Sunday, December 19, 2010

It’s snowing, here in Edinburgh.

In any other year, this would be the day when I would sign off and wish everybody the happiest of solstices and announce plans to rejoin you in January some time, when the light is coming back.

However, for my own sake, I think I would be glad to have a day-to-day record of the Christmas of 2010. So I will go on – not regularly, perhaps. If James and his family succeed in getting here today, there will be someone sleeping in this room. And there will be competition for the computer, at least until we’ve got everything set up with my new BT Hub. It works fine for me, who am connected to it by wire. But will it extend itself to a houseful of laptops?

I am full of dread. This flat is pretty big, but it is full to the brim with clutter. There is no space. My husband is bad-tempered. He is also old, and getting rather frail. Some of the furniture is seriously good, and all of it needs to be Treated With Respect. A houseful of sprawling teenagers with nowhere to sprawl is (to coin a phrase) a recipe for disaster. In Strathardle we have a much smaller house, but also much less clutter, sturdier furniture, and the great outdoors to throw them out into. We’re not in Strathardle, and not likely to be, anytime soon.

Still, we’ve got a Christmas pudding and some cranberry sauce. It’s a start.

James has emailed already this morning (8am) to say they’ll be taking a later train than the one originally adumbrated (arriving 3pm) because everything is frozen solid in Cheltenham, where they currently are with Cathy’s parents. Helen has emailed to say that Cathy and I will have to prepare the flat she has borrowed from a friend – turn on heat, make beds, leave breakfast supplies. It will give us something to do and get us out of this house for a while. So that’s good. Helen and her fierce boys should arrive late Wednesday – if planes are flying.

Alexander phoned last night to say that they are coming on Monday – otherwise they won’t get to see James at all. Lots of people.

I just want to go to sleep and wake up in January.

We had a good visit with C. yesterday. She’s looking remarkably well, under the circumstances, and seems in good spirits.

And I made progress with the second sock. I always knit fraternal twins, with KF sock yarns:


  1. Becky (at Edinburgh Bookshop) just said she looked at the weather and was going back to bed. I do hope it improves enough for your family to get through.
    It looks as if my cousin might be staying in London for the present!

  2. You may not have the great outdoors in Edinburgh, but if they're teenagers there's always the option in the city to send them out to while away their time in shops and cafes. I think that it often makes life easier for all parties under such circumstances.

  3. The BT Home Hub has a number on the back which unlocks access for laptops elsewhere in the house. I have just bought a Netbook and it worked for me.

  4. I'm usually a lurker but steady reader of your blog. Today you taught me a new word "adumbrate" but usually you teach me how to keep on going no matter what the circumstances.

  5. Donice1:09 PM

    I have just been looking at pictures online of the snow, closed highways etc. around Europe. I do hope that you don't have family stranded for Christmas!And I know EXACTLY what you mean about teen-agers flinging themselves into furniture! My adult sons don't do it any more, but the next generation will soon be big enough to do some damage.

  6. So glad you visited your sister-in-law!
    Sounds like the holidays will be busy, but in the best way - packed with family and good food.
    We look forward to your updates through the holidays.

  7. When I saw your note about the Christmas pudding, which I have never tasted, I dug out my great grandmother's recipe, written in her own hand and mailed from Ireland to NJ sometime in the early part of the 20th Century. I have been planning on copying and framing for the next generation, but time for this Christmas is running out. Perhaps I'll put it up on the blog. Do you use beef suet in yours?

  8. Count me as another reader who did not know the meaning of the word adumbrate. I have learned something today and it isn't even 7 AM!

    As far as having a house filled with people, especially people who are in their teens or twenties, I will pass on a few of my coping strategies. I find it is better all around if I let my expectations be known right at the beginning. I convey the expectations with a smile on my face, but also in a way that everyone knows So if it was me I would just say straight up which pieces of furniture are old and how they need to be treated.

    Keep well stocked with teenage friendly food, but not the kind that can stain or do damage to your things. Fed teens are happy teens.

    Divide out the jobs. If all the work falls on you I fear you will be exhausted by the end of their stay. Wiping down bathrooms, doing dishes, etc. can all be divided up amongst the occupants that aren't contributing to food production. Besides, I think everyone feels more at home if they are a participant and not a spectator.

    The biggest issue perhaps is your husband. My husband suffers from severe mental illness. If family is visiting when he is doing especially poorly I pull them aside right at the beginning and let them know the state of things. Perhaps you could quietly pull your grandchildren aside and explain how their grandfather needs his space and how this has been a stressful time for him due to his sister's illness. I don't think it would be out of line to give the teens a specific time of the day when they need to vacate your house and go wander around on their own. This would give your husband a much needed break. And you too! Sometimes it is easier to cope if we know we have a break from noise and confusion that we can count on.

    I hope this turns out to be a surprisingly wonderful Christmas for you and your family!

  9. Your situation is obviously weighing on my mind Jean. I went up to have a bath and realized I left out two of my "coping with a crowd" strategies.

    At our house the drinking glass/mug situation can get out of control very fast. I leave a roll of masking tape and a pen on the counter and everyone has to label their glass and mug for the day. If I neglect this we can have 20 odd dirty cups scattered around the kitchen.

    Bath towels are another potential source of frustration. I put up our wooden indoor clothes rack and have people store their towels on it. There is no way our bathrooms would allow for so many to be kept in them.

    I hope you don't mind all of this advice. And if you want to read about a truly disastrous Christmas you might want to read my blog, starting with part 1.

  10. I have a friend who is flying to see her daughter in London-- and she is stuck here in Texas. She was supposed to have a direct BA flight from Dallas but nothing is landing in Heathrow- she is tearing her hair out...
    I fly tomorrow, to rainy California (it supposed to pour buckets next week) leaving behind warm Texas which is supposed to be in the 70s all week. (Joke is on me- usually California is quite nice this time of year)My parent's house gets a bit full this time of year and my dad gets cranky, so I do my best to cook and clean and keep things neat, but it is always controlled chaos... especially when my mom gets overambitious about cooking and things get out of control (when I think of Christmas I think of cooking without end for days and days)... I think this time of year is just stressful, so I just bring my knitting and try to deal.

  11. HI Jean

    Just a quick message to wish you all the best for Christmas. I hope the snow doesn't disrupt things too much and you enjoy time with your family. I hope it doesn't prove too tiring for you both. I look forward to reading about it all.

    Regards Beverley

  12. =Tamar5:56 PM

    What kristieinBC said, and more: they're grown up enough to make their own beds. Just turn on the heat and leave food and sheets available. For any furniture that is really too delicate, copy the museums: tie a cord across it with a sign "Please do not sit here."

    The socks are very pretty. Seeing them cheers me up too.

  13. Jean, I am confident that if you are the one who raised at least one of the parents of said teenagers, everything will be fine. One of the parents will take charge and whisk them away to a hotel.

    My other thought is that maybe they won't all be able to get there due to snow, etc. and everyone will heave a huge sigh of relief.

  14. There must be some Latin phrase to give you coping courage Jean - but I have to leave it to you to supply it. I feel for you as the family descends upon your Edinburgh flat. I hope it all works out, as I'm sure it will. I look forward to reading the next bulletin.

  15. Gerri3:52 PM

    Wow, a lot of wisdom in these comments.

    I do think teens work very well when clued into the situation and asked to do certain things. They may forget, but my experience is that one gentle word of reminder sends them off to do the right thing.

    They will not die if told that in certain rooms they need to just sit on the floor.

    It's your home. I wasted too much time feeling guilty about saying how I wanted things done. You can frame it "these are extraordinary times; we need extraordinary measures."

  16. I am thinking of you Jean. I hope you are managing as well as can be expected.

  17. Leslie Bagatelle8:55 PM

    Happy holidays. I hope all your guests arrive safely and you have a wonderful visit with them.

  18. Anita9:04 AM

    A quick stop by to say that I hope all is going well and to wish you all the very best for Christmas and may 2011 be all that you wish for.

  19. I hope you and yours have a peaceful Christmas.

  20. Anonymous3:07 PM

    Merry Christmas to you and your family Jean. Thank you for sharing your life and knitting with us.
    Erin in PA

  21. I hope your family have all traveled to and fro safely and that your Christmas was wonderful. The light is coming back slowly but surely.