‘December tastes like Hershey’s Kisses. The month of December and those little Hershey’s Kisses candies are connected in a waythat I can’t quite artuculate. For me, at least. I o know that eating a Hershey’s Kiss is an act of communion—like taking a tiny of December into myself. I don’t like eating them at other times of the year, because I don’t want that special association to fade.’
Unfortunately there were no Hershey Kisses candies for me. Instead were yummy milk chocolates from my Frozen advent calendar. Advent was the start of the Christmas season and the calendar was a countdown to the festive season. It was usually for children but now an adult version was also available and much more expensive.
But how festive can it be when our MP’s voted in favour of air strikes against Islamic state in Syria. I was totally and utterly distraught at the outcome of the vote. I have no words. The PM had been unable to explain how these air strikes would make any impact when Syria was already being bombed by the US, France, Russia and other powers.
The government don’t seemed to have learnt its lessons from Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. For me, dealing with terrorism should start with stopping arm sales to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and other reactionary regimes in the region. It was unbelievable that the Conservative government had licensed £5.6 billion in arm sales to Saudi Arabia since Cameron came to power!!! Shutting down the ISIS sources of funding was essential notably from Saudi Arabia which was also the centre of support for Al Qaeda. It must also include Turkey, a NATO member, which kept open its border with Syria, allowing ISIS to cross and sell lucrative oil.
“The arms trade-an intricate web of networks between the formal and shadow worlds, between government, commerce and criminality—often makes us poorer, not richer, less not more safe, and governed not in our own interests but for the benefit of a small, serving elite, seemingly above the law, protected by the secrecy of national security and accountable to no one.”
~Andrew Feinstein, The Shadow World~
Breathe in and out very S-L-O-W-L-Y…
Meanwhile December had arrived for Coventry but no one felt like it was Christmas yet. November was the warmest for over two decades across the region. Hardly a hint of winter during the early part of the month, with mild and windy weather as we experienced balmy December temperatures. There were cloudy nights, although breezy and mild followed with minimum temperatures hitting double digits and drizzly patches during the day.
It was hard to be festive when December veiled the world in fog and grey mists. But we’d to start somewhere. First was our pilgrimage to Solihull to purchase a Christmas bauble and it had to be from John Lewis. We’d been doing this eversince we moved to Coventry. I took Friday afternoon off for our adventure and not surprisingly, Solihull was buzzing. Thankfully, we managed to find a parking space on the roof top parking of M&S. We checked out Maplins for an outdoor temperature gauge for the car but we couldn’t find any.
We browsed the German Christmas stalls scattered around Touchwood but nothing caught my attention. We went into the Mall and went straight to John Lewis. A pity that the main Christmas displays by the escalator wasn’t up to my expectations. After browsing the shelves, I finally found the bauble that will be added to the tree.
“I love Christmas, not just because of the presents but because of all the decorations and lighting and the warmth of the season.”
We checked a few of my favourite shops like Schuh. I fell in love with a pair of red boots and now saving my pennies to get them. We checked out Lakeland for a spiralizer but we didn’t see any. In Tigger, I bought a few bits and bops. We walked past a group of school children singing Christmas carols and then stopped to admire this very expensive car, a Teslar. Then it was time to head home before the Friday traffic populate the roads.
“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more”’
December was also the month of eating and more eating. I organised a ‘Not a Xmas dinner’ lunch for my department. I set up a poll and the Farmhouse at Beechwood Avenue came on top. Unfortunately, thiis wasn’t the one I chose. The place seemed to be very popular because it was heaving. All the tables were booked and the manager informed us that the food arrived late. Because of that we’d poppadams with numerous dips on the house. Yum…yum.
We’d a wonderful time perusing the very extensive menu. There were old-fashioned English food with traditionslluy home cooked Indian food. Finally, I chose the mixed Tandoori sizzler. There was 8 of us and we each chose a different dish. It would be interesting to see what our lunch looked like. While waiting, we’d a wonderful time donning up the colourful paper hats, pulling the crackers and laughing at the very awful jokes. I’d a lovely time catching up with RC who was still on maternity leave. She’d decided to extend her leave and will be back at work in December.
“It’s important for me who is at the table with me; the moment when everyone speaks to each other and everyone listens. If there’s good food, it’s much better.”
Then our meal arrived and wow. What a presentation. Mine was a whooper consisting of lamb and chicken tikka, sheek kebabs and jumbo prawns in a sizzling platter. This came with a helping of seasoned rice, vegetable curry and onions with a mini nan in a separate plate. When it arrived, everyone looked with amazement.
We checked each other’s plates out and exchanged what we didn’t want like the thrice-cooked yummy chips from GLW’s plate. He was having the Indian style fish and chips but he was having it with a huge plate of salad instead. Then, everyone went quiet and concentrating on the amazing food. It was so plentiful that I requested a doggy bag, a first for me. But there was still space for a sorbet to cleanse the palate. Unfortunately, the sorbet I chose wasn’t available. Then, it was time to head back to work where we digested our food very s-l-o-w-l-y and pretended to do some work.
At work, I’d been suggesting for a Xmas book tree for years for the entrance but unfortunately that floor wasn’t under my jurisdiction. Boo..hoo. I was so delighted this yearr when I found out 2 very balsy girls from the Community Engagement team decided to build one and I was more than happy to give my input. All these books were discarded copies and due to time constraints, they managed to build this amazing tree. Creating a book tree was like building a pyramid with mismatching blocks. I suggested to them to ask the Librarian to put the Library mascot, Kirby, on top of the tree instead of a fairy. And wallah…
“The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!”
~Charles N. Barnard~
The tree was a hit as staff gathered and students posed for photographs. It became the centre-piece for a group photograph when we took part in a selfie for the Warwick Xmas dress down. We wore some really serious out of this world jumpers and got involved to fund-raise for the Cancer Research Centre. It was a challenge to get everyone together to pose and look at the camera at the same time but it was worth the effort.
My exercise class also organised a Christmas pot-luck buffet. Each of us brought something to add to the already groaning table. I bought my piece de resisrance, spring rolls. I deep fried them a day earlier and warmed them in the oven. When we arrived, everyone was dressed in their festive rags and I just had my Christmas jumper on. Eek… I didn’t get the memo. We tucked into the delicious finger food and had a wonderful time catching. There were raffles to be won and party games to be played. Everyone won something. They were still dancing, drinking and eating when we left. We got to get up for work the nest day.
“It’s easy to impress me. I don’t need a fancy party to be happy. Just good friends, good food and good laughs.I’m happy. I’m satisfied. I’m content.”
Then it was staff Christmas lunch at Radcliffe. As usual, I wore a lovely yellow baju kurung, a traditional Malay costume. This year the drinks were being paid by the University because it was the 50th anniversary. We’d our own private room and as soon as we were seated, we puledl the crackers and donned our colourful party hats. Then it was time to tell jokes and have a good laugh over them.
We joined the queue for our starters. I chose the onion soup with a roll. Since the queue for the hot meal was miles long, I had a cold dish of couscous salad with lots of prawns and smoked salmon. It was delicious. Our table was quite loud and everyone was in good spirits. When everything had calmed down a bit, we’d our hot meal. I’d the baked sea bass with lemon caper dressing with daphnoise potatoes and roasted vegetables. Yum…yum.We took our time to finish the meal. Then it was dessert time and unfortunately, I don’t have much choice because I don’t want anything with gelatine or alcohol. The only thing available was fruit salad.
“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first”
After dinner, we waddled into the sitting room for coffee and mince pies. I turned down the mince pies and had roasted nuts instead and all washed down with hot chocolate. We carried on with our conversations until 3 pm when we reluctantly dragged our feet back to work. Did we work??? We just sat and digest silently, wishing the clock would move faster. I didn’t have dinner that night and Babe had pizza instead.
The next day was the end of the year Staff Open Day. It was just an excuse to bring everyone together for the Librarian and company to wish us a safe holiday and to thank us for our hard work. We started the morning with lots and lots of yummy Danish pastries.Then there were quizzes and a few light talks from the arwick Arts Centre, Warwick Learning Account and from out yoga teacher who brought raw vegan chocolate balls for everyone. The Open Day had been light and fun.
Then during lunch, it was the departmental Secret Santa. Again, I brought spring rolls to add to the amazing spread. WP dressed as Santa Elf and distributed the presents. We were allocated £10 each and I received a gorgeous silk scarf and toiletries from my Secret Santa. It was lovely. We spent the afternoon oohing and aahing over each others presents and grazing. There was soooo much party food.
“Christmas without elves isn’t Christmas at all.”
After all these eating, I needed a walk to get rid of them. What better place than our favourite playground. I bet the natives too were getting ready to party. We plodded through the muddy path and checked out the first hide. The water had risen and the main lake was submerged. Cormorants were spreading their wings trying to dry their soaked feathers. In the corner, a Little Grebe fishing skills was successful when it managed to catch a fish.
We continued to East Marsh Hide and sat at our favourite corners, Shovellers were busy shovelling along the mudbanks. There was a large flock of Wigeon grazing on the bank and after they had their fill, they slowly made their way into the lake and was whistling happily away.We spotted a Pintail and a Golden Eye but they were too far away to be photographed. Babe then alerted me to a Water rail that was skulking in the estuary.
We left when it was nearly dark. It was also freezing in the hide. A pity that that there were no more aerial dispalys from the Starlings. They have moved somewhere safer after being constantly harassed by at least 4 Sparrowhawks. We slowly made our way out. On the drive home, we drove through homes gloriously lit with twinkling Christmas lights.
“Christmas begins about the first of December with an office party and ends when you finally realize what you spent, around April fifteenth of the next year.”