Here is a picture of a rather clumsy watervole falling off a twig, no other animals were hurt in the making of this picture.

The Old Manse  26/12/’05
Dear All
   ‘05 is rushing for the door, almost time for ‘06, on the universally popular principle that there will be one.  George Bush notwithstanding.  Even if it’s not going to be as good as the one we vaguely remember from childhood, when summers were longer, snow deeper and walnut whips totally better in every way. Etc.
I’m not going to make any comments on getting there safely, John Peel, in his last year, made several remarks that seemed, retrospectively, perhaps a little ominous. You can always tell which pilot in the film is going to get it next when he says that he’s going to buy a farm and raise chickens once this lot’s over. Bad as a red Federation uniform.  So me, I’m saying nothing.
   So why the gloomy start, oh famous Jim, who is usually so irritatingly chipper?  Well I’ll tell you, though you may wish you’d never asked.
   By now (since 1992) many have heard me rumble on about the joys of the village council, and the occasional pinhead that makes a pleasant enough task into a real pain.  Negative people, one day they will be identified at an early age and made to mend their ways or be confined to their own company.
Anyway, a small crowd (5-ish) of these thumbsuckers have made TCC meetings a pain, and wanted to run things better. They got themselves organised and in the election they got more votes than me.  Joy! Time to make a rapid exit and let them have a go.
   Then somebody pointed out that a postal vote hadn’t been made available, and that the election has to be re-run in ‘06. South Lanarkshire Council stipulates that the Tarbrax Community Council workings must be as complicated as possible and that the election of 6 village councillors must be as democratic, public and laborious as national elections. I think they have achieved that aim. 
   So, blood and sand, I’m Chair again until early ‘06, hence the gloom.  However, all is not lost, since I was under the impression that I was out of the running I stood for, and was elected to, the Scottish Wildlife Trust Council.  So other commitments mean that I’ll not be able to stand for re-election.
   Ha Ha, free, free at last after all these years. 

   Sorry, minor breakdown there.  I’m fine, really.

On a lighter note we went to another presentation by a holiday company. We go to one every year because they keep calling us and offering free holidays if we drop in and listen to their presentation, which always turns out to be a hard-sell long-term heavy financial package.
   I always point out to the Tele-sales person that I’m happy to go along and accept the holiday, but that we really don’t want to subscribe to any payment plan or time-share opportunity.  Nevertheless they are most insistent, so we toddle along, explain that we don’t need such a thing and pick up a free holiday. This one was by the same firm as last time. I look on the exercise as good practice at being able to say no to people wanting me to go on committees.  Anyway, this time, half of their staff hadn’t turned up, because of a party the previous night, so they took our “No” at face value and let us go.  You’d have thought it was worth their while crossing off people who say no several times, but they don’t seem to have caught on to the idea.  
They keep using the same database of addresses.  I think that’s about five holidays so far.  Minorca, Algarve, Malta, one in Spain that we haven’t used yet, and now one in Madeira for May ‘06.  Who said there’s no free lunch? 
   Other happenings, well the Rover 25 (bought since my last newsletter) got on my nerves.  Mainly, I suppose, from being completely useless in the snow that we had about the end of November, anyway, I flogged it and the Peugeot 306 and got a huge people carrier thing called a Vauxhall Zafira instead. 

You will note the home-made garage behind, I’m rather pleased with it.  
I had thought about something small and economical, but this thing does 40 to the gallon, and has a decent carrying capacity for bits of furniture etc, so I decided to go for it. We used it to go to St Annes and pick up Lillias on Christmas Eve, which is three hours each way, and it seemed to use rather less petrol than the Subaru. All to do with the aerodynamics and a light body.  Does 100 mph as well, without any strain, and presumably a bit more.  I was quite impressed, though I reduced the speed to 70 once I noticed (as I am sure you would expect) and fortunately before any cameras did. That must catch a few people out, hitting 80 used to make my earlier cars shake like a bad attack of the DT’s. Now you can nudge the ton without noticing.  I wonder if they’ll ever raise the limit, it was instituted when the Morris 1000 was king.  I have also pondered, sometimes, at what speed the police take action? I think the only practical answer is to wait until you have a police car behind you and gradually jack up your speed until he turns on his blue lights.  If anybody feels like trying that out, don’t tell them it was my idea.
   On the housing front, glad tidings in the form of a building warrant, finally arrived from South Lanarkshire Council allowing me to get on with the south-facing conservatory. I had hoped to get well into it by the middle of last summer, but the wheels of bureaucracy grind slow (though not particularly fine). I did get some sand, bricks and stuff in early, however, so there might be some serious building soon, frost permitting, but as yet it’s just some concrete foundations.  Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Probably because of the six month delay between Planning permission and Building warrant.  Come to think of it, I wonder what they’d do if you put in a proper plan, all modern and up to date, for a Coliseum.  I know you can build a replica stone-henge, somebody did, in Canada I think, and they classified it as a garden ornament. Since it didn’t have a roof or a floor, doors or windows, you can see that it would be a bit difficult to place.  Anyway, Christmas is a time for good cheer, so let me wish you all a Merry, and if it isn't merry enough, then come and visit and get some. Must go now, I can hear the cats pulling the baubles off the tree.

see y'all