My Mum on Skype (and other connections)

My Mum on Skype, earlier this evening.

My Mum on Skype, earlier this evening.

This morning we got up early, carefully removed the roof box (it turns out that if the wind gusts above 50 mph then cars with roof boxes will be prevented from crossing the Forth Road Bridge… and we didn’t want to take any chances), packed the car and headed south, just as the sun was beginning to rise.

Destination: Selkirk. And more specifically, the my-Mum’s-house part of Selkirk. We were delivering presents and catching up, albeit too briefly, with relatives.

There are some members of my extended family that we’ve not seen for too long; a few had not even met Isaac, who turns three next month. Not due to any conspiracy, but simply a combination of the impracticalities of small, twinsy children, lack of sleep (a lot to do with lack of sleep), depression, back/neck injuries, and… the fact that it takes us the best part of 6 hours to just drive down there and back again. So it was lovely to catch-up, albeit too briefly. On our drive back north we popped in to see my brother Eddie at South Queensferry, to get the boys into their pyjamas and to deliver another Christmas present.

This year, for Christmas, we gave my Mum a new laptop computer (Asus X551CA, featuing a 15.6″ screen, Intel Celeron 1007U dual core CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, Windows 8.1 Home).

Mum has never had a new laptop. Her last-but-one was a very generous hand-me-down from good friends of ours. Her last one was bought about ten years ago for a business that Jane and her Mum ran in Edinburgh. It was creaking at the joints: it almost panted with exhaustion running Windows 7, it would take about 15 minutes to start, the cheap webcam I had bought for it had too low a resolution and would invariably find itself pointing at the ceiling when I was trying to Skype with Mum, and the speakers were too quiet, so we’d have to Skype and phone at the same time to get both video and audio.

The new one, though, is fast: it boots in about a minute. It has a built-in high definition webcam and the speakers are loud enough for us to make a Skype-to-Skype conversation, as you can see form the screenshot above.

It’s been a good day of re-establishing connections. Hopefully we can get back down to the Borders before too long, and can start using Skype more to keep in touch.

Christmas 2011

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Above: Isaac gives a knitted Santa a cuddle a few days before Christmas.

Christmas Eve

“I was very surprised that you agreed to preach at the midnight mass,” said Jane on Christmas Eve, “after you’d said last year that you were going to take a year off this year.”

“Did I say that?” I asked.

Apparently so, but I’m glad that I had forgotten because the midnight service at All Saints’, St Andrews was beautiful. The nave (where the congregation sits) was in darkness, lit by hand-held candles, there was a procession during which the baby Jesus was placed in the crib, which was then blessed. The choir was small but enthusiastic; and daring (In dulce jubilo in German). My sermon was warmly received, with another member of the clergy team saying to me afterwards that he thought that it was “spot on”, which I found encouraging.

I drove back to Anstruther around a quarter past one, glowing and thanking God. While I was waiting for the toast to pop-up at home I tweeted:

Fabulous midnight mass at All Saints, St Andrews. The good news of Jesus preached. Feeling very blessed. Happy Christmas one and all. x

I retired to bed for about four-and-a-half hours.

Christmas Day

The drive to Selkirk wasn’t quite as I had planned; particularly the 30 mph winds. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared while driving. The Forth Road Bridge was closed to high sided vehicles, buses, cars with trailers, caravans, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians: pretty much everybody apart from us. I crept across the almost deserted bridge at 30 mph, driving mostly down the line between the lanes.

Just south of Edinburgh, at Newtongrange we discovered that Isaac had a very dodgy tummy. And that we’d forgotten to pack a change of clothes. He turned up to St John’s in Selkirk wearing his pyjamas: a George Pig (Peppa’s brother) fleecy sleep suit. Very sweet.

Jane stayed at my Mum’s to prepare Christmas lunch while the rest of us (minus Reuben, who wanted to stay with Mummy) went to church.

We had Christmas lunch round a wallpaper-pasting table covered in a table cloth, which was a great idea and fit the space perfectly. Jane’s lunch was cooked to perfection—even the parsnips in honey and mustard which always go wrong for us.

Before and after lunch presents were opened, mostly by Reuben and Joshua regardless of whose name was on the label—they were so excited, it was great. And all too soon we were packing up bags and boxes and loading up the car again for the equally-windy drive back to Fife.

Once back home the boys all transferred effortlessly (and for us thankfully) from the car to their beds. We unpacked the car, reheated some Christmas dinner and crashed out in front of the telly to watch the season finalé of Merlin that we’d recorded from the night before.

Then bed.

Boxing Day

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Above: Joshua (left) and Reuben rip open a present on Boxing Day morning.

This was our stay-at-home day, with the majority of Reuben, Joshua and Isaac’s presents still to open. It was nice to stretch out their presents over the last two days rather than overwhelming them with everything all at once.

Jane had picked up a big box of action figures: underwater, mountain, space, etc. which you can see Reuben and Joshua opening in the photograph above. They have loved playing with them all day. At one point they were both lying on top of the dining room table totally engrossed in their play: fabulous!

It was also a tired day, as the busyness of the last few days caught up with us. Jane crashed out on the sofa around mid-day; I went for a sleep mid-afternoon; Reuben fell asleep on the armchair just before dinner.

That said, bedtime still took about three-and-a-half hours. And everybody wanted Mummy to put them to bed.

And to be honest, that’s where I should be now, so I’m going to be uncharacteristically sensible and catch up with as much sleep as I can get. That is, after all, the only thing that I asked for for Christmas: a sleep.

Night, night! And Happy Christmas!

May you have a blessed Christmas

Nativity by Father Luke Dingman

From the hand of Father Luke Dingman © 1992 Conciliar Press

This is one of my favourite Christmas cards.  I was sent it by my good friend, and former National Youth Choir of Great Britain member, Mark T Powell.

It has this prayer on the reverse:

Adorn yourself, O Bethlehem.
Open your gates, O Eden.
Enter, O Magi, and see salvation swaddled in a crib.
Behold the star shining above the cave;
It announces the life-giving Lord
who saves the human race.

Vespers of the Feast of Saint Andrew

Lots of love this Christmas-time from

Gareth, Jane, Reuben, Joshua and Baby 3.0 (due on Thursday 20 January 2011)
xxx

Alek’s controllable Christmas lights for Cœliac disease

Kyle and Alek testing the Christmas inflatables

Kyle and Alek testing the Christmas inflatables

Every Christmas Alek Komarnitsky decks his house with over 20,000 lights and covers his lawn with enormous, controllable inflatables.  Controllable by you, that is.  Which you can watch live on one of his three webcams.

Check it out: Alek’s controllable Christmas lights for Celiac disease

Alek’s children have an auto-immune disease called Cœliac disease (spelt “Celiac disease” in North America), and Alek uses his website to raise money for research into the disease. So far he’s raised over US $50,000.

You can make a donation online at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.

If you have the time take an explore round the rest of Alek’s website: www.komar.org.  It really is one of my favourite websites because, even though it doesn’t have the most sophisticated design, it simply contains so much life and love.

Every day isn’t Christmas

I enjoy cycling; I enjoy lifting weights.

I also enjoy Christmas. But I wouldn’t like to have to celebrate Christmas five days a week.

But I guess that it’s because I’ve been living as though it was Christmas five days a week for the last eight years that I’m now having to shed this excess weight by cycling and lifting weights so often.

Back to the weights …