandedly converting me. He has a small foreign dog that combines all the best features of foxes and teddy bears, and is blind, gentle and sweet natured, and a brand new rescue dog called Chipper who will look (and act?) like a puppy for the rest of his life, and is incredably cute. When I am old I want to own a boat and live in a huge house by the Cam surrounded by dogs and watching the rowers.
I am getting to grips with my Christmas shopping. There are two moods I can end up in when Christmas shopping; the Good Mood, where I find what I want to buy people, I find things I didn't even realise I wanted to buy people that are perfect, and I generally enjoy abusing my debit card and have an optimistic air that the things I'm wasting money on might really make people smile. The Bad Mood is when panic sets in, when I've spent two hours wandering round not knowing what I'm looking for and not buying anything, and stand in the middle of the shop holding the last geomag unable to move because it's the last one
, and if I put it down someone else will buy it, and it's Very Cheap, but I can't think of anyone who I haven't aready given vast quantities of geomag to who would like it, and I start to fear that all I am doing is burning money to move tat round the country and everyone would be much happier if they just bought what they wanted, instead of having their home cluttered up by other peoples taste in rubbish... This year I have managed to maintain the Good Mood for a remarkably high percentage of the time I've been shopping, and have almost enjoyed myself. I'm such a girl, getting so happy about spending money. And because I went to pick up a "parcel"* of M's, I've discovered shops I didn't know existed in Cambridge. I think you know you're old when a Homebase is an Exciting New Discovery. However, the Babies R Us wasn't selling any babies, despite the misleading name, so I didn't get M one for Christmas.
This weekend has been lovely. Saturday was a Queens' people reunion, so after I'd finished running round like a headless chicken I went off to the happy home of Dangradan for my first Christmas of the year. That is a gorgeous house, it's such a shame the landlord's taking it back off them this summer. I hope it's not just a cynical ploy to hike the rent up into line with the rest of Cambridge. It was so weird but so nice, to be back with the Queens' crowd, Rhian and Will and Kate and Cathy and Joe and Derek and Richard and Daniel and Graham and Danny and Mark... a blast from the past, just being surrounded by friendly faces that you've known for six years. And for once the wine made me relaxed and happy, instead of bitter and twisted that they had graduate jobs, and PhDs and other things. I even managed to confess to that dark secret that I have been hiding and only discussing with close friends at midnight, that I failed the Civil Service tests, and it was remarkably easy**. I have not been instantly dropped as a friend / fiancee / person to talk to about maths and Stuff now my stupidity is known. This makes me happier :-) There was lots of incredably good food, with special compliments to the brandy butter, the Double-stuffed Stuffing, and the womens' weekly cocktails. I miss them all. They have all changed for the better, and yet are all still the same people that I know and love.
Cathy stayed at HHM for the evening, so we sat and talked with M until I practically fell asleep. On Sunday I went off down to London, for Christmas Take Two with the light entertainers. You know you're getting old when even the people in ALES seem young. I stole Noga for an hour to go for hot chocolate and gossip, and t'was good, and the meal was great too, with Ben, and Penny and James (who are now finally living together in a Manor House which is how the world should be) and David Waller, who I hadn't seen for ages and is as wrapped up in wedding plans as I am now, and Rachel. Then I sloped off early to go iceskating with Sebby at Greenwitch. As I've wanted to go to Greenwitch since I was a 10 yr old reading the Deptford Mice it was quite a pilgrimage for me in its own sweet way - I saw the Cutty Sark! And I hadn't been iceskating for far too long, and it remains one of my favourite things in the world*** especially with the stars shining, the beautiful buildings of the maritime museum all around, and the cheesy christmas music playing happilly. And on top of all this was the most excellent company. There are few people who would let me leap off a train at Mudshoot to see what was there, and the ones that I know are precious and should be cherished. Even if they can't be trusted to order a sensibly sized Naan bread. In future I will put my foot down and insist that my carbohydrates should be smaller than the table on which they are placed :-)
It's been a wonderful weekend.
*£1.21 for a Christmas card for Matthew from some people I don't know in Surrey who can't be bothered to put a stamp on it! And I had to queue for half an hour! It's a good job I'm so happy I don't get upset about these things.
** It's very hard to talk about this without coming across as a mad paranoid freak who can't cope with failing things. However, it's very odd to be told that you we unsuccessful at a test, and have your only feedback be that you were "above average" at both tests. Especially when you were told you'd pass all the practise tests on their website, and got all the pratise questions from the careers service precisely right. Add to this the fact that I now have anecdotal evidence of at least 4 other people who I or their friends would regard as "very clever" failing the tests. Now add to that the fact that I have only heard of one person who passed said tests, and her
feedback was that she was "average" at verbal reasoning and "above average" at numerical reasoning. It's all very strange. But my "Are you sure there hasn't been some mistake, your feedback makes no sense" mail to the Civil Service just got a "Get a grip, lots of people take these tests and it is _very_ hard, you know" response, so I suppose now is a good point to let it slide and not get worked up over it. I'm not bitter (well, not very) I'm just confused
*** If the whole day hadn't been so magical I would complain about the incredable overpricing of the worlds smallest icerink for the worlds shortest session, but it was, so I won't.