First off a Happy new year to you! Hope you had an excellent Xmas to boot.
All was well in the Lester household with the added bonus of the Dark Lady this year meant that there were double celebrations. This also meant double the amount of food and drink as well as double the amount of travelling. That was leavened by double the amount of presents. Poor Santa had his work cut out believe me.
Finished the show on the Friday and then it was dashing through the snow to an isolated barn conversion in the Costwolds where the DL and her family were holed up.
I had been warned that there was a quarter of a mile of farm track with a deep deep ditch down one side of the roadway and it was v v icy.
I turned off the main road and very gingerly drove along the glassy surface at approximately four MPH. All was going extremely well I thought and I was toying with the idea of contacting Top Gear to suggest myself as a replacement for the Stig when unbeknown to me the ridge of snow in the middle of the track was gradually building up beneath the front of my car.
Suddenly without any warning the car slewed off the road. To my immense relief it decided to take the non ditch route and I came to rest in a foot of snow blocking the track
A farmer appeared with a shovel and kindly dug me out while everyone else fussed around me.
I was mortified as I thought I had been so careful. Still a glass of wine later and equilibrium was restored.
Then the eating started and on it went. Interspersed with Festive TV. Not watched Xmas telly in years. In fact probably not since my Mum died in 2002. She always liked to watch the Queen whilst the rest of us fretted as we didn't get the big presents til after her Maj had finished. Friend of mine had an elderly aunt who liked to watch the Monarch speak "I just like to see what she is wearing" was her annual mantra.
So a number of films came and went usually of the heartwarming and life affirming type which had me removing specks of imaginary dust from my eye. (Note to self if "It's a Wonderful Life" is ever shown make excuses and leave as the resulting waterworks will unman you in the eyes of the children.
Then we had a choice between Top Gear and Strictly. The blokes were outvoted so we had to sit through Brucie, standard TV blonde woman and a selection of people some of whom I recognised many of whom I didn't stamping and posturing with rictus grins (Vince Cable being the exception as the Dancing Grinch) as they tottered around to wild applause.
Wild applause seems to be the default mechanism if anyone does anything these days which is deemed to be "exciting". June Brown got wild applause for being alive and reasonably mobile. Ronni Ancona got wild applause for wearing a big frock and being lifted up making it billow. There were some singers and when the front four of them stood up they received such an ovation I thought the audience were going to need the emergency services. Its a dancing programme movement is part of the deal! We thought John Barrowman winning was a bit of a fix as he was bound to be able to hoof as he is a West End musical star. Its his job after all to sing and dance. That is what they do!
Christmas day and it was up with the lark. 5am due to excited children and me who doesn't sleep much past that time at the best of times these days.
DL loves the season and had spent hours wrapping a lot of tiny gifts for stockings. Chocolate, smellies and a hamburger shaped kitchen timer. My big gift from her was a fabulous duffle coat. I have not had one of these with toggles since I was a kid. She had got the size just right apart from the fact that I have very short arms. So in full Paddington Bear mode I can't see my hands. A trip to the tailors is going to fix that shortly.
Due to the romantic gift of a Magimix for her birthday it was with some trepidation that she opened hers to find a camera. She only has one in her phone and as I pointed out she is going to need a good one so she can take the wedding pics so we don't have to hire a bone fide photographer on the big day.
Full of a big cooked breakfast (It was the 25th December its the law). I set off for Birmingham through the frozen lanes with the temperature nudging -14C to visit my sister and Brother in Law. My Dad and I make up a foursome for Xmas lunch. So more gifts, my annual gin and tonic and another excellent turkey dinner. We had the same crackers as the night before so I was able to guess the terrible jokes and snaffle the weird plastic shapeless thing which I think is supposed to be a whistle.
After we sat and talked and I showed my holiday snaps of New York which caused my Dad to promptly fall asleep.
Mid evening and with the temp nudging a balmy -7C I headed back to the barn just in time for some more food.
New Years Eve and we are not as fussed with this celebration as with Xmas so on a whim we decided to head off to France for the weekend. Getting a place on the train through the Channel tunnel was no big deal but the trains were full on the way back so we managed to get the last cabin on the Ferry to Portsmouth.
France was deserted although the supermarket on New Years Eve (the day is called La Sainte-Sylvestre apparently) resembles Xmas Eve here in the UK as everyone is out stripping the shelves bare of anything edible or that may be edible at a pinch. New Years weekend the only things open were filling stations and the bakery as a nation cannot exist without croissants.
We bought a load of DVD's, lit the fire, some candles and burned chestnuts. I would like to say we cooked or roasted them but in the gloom it was difficult to tell if they were done or not.
We managed to last until 9pm English time 10pm French before collapsing into bed and sleeping for ten hours. The following night we took a similar route but slept badly. Think this may have been due to a surfeit of cheese. Not sure it says anything about it in the Bible but if God had meant us to sleep soundly he would not have invented so many different varieties and also pâté!
Monday came and it was the show for me as usual but the DL still had another day off. I had planned a surprise which I managed to keep a secret until we made it into the auditorium
The game was given away by the music stands on the stage which bore the legend: "The Glenn Miller Orchestra".
Although it is effectively a band performing under licence from the Glenn Miller estate and playing under the baton of UK bandleading legend Ray McVay the music is timeless and the musicianship faultless. I defy you not to feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention during Moonlight Serenade as June Allyson's did in the "Glenn Miller Story" when he discovered "the sound".
We had good seats two rows back in the stalls just to the right of centre which meant that we were a bit trumpet and trombone heavy but it was a terrific afternoon. Yes, due to the age of the audience the gig started at 3pm and we were back on the street again at 5.30. However there were some younger people there proving that good music will always find an audience.
The second half opened with the orchestra having changed into the military uniforms of the wartime army airforce band. This got us thinking as we watched the various ranks file onto the bandstand. How did they arrive at the various ranks; length of service? Difficulty of instrument? Did they get promoted for good playing? Did Ray bust someone to private for playing a bum note? As it was wartime, were there spies in the camp perhaps feeding arrangement secrets to the Benny Goodman Orchestra?
As well as the well loved instrumentals and newer material "Millerised" there were the "Moonlight Serenaders" with their wonderful close harmonies as well as solo spots. To liven things up there was frenzied jitterbugging from the four piece dance troupe the "Jiving Lindy Hoppers". They were pure showbiz dahlings. They were all teeth and tinsel as they pranced and mugged to the back of the auditorium. Two rows back it was just plane scary and with the guys flinging the girls in short skirts all over the place I was beginning to suffer from gussett overload at one point so concentrated on my choc ice.
As you will know from the blog about the Beth Nielsen Chapman gig early last year the DL and I are terrible gigglers. So when the wonderful Jan Messeder took to the stage to sing a selection of Vera Lynn favourites she had made yet another costume change. This time she was in a long salmon/flesh coloured satin number. Unfortunately she was wearing matching over the elbow long gloves. This gave the impression she had been in a fearful accident and had suffered severe injuries leading to her being fitted with prosthetic arms. DL and I looked at each other and we were off. It was like being in the church choir again when someone farted during the sermon. I hope she didn't notice two purple faced weeping snorting people two rows back tears rolling down their faces as she crooned her way through "The White Cliffs of Dover".
A great way to end a terrific couple of weeks of festivities.
As far as 2011 is concerned and the show. Dr Strangelove the producer is currently away being "re-educated" by the BBC so a variety of top people have been drafted in to try and keep order.
Namely Paul "Constant Shaving" Raffaelli the most hirsute man in showbusiness and Simon Tester who you may recall is trying to develop a taste for Rugby. Not for playing but being a spectator. In the year since he left the show to work with Claudia Winkleman on the Radio 2 Arts show he has signed up to the Harlequins website but not go any further than that. Still, like Whiskey and "the one" it may take some time to get there but it is worth the wait in the end.
Here's wishing you all that you would wish yourself for 2011