Saturday, 29 December 2012

Magatha Christie and the case of the missing keys

It began on a dark and rainy Friday evening in the depths of the sober lull between Christmas and New Year. After shuffling the children off to bed I reclined on the sofa, settled the dog snugly on my lap and prepared to watch Restoration Man.

My gentle slumbers close attention to George Clarke's erudite commentary was rudely interrupted by the telephone. Brian answered because he was awake nearest. I paid little attention until the words "no, it's no problem, we'll come and get you" were uttered.


It turned out that Mum, who had nipped out to her meditation group in Nevern, had become parted from her coat and in that coat pocket was her car key. Ah ha.

It also turned out that "we'll fetch you" actually meant "Maggie will fetch you". Ah ha ha.

I dragged myself out from underneath the dog, threw on my coat and valiantly charged out into the stormy night in my 4X4.

I splashed triumphantly into Nevern, to be greeted with the words, "have you got my spare car keys?" Oh expletive deleted I'd forgotten them. Ah ****ing ha.

So I drove my parent back over the Preseli Hills through fog and rain and wind while she explained that her coat had inadvertently gone home (to a deepest darkest somewhere south of Lampeter) on the back of a gentleman who had mistaken her smart Berghaus waterproof with its pocketful of car keys and sensible torch for his moth-eaten coat which had the grand total of nothing in its scruffy pockets. Mum was wearing the latter (because it was raining) looking moth-eaten, scruffy and car key and torch-less.

We left Mum's car (according to her) tucked in neatly at the side of the road or (according to me) parked in the middle of the road blocking her hosts' car neatly in its driveway and causing a small obstruction to those negotiating the picturesque but narrow bridge over the river Nevern.

The night passed bringing more rain and the morning subsequently arrived with news from Mum's hosts that her car was parked near the river and the aforementioned river had just burst its banks. Ah.

We had visions of a little silver Hyundai Getz appearing on news reports bobbing down the river to the sea and causing a hazard to shipping.

So we splashed over the Preselis again, this time double-checking the presence of the spare key, passing through two floods and dodging others and successfully rescued the car from the clutches of the river Nevern.

The coat, the keys and the torch? Well they're still somewhere in the deepest darkest depths of the countryside south of Lampeter. The apologetic gentleman says he'll return them. Eventually. Case closed.

* Incidentally, Maggie isn't really short for Magatha, but I think it would suit my surname better if it was!

Friday, 21 December 2012

What really bugs me about Christmas...

What really bugs me about Christmas is the way TV adverts and magazines portray it. We see harassed mum going from shopping to cleaning to party to cooking and then relative after relative arriving to open piles of expensive presents before squeezing around a table to eat a massive turkey.

Is it really like that? Or are we just made to feel that is how it should be so we spend lots of money trying to achieve that TV advertland ideal?

Martin Moneysavingexpert Lewis has been ranting about this for years - about how we feel obligated to give cards and buy presents we can't afford for people we don't like. He's taken a lot of flack for saying it but he has got a point.

I blame the gift bag for starters. I don't know who invented them but they are ridiculous! What happened to the single, individually wrapped present? A gift bag begs to be FILLED and that's expensive. Of course they're perfect when gifting for families as you can tuck everyone's present in together but not one bag each - unless you can afford it and as long as they then don't feel obligated to equally reciprocate.

I'm learning not to feel guilty about not always being able to reciprocate. We can't keep up with the lovely relatives who send our children cash. It seems crazy to then send it back to theirs, but we have done that in the past.

I LOVE buying presents. I buy Christmas presents all year round if I see the right thing and I stick to my budget, not because I'm Scrooge but because I don't have any alternative.

I LOVE making presents, which is why Magatha Bagatha came into being and I LOVE giving presents (especially to children).


I worry about those with small families, those who work on Christmas Day, those who live on their own and will be spending the day alone, those who have lost jobs, those who have lost relatives. Christmas in advertland isn't how it's supposed to be. That's someone else's Christmas. We should all stick to our own individual versions, tailor-made to suit ourselves and our budget and, definitely, not feel obligated, not feel guilty and not feel OMG-how-can-I-afford-this?!

Here, in our little part of the Preseli Hills, this is how things are:

We HATE turkey - so we're having chicken. Three generations will sit in COMFORT around the dining table - there's five of us (not 'only' five, just five). The tree isn't a Norwegian spruce (LOVE the smell, HATE the price) it's a willow branch (and some Crabtree and Evelyn Noel room spray for fragrance.) I HATE tinsel (so it's quarantined upstairs where the children have lovingly wound it around everywhere). This is NOT America so there's no cranberry sauce. I haven't bought a SINGLE gift bag (we're always given plenty to recycle!) If you turn up and I'd like to give you a present, I WILL give you marmalade but don't feel obligated to give anything back. I bought ONE pack of Christmas cards and ONE book of stamps and they're all used up now so if you didn't get a card, I'm sorry but HAPPY CHRISTMAS anyway.

Have a very happy Christmas everyone, and have YOUR perfect Christmas, not somebody else's.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Mud, water and festive breakages


The relentless rain has left us fetlock deep in mud. Walking the dogs is more slipping with the dogs and they haul vast quantities back in to the house with them on their paws. The sheep don't seem to mind, thanks to the invention of lanolin. The ponies mind and are brought into the shed to dry out. The four-legged can walk about on the mud - if one leg slips there's another three to lean on. Humans are less fortunate so walking about is tiresome. A couple of times I've had to grab onto a handy mane to save from muddy disaster.


Our farm, like all of the others here, is strewn with streams. In the summer they burble happily down to the river at the bottom, in winter - or, rather, in a WET winter like this one - they hurry angrily on down muttering loudly to themselves. Unless of course they become clogged with leaves and then there is childlike pleasure in kicking the leaves out and getting a satisfying gurgle before the stream forms a mini tsunami and rushes on again sweeping a barrage of leaves in its path. Even though only a foot wide and ankle-deep the power is surprising. It makes me wish I had the wit of an engineer, imagining how even a tiny turbine could harness that power and turn it into electricity. I know it can be done, I've even seem it demonstrated on Youtube with an empty water carrier and plastic spoons but I cannot work out how that electricity, once made, could be employed. I should have paid attention in physics.


The festive season has arrived despite my best efforts to ignore it and hope it will magically move itself to a more convenient time, say, around Easter. I've been busy with Magatha Bagatha sewing presents for family alongside making things for customers. It's been an absolute joy - especially finding out how much I love making bunting and designing cushions to a customer's specification. Comments such as: "Maggie, they are amazing, I am over the moon with them,"  and "Wow! I love them!" are so lovely and very encouraging.

Finally though I have got to the end of the things I need to make and have packed away my sewing machine. Underneath it was the dining table, which we're going to need next Tuesday, and around it, under heaps of material, is apparently the rest of the dining room although I haven't managed to locate all of it yet!

But I have got the tree up - a bit of goat willow I found in the hedge by the river. Last time we chopped down an ash sapling that was growing in the wrong place, but it would seem vandalism to kill an ash at the moment. The willow is an excellent substitute and looks festive wrapped in sparkling lights.

Small disasters

Things keep breaking. My car was the start of this current spate of breakages. I actually cried when it left, I'm such a wuss. I loved my CR-V. Then we acquired a gorgeous new (younger, sprightlier) one that I love more; I'm that fickle.

The oil boiler has been broken for ages but we finally saved up enough to pay for it to be fixed (by not using or having to pay for oil - simple!) and now it is working again we are flagrantly leaving it on all day and basking in the heat. The bathroom is warm (hot!) enough for a leisurely bath, not just a splash and dash.

Then the fridge part of the fridge freezer broke. Just as I was about to stuff it with food ready for Christmas. Blasted thing. What timing! If it wasn't already dead I'd kill it. We'd always hated it tough (horrid complicated LG thing) so  a replacement is arriving tomorrow.