Mid November 2016 and my time at Silver Helm was fast drawing to a close. They were turbulent times and the strain was having an unfortunate effect on my memory and my sleep. Nights were filled with bad dreams and days with forgetting or losing things. Then there was Mr Haughty, my successor in the frozen north coming to pick my brains and steal all my knowledge, not to mention the spectre of Christmas looming. It felt as if all the festive furore began earlier every year and I was feeling very bah humbug about it all.
19 November 2013
I think my mind is going. Yesterday I left my computer glasses at home on the coffee table in the gym. I took them out of my ruck sack on Sunday morning to make room for water bottles and such but completely forgot to put them back in. My walking around glasses are varifocals, I can see the screen with them but I have to keep moving my head about like a Tourette’s sufferer with a particularly horrible tic. This was not a good plan for the rest of the day, especially not with Arabella in the office. Luckily Commando was planning a jaunt into town to do some pre-Christmas shopping reconnoissance so I left him a message asking if he could drop them off on his way past. Cue Commando galloping to the rescue again as usual.
Sometimes I feel like a disaster waiting to happen I really do. In the time it took me to grab the glasses and give him a swift thank you kiss a spatter of bird poop appeared on the car door. “Where did that come from,” Commando grumbled, staring pointedly at it and then me as if I’d done it myself. I looked up into the tree overhanging the parking bay and there, sure enough, was a magpie, I swear he was laughing at me.
Mother always used to say that a bird pooping on you was good luck. Somehow I find that hard to believe. Considering all the birds we kept and the monotonous regularity with which they pooped on us we should have been the luckiest people on the planet. We weren’t by a very long chalk. Still, I suppose it was lucky Mr Magpie didn’t poop on us mid kiss, that would have killed the romance of the moment for sure. It was also lucky Commando was driving Mattie Matiz because if the poop had been on his pristine black Mazda it would probably have been the last poop that particular magpie ever did.
Arabella and I spent the day going through hand over stuff. We went through the various versions of the contract template, amending things to show some of the changes that have been made. Once that was done we had to go through and highlight all the places our names appeared. That was quite sad. My name appears in so many places, the person the contracts are returned to, the person the expenses are sent to, the person the biographies and photos and booking forms are sent to… Arabella’s is just the signature line at the bottom. It felt as if I was deleting myself.
In reception, on my way out of the office I realised I’d dropped one of my gloves somewhere along the way. Both of them were in my hand along with my hat when I left the office now there was only one. I retraced my steps, back to the lift, not in there, up the stairs, not there, to my desk, not there either. Somehow one glove had dematerialised between my desk and reception. I wouldn’t mind so much but I only got them on Friday because I lost one of the last pair. If it does turn up I think I need one of those pieces of string that goes through the arms of your coat, like the boys had when they were little.
Bad dreams seem to be the order of the day lately. A few nights ago I dreamed I was locked out of the house and last night I was trying to get out. It was a maze of white corridors and doors and every time I turned a corner it was either a dead end, another corridor or worse. My search became ever more frantic. Finally I found a white door, almost hidden in the white of the walls. There was a moment of relief but, when I opened it, there was just another white door behind, then another and another getting ever smaller. I woke in a panic then was half afraid to go back to sleep in case I ended up back there. What does it all mean?
Maybe it was the thought of Mr Haughty coming to the office today to suck all the knowledge out of my brains and toss my dry, empty husk aside. Mind you, with my brain at the moment they’re likely to get a virus in the system so more fool them. As it turned out it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. In fact Mr H seemed quite impressed with all my spreadsheets, pronouncing them, ‘just the thing I’ve been trying to do.’ Suddenly he seemed extremely friendly and interested in me and my knowledge, which is funny because he’s been to the office quite a few times and passed me by without as much as a hello. Seems I’ve risen from the ranks of the mere minions to someone useful, even if it is a little late in the day for anyone to discover this. It may not have been as bad as I expected but the whole experience did leave me feeling a little cross.
There was one teeny tiny bright spot to the morning. When I eventually got to my own desk and pulled out my chair to sit down, there was my lost glove sitting there bold as brass where I’d obviously dropped it. If only I’d thought to pull out the chair last night instead of scrabbling around on the floor under my desk I could have avoided the frozen handed journey to work this morning. Still I now have two gloves again. The piece of string through my coat sleeves idea may just be the way forward. It may make me look like a five year old but at least my hands won’t be blue.
There was an article in the Daily Mail yesterday saying that Southampton was one of the three best places in the UK to live. Perhaps I’m biased but it seemed pretty obvious to me, especially at the moment with the German Christmas Market in Above Bar. CJ was raving about it at the weekend and I really needed to get out of the office in case I killed someone so Alice and I trotted up to town for a look. Bah humbug is my normal stance on all things Christmas, especially in November but I make an exception for the German Market. The little log cabins all decked out with very tasteful greenery and baubles, red gold and green remind me of visits to Germany many years ago, as does the smell of the Glühwein and the bratwurst from the two most popular stalls.
The whole thing is a kind of pretty sensory overload, handmade gifts of every kind, bright colours and cooking food. I was pleased to see one of my favourites from last year was back, brightly coloured socks, scarves, slippers and decorations. Back then I meant to buy at least one thing but never did get round to it, maybe this year I will. The artisan chocolate stall is new this year, at least I think so, I’m sure I would have noticed something as exciting as artisan chocolates. This is one I will be trying hard not to visit but probably with limited success. Last year I was very taken with the folding wooden bowl stall, so much so I dropped it into the conversation a fair bit hoping that someone would take the hint and buy me one. This year I’m going to be way less subtle. If you’re reading this Commando, add folding wooden bowl to my Christmas list please, I quite like the apple shaped one with leaves on top.
For someone who hadn’t had lunch yet it was a tempting obstacle to navigate, filled with the smells and sights of food. Having managed to tear myself away from the artisan chocolate stall by a supreme act of willpower I was faced with bratwurst. If you’ve never had real German bratwurst in a bun you haven’t lived and I only dragged myself past by promising I would have one before the season was over. On second thoughts, make that at least one. Turning my back on the bratwurst I was faced with Glühwein. That one is easier for me to resist as I’m not a fan of alcohol but I have to admit it smells nice.
The Christmas sweets were almost my undoing. The problem was I could almost tell myself they were healthy, if you ignore all the sugar that is. Nuts of every kind coated in such delights as amaretto, baileys, cinnamon and, most tempting of all, cappuccino, along with all that sugar, the smell alone, a cross between hot doughnuts and a cake shop, almost certainly made me gain at least a pound. I’m pretty sure I will succumb to some of those at some point.
A little further along the hog roast had me drooling. Is there any better smell than hog roast? There wasn’t even a queue but somehow I tore my sorry arse away, right into the path of the roasted chestnuts. The smell of roasted chestnuts is almost the essence of Christmas. It takes me back to my childhood, sitting in front of the open fire waiting for them to pop on the grate. The woman serving them didn’t look quite as thrilled to be there as you’d have expected but it was a cold day.
While I was looking here and there, gasping at all the colours and the smells, Alice was less than impressed.
“It all takes up so much space,” she grumbled, “it’s crowded enough at Christmas anyway and with all this here it makes it a nightmare trying to get the Christmas shopping done.”
She does have a point. With the whole of the centre of the Above Bar precinct taken up with log cabins and people gawping at log cabins, not to mention the big carousels at each end for the children, the little bit of pavement left on either side does become a congested obstacle course.
“Seems to me they have it at the wrong time of year,” I said. “Maybe it would be better in the summer.”
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