Archive for January, 2011

…or in this instance a squirrel ūüôā¬† We have a number of squirrels that visit our verandah every morning for breakfast.¬† It’s amazing coz when I put the food out, there is nary a squirrel in sight, but within seconds of me closing the door they descend in their droves

breakfast is served........

….ok only¬†4¬†in this instance!!! ūüôā …..but still you know what I mean!

Over the last week or so I have noticed one little cutie in particular. And what drew my notice was that this little creature only has half a tail!!! I kid you not! It looks really peculiar.

little squirrel half-tail

What I also noticed about this wee little creature is that it’s quite brave, albeit a bit bolshie.¬† It seldom runs far when I do my ‘squirrel scaring tactics’ aka clapping my hands to make them run!¬†ūüôā It just scoots off a few feet and then waits for me to go away! ¬†Like¬†two days ago the weather was gorgeous, so after I put their food out I left the door open, and carried on with preparing¬†my¬†breakfast, next thing I look around and squirrel half-tail is in the kitchen….right behind me!!! hahahaha. cheeky little bugger.

Anways, it dashed out the door at my exclamation and then sat on the verandah looking at me as if to say….Ok then, what’s up?

a squirrel named Sue

So how did this wee creature get its name…..well here’s the thing….I have no idea if it is a boy or a girl, and I guess unless it turned up preggers or with a tinier replica in tow…I am unlikely to.¬† But a squirrel this cute has to have a name.


So I got to thinking about names that could suit both a boy and a girl…there are quite a few.¬† And as I was thinking about it I suddenly remembered a song from aeons ago ‘A boy named Sue’¬† (as sung by Johnny Cash)…..and so now we have a wee squirrel who visits every day and is as cute as pie………..named Sue!

This also happens to be my sister’s name, and since she is quite bolshie too…. I am well satisfied!

btw, the food is meant for the birds….but since the squirrels get there first…….., not to worry though, we have plenty of birdfeeders hanging up that I have now managed to position that the squirrels cannot get to them!! hooray!

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I had such a fab time yesterday. Got to do one of my favourite things…..walkabout through London.

city of london

welcome to the City of London

I received a fab xmas present from my employer, a set of ‘London City Walks’ cards….50 in all. These cards direct¬†you on walks through different areas of London….right up my¬†alley (excuse the pun)…. ūüôā

city of london

City Walks of London - 50 in all ūüôā

So for the next year I will have at least one adventure a week….awesome!!

But first… it was to Canary Wharf to see the London Ice Sculpting Festival.

london ice sculpting festival january 2011

a polar bear

brilliant. I am so glad I went. I haven’t been to Canary Wharf in such a long time, preferring to walk about through the old city and Westminster, of which is there is much to explore. But I can see the modern skyline from where I live and it always looks tempting, so the ice-sculpting was a great excuse to get back out that way.

I headed off to Canary Wharf station on the Jubilee line and was reminded once again how brilliant our underground train service really is. Canary Wharf station is awesome, modern, wide open spaces and very bright and clean.  I love the older underground tube stations with their history and grubbiness, but I have to say that some of the more modern tube stations like Westminster and Cnary Wharf are lovely.

london ice sculpting festival

the escalators at Canary Wharf tube station

The plaza at the station is brilliant; with a fab view across the docks and a display of clocks on the plaza, with¬†the skyscrapers towering above; all steel and glass reflecting each other and the weather, it is a great place to meander.¬† Lots of walkways, sidewalk cafes, pubs and food carts and a delightful Japanese style feng-sui garden…tinkling waterfalls and gushing fountains in a tranquil setting of trees and grass…lovely.

gardens at Canary Wharf

I can just imagine sitting out there on a bright sunny summers day.

Canary Wharf is a hive of activity, the financial district; a new kid on the block the area has a history that goes back hundreds of years, albeit newly regenerated with huge towering buildings that could overwhelm you but don’t,

canary wharf london ice sculpting festival

towering blocks of glass and steel; a modern architectural dream

¬†an enormous underground¬†shopping precinct –¬†a rabbits warren of high street shops, cafes, restaurants, banks and designer stores.¬† You could quite easily live there and never go without.

Lunchtime sees the hurry scurry of the folks who work in the tall buildings that surround the area.  And the last 3 days in London, have seen the Ice Sculpting festival, both indoors and out.  Great fun they are, the carving a treat to watch, using different tools to chop, chisel, buff, drill or saw the sculptors coax their creations out of the ice.

After that I made my way back down the massive escalators, stopped off to chat to the old gent who was busking in the great hall,

London Underground Buskers - Canary Wharf

 then onto the tube and off to London Bridge

london bridge

London Bridge....still standing after all these years ūüôā

…which I am pleased to say is not yet ‘fallen down’ ūüôā¬† Taking a walk across to the centre for a view of Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast,

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge

¬†I was reminded of the very first day I walked into London…another story! ūüôā¬†¬†Friday was a bleak and blustery day and I tried to make use of my new toy – aka as the vidcam that I got from ‘Sam’ta…but it records sound only too well and although the views are great the noise is not! Will now have to learn how to edit videos.

From there I made my way into Borough Market,

Borough Market, Southwark, London

 a bustling thriving community of family owned stalls offering a selection of produce that ranges from cheese, vegetables, home-made pies,

Pieminster's homemade pies at Borough Market

meats, wines,¬†to bread and flowers amongst others.¬† All family owned stalls, the market has been around virtually since the days of Dickens and Chaucer and the current Victorian market stands on a medieval site that acted as a gateway to the City.¬† The aroma wafting through the air is mouth-wateringly tempting and I had to bury my head and get out fast…before I emptied my purse!¬† Then I stepped back through the ages into Southwark Cathedral, the oldest gothic church building in London.

southwark cathedral london

a gothic church - Southwark Cathedral; a place of worship since 606AD

¬† If you have never been to Southwark Cathedral….make a plan and go. It is exquisite.¬†It has been a place of worship since 606AD when it was a convent,¬†and a cathedral since 1905AD.¬† The likes of Gower, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jonson, Harvard and Dickens are among those associated with the church.

Then it was round the corner to see the Golden Hinde; a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s¬†famed galleon,¬†whence he sailed the 7 seas.

drakes golden hinde southwark

replica of Sir Francis Drake's famous galleon; the Golden Hinde

¬†It’s funny actually, I have walked this route ahhh probably 4 times already and each time the weather is overcast and moody!!¬†¬† Then a short walk along a Dickensian cobbled alleyway past the remains/ruins of the¬†Winchester Palace to the Clink Prison.

The prison, known as ‘The Clink’ from the 15th Century was owned by the successive Bishops of Winchester, and from the 12th century until it’s destruction in 1780, its inmates have ranged from priest to prostitute.

the clink prison museum

The Clink Prison Museum, Southwark London

A grisly yet fun place to visit, it takes you back to the days when whole families were jailed coz the man of the house had gotten into debt and when unable to pay, the whole family, kids and all were tossed into the goal….sometimes to die there.

the clink prison museum

not a good place to die........

¬†I did say it was grisly.¬† The name derives from the sound of the chains with which the prisoners were detained…..the ‘clink’ of heavy chains.

Next I walked beneath along ancient cobbled streets,¬†through a dank dark tunnel to The Anchor Pub, past a wee shop named ‘Little Dorrit’ as in Dickens, and in my opinion not nearly old enough looking to warrant the name!

Little Dorrit.....a Dickensian name

¬†then from¬†there to Neal’s Yard Dairy where I stopped to partake of the cheese and sourdough bread on offer.¬† I love sourdough bread and recall it with delightful clarity from my days in Ireland.

neals yard dairy borough market southwark london

Neal's Yard Dairy, 6 Park Street, Southwark est. 1979 Covent Garden and opened in Borough market 1992

Then I made my way back to Borough Market, along another ancient road to the 1677 George Inn.¬† The last of it’s kind, and still a lively pub –¬†it is delightfully ancient.

george inn southwark london national trust

16th Century George Inn

Low ceilings with heavy wooden beams that have a smokey look, dark corners and narrow stairways onto ancient landings that just so take you back in time.

george inn southwark london

dark narrow staircases and low oak-beamed ceilings

When I arrived I got chatting to the bloke behind the bar and he offered to take a photo of me behind the bar…so I zipped in and stood with my hand on the ale pump just a two chaps¬†stepped up to the bar.¬† So just for fun I said ‘Serving gentleman’….and they took me for real!! The one chap started to ask for something¬†……¬†hahahaha. I had such a laugh. Told them I was just a spectator and the real barman would be with them as soon as he had finished taking my photo. ūüôā great fun!

george inn southwark london

...now serving Gentlemen!!

While I was exploring the Inn, probably going into places¬†I wasn’t meant to be by the looks on people faces, the heavens opened and the rain came down in bucket loads.¬† Ok so no further traipsing for me then. So instead I ordered a Baileys on ice and a packet of crisps and sat at the window sipping my drink and watching the rain….musing on how lucky I am to live in this fantastically fascinating city, where you can sit and have a drink in a pub that dates from the 16th century; and¬†in their day, frequented by the likes of Dickens, Shakespeare and Chaucer!¬†

What a life!

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I recently learned how to up/down load videos to YouTube ……..uh oh! you might say……and well you might!!! Hahahaha. It’s great fun getting a handle on technology and it’s amazing how once you have learned a few basics then the next set of hurdles are not quite so challenging.¬† The last year has been an especially huge learning curve in this respect, as I mentioned in a previous blog.¬† So just recently my brilliant daughter who is the brains behind the Momma, converted my videos from one something or other (I am not sure what it’s called) to LAN. So now I can not only view my videos (of which I have many) but I can now share them! Ok, so don’t groan so loud ok….I can hear you ūüôā

Anyhow here is the video of our intrepid little squirrel, who very gingerly slides down the awning, hanging on for dear life to get at the birdfeeders! 

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Yesterday I went for a walk to the village to do a bit of shopping.¬†As I walked up the hill, to my surprise and delight I met the guy behind the door…..the one that featured along with the milk bottle in my blog.¬† He was most amused when I told him that his door was now famous and featured on my blog! duhh.

From there I made my way, with a silly smile on my face, to the greengrocer.  Imagine my surprise when I got there and found these very early, albeit gorgeous tulips

first blooms of spring....just a shame they are probably 'forced'

The greengrocer’s outside display of vibrant colours, orange, purple,¬†green¬†and yellow fruit and flowers made a very pretty picture

vibrant colours of a pending spring

¬†and made me realise that indeed, although still a ways off….spring is on the way!!!

colours of the rainbow

oh! and by the way….did I mention that the guy behind the door was rather yummy! ūüôā very english deah! tweed jacket, striped scarf and very lah dee dah! Oh, and I managed to get a peek behind the door before he went in…..I had been dying to see what was behind that door.¬† Looked very interesting!

After I had made my purchases I decided to walk back via Waterlow Park.  It is quite one of my favourite places in London (of which ther are many).  The view of the London skyline on a clear day is just wonderful.

a distant view of the London skyline from Waterlow Park

The park is looking lovely, everything is so green. I always find the contract between winter in the UK and winter in South Africa to be so amazing.  Here everything stays green right thru winter and back in SA, almost everything turns brown and grey.

There were plenty of people out and about walking through the park and I am pleased to say that the upper duck pond is now free of ice and the birds look at lot happier.

the upper duck pond in Waterlow Park - now free of ice

The day had so far been rather glum and overcast and suddenly at about 2pm the sun burst forth and we were treated to a gorgeous sunset

a vibrant sunset and clear skies on a wintery day in January

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hahahaha!!! ūüôā I am so thrilled with myself today I even wrote about it in my diary!!!

I am a child of the 50’s (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone) and technology as a word hadn’t even been invented (well, ok maybe it had), but for me technology meant being able to watch TV! True!!!¬† ¬†We only got our first TV set in the 70’s and became ‘DALLAS’ addicts with it too!

Growing up we never had things like mobile phones….what??? can’t imagine that now! My mother used to find¬†my sister¬†by ‘foot-telegraph’ = sending me to run around the neighbourhood looking for her! No such thing as sending a text “get your sorry ass back home girl!”

what our home phone looked like!

We never had computers! Believe it or not….. Computers in those days weighed 50 tons…the EINAC…(ref google) and in fact, the first computer with RAM;¬†¬†“MIT introduces the Whirlwind machine March 8, 1955, a revolutionary computer that was the first digital computer with magnetic core RAM and real-time graphics” was introduced just over a month before I was born!

My first camera was a ‘Kodak¬†Brownie 127’

what my very first camera looked like... I got one from my Dad in 1963 as a birthday present (I still have it)

We didn’t have digital cameras, video cameras,¬†and a host of other technological¬†gadgets that today we take for granted.¬† In fact for years I used to be labelled ‘technologically dis-advantaged’……. I still receive councelling for that! ūüôā

I eventually caved in and bought a TV in 1997, and only so that I could watch Princess Diana’s funeral, from all the way down south in Cape Town. I had the odd camera and a stereo set but if anything went wrong…it went into the trash if no-one could come fix it for me (yeah, I know….not very ecologically friendly in those days).

My real technological learning curve began in 2002 when I was forced to buy my first mobile phone.¬† Up till then I had vociforously resisted getting one and the only reason I did then was coz my daughter was living and working in America and I wanted her¬†to be able to contact¬†me anytime.¬† It took me about 3 months to figure out how it worked and since then I have gone on in leaps and bounds and now I have a Nokia E5!!! (ok, so if I tell you that I haven’t yet figured out how it works….please don’t tell my daughter!) ūüôā (I stilll have that first¬†phone)

I got my first laptop in 2004 and spent the first few months keeping Vodaphone in business by my frequent phonecalls to Ireland asking for help from my brother-in-law and sister!  (I still have that too)

Then I was introduced to the concept of a digital camera (2004), and have never looked back!¬† (obviously I can’t show you what it looks like, since I can’t take a photo¬†of it…but it’s an OLYMPUS D-580 Zoom)

So where am I today….well I have learned how to work a computer (yes, I even know where the ‘on’ button is), I have learned how to download videos on youtube and photos onto the internet, how to make photo albums on flickr and facebook, how to¬†start a¬†blog, post articles to that blog¬†and even¬†how to upload photos to that blog, I have learned how to edit my photos and how to save them to my computer, and just recently how to save them to an external hard-drive!!! (I think that’s the right terminology). And this Christmas I got my first video-cam from ‘Sam’ta (aka my daughter)¬†and I am slowly figuring out how to use it…I have gotten as far as being able to switch it on and press record!¬† But not yet how to stop said recording….I just shut the lens and press off!

However, I¬†know how to connect my twitter account to my facebook account, my wordpress blog to my twitter account and my twitter account to youtube!!! ūüôā and I have skype……¬†BUT>>>>>>>>

today I outdid myself….

today I figured out how to make a video photo album!!!!!¬† Yes!!! I made a video photo album all by myself! I made a movie!!! ūüôā

I am so bloody impressed that I have splattered the thing all over the internet…facebook, twitter, youtube and now wordpress!!!! heeheehee! I am a technological genius!¬† So,¬†look out techno-world she who is ‘NotJustaGranny’ is in town!!!!

my first video photo album ūüôā

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……ok, well not actually at MY door but….. I still love the idea.

I remember when I was a little girl of about 7 maybe, we used to have a milk-cart drive round the neighbourhood each morning delivering milk.¬† They also used to deliver orange juice, cream, butter and eggs.¬† But my over-riding memory is of¬†a blue and white¬†milk-cart clanging away along the street, ‘Milkie’ in his white trousers, white shirt, blue & white checked apron and blue cap, ringing the bell to alert the ‘housewives’ he was in the area.

You had the option of meeting him in the street/road to place your order or just leave your empties at the door with money in and a note to say how many bottles you wanted.¬† It’s quite weird to recall that in those days you could quite safely leave money out overnight in the empty milk bottle and it would still be there the next day.¬†¬† I know it all changed at some point, but I can’t really remember when it was that we realised this was no longer an option……the money ususally got stolen.

Eventually in time the milk-carts also went by the wayside and the early morning bell-clanging was no more to be heard.

Imagine my delight when I arrived in London/UK to discover that in some areas they still deliver milk to your door.¬† Now, granted,¬†no-one leaves money in the empty bottle from what I have seen, but nevertheless there are places where the empty milk bottle is left out on the verandah at night and in the morning you open your door and voila…..there are 3 or 4 bottles of fresh milk, icy cold, water running down the sides¬†with early morning condensation.

To me there is something delightfully old-fashioned and quaint about having milk delivered to your door.

milk delivered to your door

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I am a collector of socks! I love them! I have socks from Italy and USA, SA and Ireland, socks with sheep, socks with cows, socks with zoo animals, socks with ladybirds, socks with jungle bells and many others besides.

I am one of those people who hates to wear shoes indoors so always walk about in my socks.  As you can imagine this is quite hard on the poor socks and they usually wear out within a few months so I get through quite a few! as you can well imagine.

I bemoaned this fact to my daughter just before Xmas and look what I got

say hello to Rudolph and his little brother ūüôā

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I always used to think that traditions were something that already were and it took me some many years to realise that anyone can start a new tradition…..they don’t have to be old and well worn!

I also used to think that to be a family you had to have a Dad and a Mom and a few kids and it was only some years after my breakdown when I was having counselling that the Doctor told me in reply to a comment I made about not providing my daughter with a ‘proper’ family; he said that families come in all shapes and sizes and just coz there was no dad and only her and me did not mean that we were not a family.¬† That was a long time ago.

Over the last decade or so (hahaha, it’s so funny to say that), I have started a couple of traditions, and my daughter who is now all grown up has started a few of her own.

Today we met up for what I realised has become a ‘new’ ‘family’ tradition.¬†

Going back a bit in time, I (officially) moved to the UK in 2002 and my daughter came to visit sometime later and we both ended up loving London and staying, and now consider ourselves to be ‘Londoners’!¬† So we have essentially settled here and that means that our extended family, with the exception of my brother and his wife who live in Hungary, all still¬†live in South Africa.¬† This means that we don’t get to see them for birthdays and family events.¬† Last year for the first time in ages my daughter decided that it was time to start sending birthday cards. Previously it was an adhoc affair with the occassional card being posted, birthdays generally being noted with emails and phonecalls.

This year I realised that we had in fact started a new tradition when on Sunday she said to me that it was time to buy all the birthday cards again for the family, write a message, sign and address and paste stamps –¬†ready to go at the appropriate time. (she will do the mailing of the cards since I am rubbish at sending them off in time and some get there a few weeks after the event).

So Monday we went together to buy the first of the batch,¬†yesterday she bought the rest of the cards and today we met up in town for tea and a ‘card signing’ ceremony.¬† So before the year has really even started we have already bought all 19 cards, written our respective messages, signed, addressed, stamped and mailed the first batch for the January birthdays…. the first of which is on the 7th January¬†the rest of the birthdays spread out over the year, the¬†last of which is on 5th November! The eldest family¬†member will be 93 and the youngest 5!

And so a new family tradtion has been born! How cool is that. ūüôā

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Hello! hello! It’s 2011; 365 new days to fill with fun, adventure and new experiences ūüôā

Last night my daughter and I saw in the new year with sherry and watched the London Eye fireworks on TV. I was going to go and watch them at the venue itself but decided instead that I wanted to see in the NY with her instead.   Not long after the clocks struck the witching hour and we were into 2011 we snuggled into bed and off to sleep. I woke about 12noon, delighted not to have anything in particular to do and nowhere in particular to go.

We started the day with tea (of course) and Ouma rusks (a South African biscuit type biscuit!). Then I pulled on the multitude of layers needed to brave the weather and headed out for a walk. I made for the river and walked along the path towards Richmond Lock, crossed over via the footpath and then walked along the Thames path towards Kew.

along the Thames Path

Along the way, I passed many other people doing the same thing….how very sensible.¬† I saw boats, and birds, a heron and a speed boat.¬† I passed Isleworth and walked on the Meridian Line!

Meridian Line

The weather was cool out, not¬†cold –¬†overcast but mild with a fine mist in the air.

River Thames 01.01.2011 a misty overcast day

¬†I walked for about and hour and half and then made my way back to the house, ready for a hot cuppa and lunch: grilled sausage with gravy, mash and peas…..yummy.¬† then we re-arranged my daughter’s bedroom; admidst much laughter we moved the bed around, moved cupboards and wardrobe, desk and boxes – finally getting everything just the way she wanted it. Then I poured a decent glass of sherry, settled on the couch to watch ‘Independence Day’ and download my photos. Now I am watching CSI, listening the Magic105 and eating roses chocolates….could life get any better!

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I very sensibly put in for a few days of leave over New Year determined not to work again….for the first time in years.¬† Leaving Highgate on Thursday I made my way over to Twickenham, looking forward to spending a few days with my girl.¬† The evening was very¬†therapeutic for both of us; we covered some tricky issues and managed to discuss some painful subjects and without realising it, I made a comment that suddenly gave her a completely different perspective on her current situation and opened a new door, completely inspiring her!

Friday I decided to make the most of my London Pass;

my London Pass

¬†the intention was to visit places I had on my list and try to see as many as possible…. a quick pop in and pop out visit and gather material for the 3 Days in London blog.¬† I managed to persuade her to come into town with me and we stopped off at Waterloo station for Starbucks (of course) and a chat. We then parted ways….she to Tottenham Court Road to do some shopping (part of her Xmas present I promised was a DVD player), and me to one of my favourite places in the world…. Westminster.¬† I had a list of 4/5 places to visit.

I walked past Big Ben

Big Ben - 11 hours and 17 minutes till 2011

¬†stopping only to take a few photos and then made my way¬†to the Jewel Tower opposite the Sovereign’s Gate at Westminster Palace. I had been passed the tower but never yet visited…and it is great. The remains of what¬†was part¬†of the wall of the Westminster Palace complex.¬† It’s a really interesting place to¬†visit and there are some great items on display, amongst which were remains of original 14th Century¬†wooden foundations, removed when the building was underpinned in 1955.

14th century wooden foundations

There is a fab view of the Sovereign’s Gate from the 1st & 2nd levels.

view of the Sovereign's Gate

The stairs, ceilings and walls are original;¬†it’s really weird to walk on stairs where Kings and Queens once trod.

the Kings Privy Tower

From there I walked towards St James’s park via the grounds of Westminster Abbey. I had intended visiting but the queues were too long and I did not have time to waste, so made my to the Churchill War Museum; a place I had so wanted to visit in the past but never had the time.¬† It was awesome. I was allowed to take photos inside and made a few videos too.¬† The bunkers are set out exactly they way they were during WW2 and are quite simply awesome!!

The War Cabinet Room has been laid to show exactly how it would have looked on Tuesday 15th October 1940 at 5pm, shortly before the meeting of the War Cabinet

There is a recording of Churchill’s speeches as well as others and on one you can hear an air-raid siren.¬† Brilliant.

Then I went back to Westminster Abbey and finally the queues were short enough to join. I am so glad I went!¬† I have visited the Abbey before, a few years ago and had quite forgotten how¬†incredible it is inside.¬† The Abbey is so beautifully designed and filled with the most amazing memorials and tombs, and¬†intricate carvings that defy belief.¬† I was totally entranced and enjoyed a very happy 2 hours wandering about, visiting the various tombs, the Shrine of Edward the Confessor, Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, Poet’s Corner, Chapter House, Pyx¬†Chamber

Pyx Chamber

and the Cloisters.  The High altar is magnificent and the ceiling in the Lady Chapel is breath takingly beautiful. The Coronation Chair is currently being restored and situated in a glass room near the Great West Door.

Great West Door

Afterwards I made my way back to the river via Big Ben and walked along Victoria Embankment, intending to find a suitable spot to stand and wait for the London Eye fireworks

31.12.2010 - London Eye at 4.30pm

….except that¬†I suddenly didn’t feel like standing for what would at that stage be 8 hours!!! So instead I went up Charing Cross to the South African shop to buy some eats, then along to Trafalgar Square to see the Norwegian tree that they send over each year at Christmas

the Norwegian Spruce Tree at Trafalgar Square - sent over each year at Christmas as a gift from the Norwegians

 and then back to Embankment and onto the tube to Richmond and home.

We sat on the couch listening to music, chatting to my sister & her hubbie¬†in SA¬†via skype and then saw in the New Year and watched the fireworks on TV! Exactly what I had said I did not want to do…..see the fireworks on TV, but I was with the most important person in the world to me and we had a fab evening.¬† A few hours later we finally crawled into bed, eyes heavy and ready to sleep, already well into 2011!

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