Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Requiem for a Tree

It has been over two years since I told you about the ash tree in front of our house. Eventually it was marked with the yellow spot of doom and we have made several calls to the city arborist (that’s the tree guy, but in Grosse Pointe we call him the arborist) to inquire about the patient’s fate. Last week when the weather turned warm along came a crew. They were obviously the branch experts and when they had removed the limbs, they departed. A few days later the trunk and stump guys arrived, and we now have a hole where once stood our valiant ash.

Look at the poor old thing. Knobby and gnarled, listing and bent, gamely awaiting nature’s next onslaught.

Er, the tree.

Monday, January 21, 2008

That Was the Christmas that Was

There is a classic question in job interviews: the interviewer looks steadily at the interviewee and asks, “What would you say is your biggest weakness?” The applicant gulps and quickly rummages around to think of a venial foible he can spin into a strength which he can claim helped him break the company quota for selling widgets. I don’t think there is much chance that I will ever again be in the hot seat, but it is clear to me what I would proffer as my greatest weakness: it’s a need to do justice to a project and my consequent failure to do anything. Anyone who has read this journal in the past will mutter, “There she goes again. It’s the Raspberry Syndrome.” They would be right. And I am running out of time. If I don’t say something about my wonderful Christmas in England, I won’t say anything. I’ll never write here again.

Let me just repeat, it was wonderful and I hope to flesh out these notes later. The trip started badly: fog in Amsterdam and the cancellation of most of the flights to Northern Europe, but we were ticketed on a flight to Birmingham a few hours later. I don’t mind sitting around airports people-watching and I had a big, fat Sudoku book to keep me amused (thanks, Chris.) We eventually accomplished the last leg—minus Ernie’s suitcase, which happily was driven to our door the next evening. After that, it was all up-hill. Needless to say the very best part of all was spending so much time with my brother and his wife, with my niece, Karen and her husband Peter and with my nephew Steven. What stands out?

  • Steven’s son, Reece (see photo of the week). What a charmer, a Lego whiz and a computer expert!
  • Food. Brenda is a great cook and we sat down to meal after meal of wonderful stuff, crowned, of course, by Christmas dinner.
  • Christmas carols at Ely Cathedral. I had really wanted to attend the service of Lessons and Carols at King’s College, but it would have required a minimum of six hours waiting in line, so we settled for Ely Cathedral which was impressive and had just the right amount of medieval cold seeping up from the floor.
  • Waitrose. I know, I hate super markets, but it is fun to wander around the aisles of one in a different country and see all the different foods they sell.
  • The Welney Wetland Center with the wind howling across the Fens and the swans and geese arriving to spend the winter in relative comfort.
  • The BBC coverage of the death of Benazir Bhutto. No one does the news like the BBC.
  • Brian’s recordings of various TV series and making the acquaintance of Fred Dibnah.
  • The day spent with an old friend of Brian’s and his wife and hearing stories of Saudi Arabia and Morris Dancing.
  • Three wonderful hours spent in the company of an old friend who dropped by to reminisce on her way to Norwich.
  • Brian and Brenda’s photos of Australia and Karen and Peter’s photos of Machu Picchu.

Well, at least I have set pen to paper, so to speak. It was lovely time, different from my early Christmases with Brian, different from my recent Christmases with my own family. There are photos here.

Did I get the job?