Sunday, 20 December 2015

Daffodil and chips

When you live in a third floor flat, it's always a little bit odd when you see a little head floating past your window... When you're naked! They're taking the scaffolding down on the next door property. You could probably make a pretty decent documentary based around interviews with scaffolders. They must see some pretty astonishing stuff through windows.

Our local secondhand bookshop has closed down. It's such a terribly sad sight to see the empty bookshelves still attached to the walls. We're told the rents got too high for them to remain in business and part of me hopes that the property stays vacant for long enough to punish the building's owners for being greedy.

Ripping Yarns was a fabulous little shop which sold mostly children's books. Nathan once bought a first edition of the Just So stories there and my Mum has often been seen disappearing inside in search of Famous Five books, which she collects. I'm told Philippa used to go there with her Mum back in the 80s when she was a child. It's been there for a long long time... Right back to the days when all the houses on Archway Road were condemned because they'd decided the A1 needed to be dual carriageway. I think I'm right in saying that decision was thwarted by a group of women, who, even before Greenham, tied themselves to trees and things and re-shaped the way people protested.

I've recently been trying to find an old copy of The Faraway Tree and it would almost certainly have been there. I want an old print of the book because in recent editions, all the central characters' names have been changed. It is perhaps a tad unfortunate that the children in the original book are called Joe, Bess, Dick and Fanny, but those are their names. I really don't see the point in sanitising them to Rick and Frannie.

I walked into Muswell hill this morning to print all my photos for the year which I will spend the Christmas period putting into a lovely album. £120 seemed a large amount to shell out for the privilege, but there are 500 pictures. Sadly, the quality of prints these days is really poor. There's far more detail in the computer files than ever ends up on the paper and I think that's a terrible shame.

As I walked back home I passed a brass band playing O Come All Ye Faithful. They weren't even very good, but I found the sound incredibly moving, like a sort of echo of the joy of Christmases past.

I found a daffodil growing on one of the verges off Southwood Lane. A daffodil! Three months early! That's how warm it is in the UK right now. Nature is in turmoil! I'm told the cherry blossom is already out in Kew Gardens. It strikes me that someone needs to tell the flowers that if they don't go back to sleep again, Santa won't arrive this year!

Many thanks for all the concerned messages about my teeth. I am feeling much better today. I'm taking my antibiotics like a good boy and hope to be right as rain in a couple of days.

I took the bus down to the garage in Gospel Oak, picked up and paid for the car, drove to Muswell Hill to pick up my pictures and then did a rather counter-intuitive journey to Tottenham Hale which involved going all the way to Euston on the Northern Line in order to change tubes and head back north again. When you live in the north of London it's easy to head to the city centre but impossible to travel East or West without going via central London. A natural route for me would have been to get a bus to Finsbury Park which would have put me on the right line for Tottenham Hale, but there isn't a direct bus. In fact, the fastest way to get from Highgate to Finsbury Park is probably to walk along Parkland Walk, which is the site of an old overground railway line which actually once linked Highgate and Finsbury Park. I would say that I wished the line was still operational if it hadn't provided north London with another beautiful nature reserve.

I was horrified to discover upon arriving at Tottenham Hale that there was a discrepancy of £9 between the costs of journeys to Bishop's Stortford depending on which ticket machine you used! If you use the machine labelled "Stansted Express" the journeys are sneakily more expensive. The grumpy Nigerian woman standing by the ticket barriers couldn't have been less interested when I told her. I went back a few minutes later and said "I realise you don't give a shit, but people are being ripped off simply because they've picked one machine over another." She plastered her face with a sort of mock shock. People like that don't like to be told what to do.

The journey to Stortford was quick, and my brother and Sascha picked me up from the station and drove me to Thaxted where we watched the Strictly final with plates of fish and chips on our laps.

We've descended on Thaxted for the fourth advent, which we're treating as a family Christmas before Ted and Sascha head off to South Africa.


Nathan joined us after finishing work, so we're all here now. A chocolate log has been made. It's a family tradition. Every year we all make a wish whilst stirring the cake mixture. The trick, according to my Mum, is to wish for something specific rather than nebulous. I did wish to get married two years ago (which didn't look at all likely that particular Christmas), so perhaps there's something in it!

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