>EEK...Where did November go?

My goodness, November seems to have totally disappeared on me! Is this an age thing I ask myself? Now we already seem to be into all the Christmas stuff already…and believe me I am NOT ready at all! There are Christmas trees sprouting everywhere and lots of fairy lights in all the shop windows. I repeat I am not ready for this yet! On Sunday we lit the first advent candle in church and Geoff and I started to think seriously about our Christmas plans at last…but it all seems very early to me. I need to dig out my ancient advent calendar crib scene ready for tomorrow…and frankly I have no idea where it is as usual. I always put it somewhere safe and easy to get at each year when I take it to bits…but just exactly where, I have no idea. Definitely an age thing, that!

Enough of all that, just what have we been up to since I last wrote a post. Well, as always, we seem to have been busy especially in the last couple of weeks. People always told us retirement was time to relax… mmm, not here it isnt! November got off to a noisy and colourful start here in Carlisle with lots of fireworks going off for what seemed like weeks before the actual bonfire night. Poor Xena really doesnt like the fireworks and drove Hazel and Phil mad with her barking at the noises. We took the little one to the fantastic display in Bitts park and we all really enjoyed the bonfire and fireworks. There were thousands of people there, but it all passed off very well, if there was a bit of a crush at the exit points afterwards. A good night was had by all

I also started the month off well by helping at my craft groups Christmas Fayre. All my knitted efforts went down well and the stalls were groaning with some beautiful and varied craftwork. We made the sum of £540 which is to be divided between the MND and Diabetes UK charities. It was fun helping on the stalls too.. something which was repeated again a couple of weeks later at out churchs Christmas Fayre, where a very familiar (well, to me anyway) gentleman, made a spectacular appearance in his very new shiny black wellies! I hasten to add he did have a lovely red outfit on as well! Hazel also put in some sterling work in Santas grotto, as a very colourful and cheery elf! Another really good morning was had by all and again a lot of money was made. I was helping out on the raffle stalls and was amazed at just how much money people were prepared to spend on the chance of winning some paltry prize! I worry sometimes about this countrys attitude to gambling but that is just my strict Methodist upbringing coming to the fore I suppose. My maternal grandfather would be horrified, as he spent all his life fighting against gambling and alcohol misuse.

When we came back to live in the UK again, I always intended to start to give talks to groups. I have always loved public speaking…I did years of speech and drama training when I was young, remember…and have several ideas for talks I could give. However, Covid lockdowns put paid to that idea for far too long. So, I was delighted to be asked to give a talk to the Wives Group at church this month, at long last. What did I talk about? Our life in France, of course! I really enjoyed putting the ideas into practice and thoroughly enjoyed trolling through the hundreds of photos of our old house and garden to select several to enliven the talk. It brought back so many happy memories of how we improved the houses, how much we loved the garden, living through all the weather the Auvergne threw at us and all the wonderful experiences and adventures we had there. And of course, all the fantastic friends we made there too (Julie, you always get a special mention!). The talk went down very well and no one fell asleep! I now need to spread the word and do more of this as I really enjoyed it all. Anyone need a speaker??

We have been out and about on our usual Wednesday “date days” as always, this month, although due to the weather (which has not always been brilliant) and other commitments we have stayed a bit closer to home than we have done in the past. We managed to eat a fantastic lunch at a local Greek (Alexandros) restaurant in Carlisle one week and two of our favourite pubs -the Crown and Thistle at Rockcliffe and the Kings Arms at Stainton, which we combined with another visit to Rheged, to look around the great Forty Farms exhibition there. Our only real drive was along the Scottish side of the Solway Firth which we thoroughly enjoyed. I went back in time by re-visiting the lovely Caerlaverock Castle (a favourite haunt of my dad) and finding the wonderful Celtic cross in Ruthwell church. It was really nice to be on the “other” side of the Solway for a change.

As you all know by now, we both really appreciate all the lovely green spaces and parks in Carlisle, so Geoff was delighted to be able to help with some tree planting at a so far “new” to us, Heysham Park the other weekend. He was careful not to overdo things, as he planted lots of hazel sprigs (very appropriate!) and spring bulbs there. We also attended the very moving remembrance ceremony at the war memorial in Rickerby park on Remembrance Sunday too. I was thrilled to be able to wear a white peace poppy alongside the usual red one at last, thanks to an attendance at a peace vigil outside Carlisle Cathedral with Hazel a few days beforehand. I have wanted one of those for years.

The last week and a half of November proved to be a very busy indeed. As well as a couple of meet ups with some of our neighbours here in the mill complex for coffee at long last, my usual shifts in the op shop, a craft group meeting for me, pickleball and a safeguarding meeting at church for Geoff there were also a few long-awaited events too. Hazel and I spent a very hilarious evening in the Sands Centre laughing our heads off at Sarah Millicans show, Bobby Dazzler. That lady is just so funny, very rude at times and with an overload of bad language, which I dont like, but so, so funny. We both laughed so much, we were almost crying. It was great! I booked these tickets a year and a half ago and it was worth the wait! That was the Wednesday evening. On the Thursday I had another long-awaited meet up with my old nursing friends for lunch in Corbridge. Getting us all together these days is like herding cats, as we are all over committed to looking after family, grandchildren and doing good works these days! So, it was wonderful to be able to catch up with each others news again at long last. On the Friday I went to a day long art workshop at the Quirky Workshop barn in Greystoke, with Linda, where I loved getting my brushes out again and painting some watercolours. The theme of this day was to design some Christmas cards and we all manged that easily. I also went off piste (as Im prone to do) and actually painted a picture of some Christmas roses…naughty, but nice! All in all the day was great and it has made me realise just how much I love painting, so I suspect that in the new year I will have to find a new group to enable me to do more. I also need though to find some outlets or ways to either sell the paintings or give them away, as I know I work far too quickly and the pile of completed stuff will start to build up again!

I was just beginning to need a lie down in a darkened room after that lot, when our son Matthew contacted us to suggest a meet up with him and our grandchildren on the Saturday, so off we went to meet them in Preston for lunch and then a ten-pin bowling session afterwards! Its years since I did any ten-pin bowling and I had completely forgotten how much fun it was! Poor Ethan was not as good at it as his sister, Hadley and so had a bit of a paddy, but that apart we all had a great time. As if that wasnt enough excitement for one day, Linda had asked us to go to Mikes 70th birthday bash in the evening, so after a very quick change of clothes into party gear (in a Costa coffee loo!), we called in to Mikes sons house in Kendal on the way home, to surprise him. We didn`t stay too long (we were shattered!) but did get to experience some of the fun and to watch him blow out his candles before we left!

I have also managed to fit in a visit to the eye clinic this week where the news was not good. The very expensive long-term implants in both of my eyes are not really working and so the decision has been made to go back to 6 weekly injections again. To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement but these injections (while I still hate them) do seem to work, so hey ho. Both eyes done that morning so the next appointment will be after Christmas. That visit to the hospital did also enable me to drop off the huge bag of angels, knitted by myself and the ladies of our church, which will be given out to the NHS staff next month. Mind you I`m not sure if the nurses deserve “angel” status if they go on strike next month! I think you can guess my opinion of that!

OK…that’s you lot all up to date again. Next month looks as if it will be pretty hectic again. In spite of my comments at the start of this blog post, I have started to buy presents and cards and Hazel and I are off to see Fenwicks windows in Newcastle, with the little one on Sunday (a family tradition) so I am slowly getting into the swing of things at last! As the next post will be after the big event, I will also wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas too

A bientot mes amis…