Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Candles, candy canes and chaos

How lovely it is to have a (nearly) white (nearly) Christmas! If you don't have to leave the house, that is. This country is so very poorly equipped to be dealing with snow or even frost, or temperatures colder than -2. Coming from a country where temperature drops below -20 on a regular basis over the winter, and a couple of feet of snow is nothing extraordinary, I find it just a little bit funny. Closing schools because of snowfall is simply amazing to me. Had we done that in Finland, I'd probably still be waiting to finish primary school.

Traveling to the Christmas party on Sunday was exciting to say at least. We all made it there and were well impressed by the hotel. A warm welcome, comfy rooms, delicious food and above all, excellent bar staff who kept serving drinks until breakfast time. No scandals or embarrassment, just good fun had by all.

The day after there were a few pale faces to be seen around the breakfast room. Best fix for that was a decent fry-up and some retail therapy. Shops were heaving with Christmas shoppers and great offers, too. I picked up a few stocking fillers in record time without getting the usual feeling of claustrophobia or an impending panic attack.

Mr S returned on Monday night to find me eating my way through the house. Drink has that effect on me. Not so much as a hangover, just constant hunger. Poor Mr S had braved the icy, snowy roads
all the way from Oxfordshire to Wales, ferry across to Rosslare and from there on to the wilds of Connemara. The man fell asleep before his head hit the pillow.

We did the last of our Christmas food shop yesterday, so now all that is left for me to do is the last of the baking, and obviously the dinner. We'll have a nice, cosy Christmas dinner here on Christmas eve with just the two of us and we'll skate our way over to Mr S's mother on Christmas Day. Mr S has taken off to do the last of his Christmas shopping, he's improved since last year when he left it until Christmas Eve.

Pastries, cakes and biscuits are on the agenda for me today. I shall cover the kitchen in flour and what I hope, a
christmassy smell and atmosphere. I'll be signing off now until after the holidays, a peaceful Christmas to you all, see you before the new year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Party time

It certainly seems to be THAT time of year again. Time to dress up in clothes clearly unsuitable and insufficient considering the weather/temperature, drink mulled wine and tolerate the company of people you spend most of your days with anyway. It is, of course, the office Christmas party time. I know I say office, I mean work in general. I don't work in an office. We do have an office but it is a little more than a glorified cupboard, really.

See, we thought we weren't having a
Christmas party for staff this year on account of it having been a bad year all around as well as our company having been leased to an outside party. I'm not saying the new "owners" aren't the type of people to deny their staff a party, but it has been a transition with quite a few characteristic teething problems to say at least. It hasn't been an easy year, so we thought maybe they were going to spare us the trouble of getting dressed up and spending time with people we're only getting to know as it is. Secretly we were all just a little bit relieved. This meant no wardrobe crisis, no shoe crisis, no hair crisis, make up crisis... well you get the point. You can tell I'm a girl, right?

Anyway, I returned to work last week after 6 glorious days off, sat down in my glorified cupboard and was met with an email from our newly-appointed GM informing me of a
Christmas party this coming Sunday. (which I now realise is the day after tomorrow) The party is at a quite a lovely hotel in the city, a hotel owned by our boss, hardly a coincidence there. We're all invited to eat, drink and stay free of charge. Having gathered my jaw up from beside my feet, I read the email again just to make sure I had got it right. I had. Free of charge. In a 4 star hotel. Fantastic.

At this very moment the "
Christmas party crisis" -part of my brain went into overdrive. I'm sure there was a little puff of smoke rising up from the vicinity of my left ear. It meant I had less than a week to find an outfit, sort out my hair, book an appointment with my beautician, organise lifts, colour co-ordinate my outfit of choice with my make up bag and SO MUCH MORE! All of this was obviously on top of the usual Christmas arrangements such as Christmas cards, shopping, wrapping and this year, since Mr S and I are staying in Ireland, sending the bought and wrapped presents to my friends and family.

Office parties are tricky to say at least. It really is a lose-lose situation to many people. If you decide to be sensible, not have any alcoholic beverages and in general just to behave yourself, you're running the risk of being perceived as a bit of a bore. And there's of course the added disadvantage of having to listen to the drunken rendition of "Fairy Tale of New York" for the umpteenth time, grinning manically and trying to pretend it's just as hilarious as it was the first couple dozen times. If, on the other hand you're one of the people singing said much loved classic after your ninth glass of mulled wine and a few shots later, you probably will be considered a little bit of a liability.

I usually fall on the latter category. There is a degree of drunkenness at which I will inevitably start singing. I cannot help it. I have gotten up on stage in pubs and clubs, informed the actual artist performing that it was MY TURN and proceeded to sing a song of my choice. I know I do this, I'm not ashamed to admit it. I can sing, by the way, so all is not lost I suppose.

Wardrobe crisis was averted after chatting to a few colleagues. Blaming the recession, I have shamelessly recycled an outfit worn to a party earlier on this year. Few new accessories later it will look appropriately seasonal without breaking the bank. Maybe new shoes. I could do with another pair of ankle boots, I'm sure. See? Some things never change.

The reason this year's party will be different is the fact that we don't know everyone there as well as we'd like. In the years gone by, our staff has been a bit like a family. A family of over 80 members in the high season, with about 35 permanent, full time staff. We all know
each other well enough to be able to make complete fools of ourselves and then laugh about it together the following day while nursing one of the hangovers of the decade. This year will be different, however. Everyone seems to be feeling like we're going to be judged based on our behaviour on the night. Maybe we will, maybe we won't. I, for one, have already decided on my song. Bring on the wine, good people!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Comfort and Joy

Oh, my poor neglected blog. I'd be lying if I told you I've been busy doing things as I've done very little since my last post. Right now I'm halfway through a stretch of 6 days off and I am being decidedly lazy. And being lazy has never been easier.

First of all, the weather. It has been truly horrid over the last week or so. Gale force winds, horizontal rain teamed up with sub-zero temperatures don't exactly encourage me to venture out of the house. If I can hear the wind in the morning when I wake up, I find that an excuse enough to roll over and go back to sleep for a bit.

Second of all, Mr S is still away, so I have nobody to kick me out of bed. Or to come up with things to do. I am missing his
presence, I really am but the fact that I can just arse about in PJs all day long doing nothing is really quite wonderful.

I don't think I could do this any other time of year, to be honest with you. It's something about the long dark nights that make me want to stock up on good books, red wine, bread and cheese and just ride it out until spring. The only thing stopping me from doing this is Christmas.

Yes, THAT C-word. I hate Christmas shopping. Really hate it. And I'm sure I'm not alone. I mean, who likes going into over crowded shops, which always have their air-conditioning set to "inferno" for some reason, so as you walk in from the cold air outside, you're met with a balmy heatwave. You end up taking off your hat, gloves, scarf and opening your coat, and filling your hands with your own clothes even before you've started shopping. The heat in the shops makes me very irritable and tired of the whole experience before it's even started. This really isn't helped by the hordes of stressed out fellow shopper, 70% or whom seem to have a cold or a flu judging by the amount of sneezing and coughing around me.

For a season entirely
focused around joy and cheer, people are very very rude around Christmas. People out shopping bump into you, knock you in the back with their trolleys, push their way through you to get to the perfect Christmas present just out of arm's reach. All this done either accidentally or on purpose, never once have I heard an "I'm sorry" uttered not even over their shoulder on their way to plow through another unsuspecting victim.

So, this year I decided to avoid the shops at all cost. I shopped online instead. I bought all but two presents online, all of which are currently residing in our spare bedroom waiting to be wrapped and sent to family. The two presents I didn't get online however, were purchased the old-fashioned way. In a way of making up for such stress-free Christmas shopping experience so far, I headed out with my friend and her 4-month old baby boy.

I suddenly have new-found respect for all those
harassed-looking mothers pushing prams and buggies around the shops around this time of year. I never realised how hard it was to do the simple things you normally do when you're out shopping by yourself. Take trying on clothes, for example. No fitting room is big enough for both you and the pram. How are you supposed to work that one out? Leave the door/curtain open so you can keep an eye on your little one while at the same time really defeating the purpose of using a fitting room at all. You might as well go and try the clothes on in the middle of the shop floor. Everyone is going to see your wobbly bits anyway.

It also seemed as if the shops were stocked up to the maximum capacity, thus making any space between the aisles/racks even narrower than usual. Getting through with a buggy required an impressive amount of
maneuvering. It would've made any driving instructor swell up with pride, I'm sure.

And then there's the bathroom issue. If you need to go to the bathroom, what are you going to do with your baby? Leave him outside? All alone? In a world full of weirdos? I didn't think so. Seeing as all the cubicles are too small to take the baby with you, you end up using the wheelchair accessible bathroom. And to me, that seems like a completely acceptable option until I heard another friend of mine who had done just that tell me that on her coming out of the bathroom she was met by a very angry man in a wheelchair outside the bathroom telling her that "Having a baby is not a disability, it's a choice. You should be ashamed of yourself!" I don't know about you, but I thought that was a bit over the top.

In any case, I have all my Christmas presents bought in good time. With minimal stress. Until I remember someone I
should've shopped for and never did. Thank god for internet!