Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas – time to check out the decs…

I really feel like Christmas is coming when we go to central London, ostensibly to start our Christmas shopping, but really to see all the Christmas decorations.  Last week we caught a train to Charing Cross and walked to Covent Garden. First on the agenda was a quick stop at the Australia shop to stock up on my fave choccy biscuits. Like vegemite, there is no UK equivalent to the wonderful Arnott’s Choc Ripples – perfect for nibbling, dunking and cheese cake bases and with no nasty additives.

Covent Garden was buzzing with shoppers, street performers and tourists.  We stopped for very tasty, but overpriced, lamb burgers in the street stalls and watched street performers near the Christmas tree in front of St Paul’s Church – also known as the Actors’ Church.

Then it was a short wander through to Oxford Street – always really busy but with people quite friendly and jolly.  I don’t quite know how we always manage to have to walk through the perfume section of the department stores to get to any of the other sections.  I really hate the overpowering smells of them all mingled together and try to find the entrance to avoid them but seldom manage it.

Regent Street always has quite spectacular decs that work so beautifully with the wide curves of the elegant boulevard.  This year the theme is the twelve days of Christmas.

Then it was off to some really posh bits.  New Bond Street is for those with considerably greater incomes than ours but great for checking out the bling. I had a lovely chat to a very friendly Santa - a change from negotiating our way through all the burly and non-communicative security guards guarding the sparkly diamonds and ridiculously expensive watches.  Why anyone needs to spend £50,000 on a watch is completely beyond me – imagine how many choc ripples you could buy for that!

The Tiffany windows were exquisite – each of these was only eighteen inches high and rendered in immaculate miniature detail.

We took a cut through the beautiful Piccadilly Arcade


Then wandered down to Trafalgar Square with the beautiful tree donated by the Norwegian government standing in all its glory.

Inspired by such spectacular decorations it was time to decorate our own tree.  The decorations box represents so many memories of the people who have given different pieces to us over the years.  I love my special Oz ones:

…and my kissing fish from one of my favourite shops in Spitalfields market.


I decided to go all creative with my front door and, taking all the bits from two broken wreaths from previous years, I put them together with ivy from the garden.  I am very pleased with the result especially knowing it cost absolutely nothing.

We had the Enquiry Unit Christmas Party last week with ‘Festive Jumper’ and ‘Guess the Christmas Carol’ competitions and, instead of a secret Santa, a white elephant where each person brought in an unwanted gift then everyone did a lucky dip.  That worked really well and took every bit of stress out of trying to find appropriate presents for people you hardly know outside of the work setting. 

Then just as I had got fully into the Christmas mood I have been struck by the dreaded winter lurgy so I am dosing myself up with every remedy I can think of hoping to get rid of it in time for my sister’s arrival from Oz in two days’ time.  I am so pleased not to have to get course work done for a January deadline as I have had to do for the last three years – what a relief!

…and so, with this my last blog for 2012 it is time to wish all my readers out there a very Happy Christmas.  See you in the new year!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

I'm back!

I have found it very hard to return to my blog duties after such a horrible November.  I am still feeling quite fragile but I have been surrounded by caring friends, work colleagues and my wonderful family.  I am looking forward to my son arriving on the 16th from Perth in Oz.  I have not seen him since April when he moved there with his girlfriend.  My sister is also coming over from Melbourne and arrives on the 20th to spend three weeks having a ‘proper’ Christmas in the cold instead of one in Oz in mid-summer. She threatened to arrive at Heathrow and make her way by tube and train to our house but she really didn’t get very far with that idea!  I have not seen her for four years so of course I will be at the airport ready to be completely embarrassing.

I have now received official confirmation that I have passed my masters and so I have my MSc Therapeutic Counselling with Merit.  That is sort of like getting a 2:1 in an undergraduate degree.  Half of my year group is still writing dissertations which are due in May and so out graduation ceremony will not be until October 2013.  That feels long time away. Ours was the last year that had that system of those doing the short project submitting by 1 October while those doing the longer dissertation were given until the following May  to submit.  Now everyone has to submit by the earlier date.  I am so glad I chose the earlier deadline option.  To have this dragging on for another six months would do my head in.  I could imagine totally losing all momentum to complete it.  Him-at-home is very relieved that I have finished the course and I have promised him I will not embark on a PhD … well at least not for a few years anyway.  He needs time to recover, poor thing.
Since completing the course I have been working in the Education Liaison Unit, part of the Central Recruitment department of the university.  It is responsible for organising visits to schools, exhibitions and fairs and also campus visits for school groups to come in and see the university.  In the last month I have been to parents’ evenings, higher education fairs at schools, UCAS events at the Excel Centre, done mock interviews with sixth formers, spoken to mature students undertaking Access courses in preparation for paramedic and midwifery degree applications.  I have become quite adept at using the Transport for London journey planner and the websites for planning my travel and have learnt to eat remarkably well on the university subsidence allowance. We travel to events with a wheelie suitcase containing all our brochures and a table cloth. Our wheelies are in the corporate plain blue style.  I would much prefer a more exciting model such as this:

…or this:

...but somehow I don’t think our Vice Chancellor would quite approve.

We also carry a rolled up display stand that packs neatly into a bag about a metre long by 20cms wide and fits easily over one shoulder.  I’ve always been a rucksack type person so I still feel a bit like an air hostess with my very noisy wheelie thing.  For a small event we can set up and breakdown a display in about five minutes flat.  As we do not have paper prospectuses we take iPads to events which we attach to ourselves with locking cables. It works very well and saves us lugging hefty boxes of prospectuses around.  I am getting quite addicted to this very wonderful piece of technology and it was very hard handing mine back last week.

It is very quiet on the events front in December and January and so I have very little work.  I am quite happy to finally have a longer break after working so hard all year.  I am beginning to get into the Christmas spirit  especially after my sister sent me the wonderful online Jacquie Lawson Advent calendar ( .  It is a reason to get up in the morning to open it and explore today’s surprise. So far  I have decorated my Christmas tree, hung up my personalised Christmas stockings, built and dressed my snowman,  chosen my  toy train and sent it off around the track going backwards and forwards then fast and slow , watched the flashing Sydney Opera House bauble and listened to several of my favourite carols – all in a completely virtual fashion from the comfort of my home.  I sent one to my daughter and son and now we compare notes on the latest activity – a bit sad I know …but such fun! 

 # Congratulations Alice on reaching your centenary blog!

Pic Sources:
Bee wheelie case: