I've been to a marvellous party.          Hoolidoo  2012.
   You know what it's like trying to herd cats, well this is as close as we got to having everybody smiling and looking in the same direction at the same time. Mum is slightly eclipsed, but that's probably because everybody has eaten too much cake. Despite my protestations, several people brought gifts and I shall try to thank them all before I drink them - since it is difficult to recall such details afterward.
     The party was superficially held in honour of my 60th birthday, and although, as mentioned above, it resulted in birthday gifts, it has to be admitted that these Hooliedoos (the 4th o is optional) tend to happen irrespective of any particular reason, and lacking said obvious reason simply adopt the nearest excuse. We could for instance have been celebrating the number of medals achieved at the Olympics or the successful landing of Curiosity on Mars. The truth is it's just an excuse for a party.
  We took about 30 pictures of us in a row. No not having an argument, row as in a line. In every one there are two of us scowling, dribbling, looking the wrong way, getting up and walking out of frame, or looking bewildered.
   Luckily somebody took this, (to the right) from the side, at the one time we were all looking coherent. We were hoping to be seen from the front, to copy a picture from the 1980's, but it was not to be.  Herding cats again.

    On the left here you have the four of us and Jo, who needs these regular Hooliedoos to keep her fit. We all come along and generally have a good time to keep her company. It's the least we can do and now constitutes a significant tradition of some importance. Later I hope to add a u-tube movie showing other guests, but this (Mum's) computer is a trifle reluctant in that area so it will have to wait.

 Dear all,
 a postscript and general thank-you.
  It started out as three thank-you letters, they got so large and rambling that I thought the best thing was to make it generally available.

     It was good to see you all looking well and not at all old. Actual ages don't count, I've decided. Look at Mum, oops you can't, she's in Italy, gallivanting. 
      We had a lazy journey back up to Bonnie S and stopped off at several friend's places on the way, so it took several days and quite a bit of food and drink. We have now reinstated the diet and hopefully that will reduce the sudden girth expansion. Repeatedly crossing the country, as we wound our way North, I saw several roads I've not used before, there's some lovely scenery out there, though the sunny weather helped, I'm sure the Pennines can be a bit bleak in Winter, and only Scotland can look good in the rain.
I was really pleased that everybody really enjoyed themselves, I hope to put a wee burst of movie opposite, but I know some computers object, so if you just get a blank there then try this link on the right
​                                                                         >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

   Useful thing, the internet, I think I got everybody, and they should be able to see themselves 'on the telly' . Anyway, I'm getting through the backlog of emails, one of the less attractive aspects of said internet, and I'm getting ready to chide Waitrose for their patchy service. The actual food came out fine  in the end though, fortunately Cousin Ben knew how to deal with Unexpected Catering Crisis Circumstances. I've been working on the wording between emails and this is the result so far, now shall I send it or not?

   Many guests had brought food and drink, I won't list them all as there are too many, and I'd probably get at least one wrong, but thank you very much, the 'bought in' food went down well, but it was the home-cooked stuff that got the praise, and Ben's ice-cubes were the Piece de Resistance. Its probably a mistake to use expressions like that, but I couldn't resist it. 

  Our journey back was punctuated by visits to friends and relations so I ended up even heavier, but the diet should take care of that. (Two consecutive days a week at 600 kilocalories per day, otherwise normal.)

  The house was still standing when we got back, though the cat had something to say about the prolonged absence, and is sitting beside me, I seem to have been forgiven. For reasons I try not to explain, she has her own chair by the computer. Purring like a small motorbike. She's a bit lighter than one though, which is just as well as she walks pointedly over the keyboard if I've been taking too long. Spell-check, or rather the Mac version of it, has a bit of a problem with that and usually goes into a huff.

  We have now determined to have at least 2 holidays before the year's end, one in Devon via Mum, which should extend our Summer a bit. It's so warm down there we don't really mind what the weather does. After the party I went down to the High Street in Winchester to get a wooden pole from the hardware store (to suspend the flying pigs). Starting on the way back, walking, it rained so hard I expected the pole to sprout leaves. I was just wearing a shirt (and trousers if you want to be picky) so I was well soaked, but it was so mild that, with the uphill bit to the house, I was half dry by the time I got in and finished with a quick rub of the head with a towel. If you try that in Scotland they find you the next morning, quite dead but very clean. But I digress, back to now, with that holiday coming up and the other, a trip to Skye, (with the caravan and a couple of canoes) I must complete at least half a dozen repairs or projects before Winter. Here it tends not to drop hints, but just arrives like an unexpected life-changing brown envelope. Just when you think you've got a bit more Autumn (or in severe cases, Summer) Winter drops a black bag on your head, and by the time you have night-adapted, you are up to your oxters in snow. Oxters are armpits in Scottish, spellcheck thinks they should be otters!
Ah well, mind how ye go,
yours aye
Jim. 05/09/2012
  Some will find themselves missed out of the video above, my camera skills are limited. 
  Others might want to be missed as weren't. My apologies to those who find themselves in the wrong group. If it's of any consolation, it will only be seen by people who know the address.

Letter to Waitrose

Dear Waitrose
  Re your "How did we do survey" 
On line arrangement of delivery (between 9 and 11 on the 25th) was double booked, or something like that, and we got a call (in Scotland a few hours before we set off for Winchester) explaining. So we arranged to pick up ourselves. Just as well, as we had expected to get the food half an hour, at the latest, before the party kicked off. Now, apart from the fact that on arrival we were told there would be a wait of up to 20 minutes before we could have the food, we ran into a few surprises.....We were somewhat stunned to find that the Blinis needed assembly (unwrap and cut up salmon, heat blini, assemble, add dip).

The original plan was picnic style in my sisters garden!

   The doo-doo deepened, the  Canapes required cooking on baking paper. (I'm a man, what makes you think I know where, or what, is baking paper?) Scrounged that from near-by. The 3 different types of Canape needed different cooking times (I thought the idea was to provide party food, not a cookery lesson) The vegetarian sandwiches were prepared, but came in a rather dismal floppy cardboard box. The rolls were slightly better presented. All the food was of excellent quality and we could have forgiven the delivery mix-up as ordering on line tends to run into logistic problems, but surely your customers are expecting food to need no more than minimal preparation before being presented to what might have been many more than the 30 guests we had. 
  I think a large warning is required, for the unwary, on the web page, of the preparation time, facilities and material required and at least a picture of the ingredients as they are to be (hopefully) delivered, rather than the finished product after the customer has assembled them. Otherwise, frankly, I would have bought the blinis as stock from the shelves, set aside time to cook the Canapes, secured scissors or sharp knives and a chopping board for the salmon, plates or trays for the display and found out where on earth they sell baking paper. Just as well it wasn't a picnic. In the event, the difficultied were resolved and the party went well, but that is because we were able to recruit two guests and a neighbour at the last minute to help, fortunately one had run a sandwich shop and knew about last minute catering surprises. 
  I'm not sure it's worth-while contacting me, as the party is now over and we cannot adjust the past, this is more to prevent reoccurrence. No doubt you will be busy reorganising your online services. However I shall tick the box to make sure somebody has read this. My experience was not enhanced by the fact that the 'survey page' timed out as I vented my spleen. Fortunately I had saved the script to memory.
Ben's Ice cube recipe
Don't blame me if it ends in tears and anyway it's probably breaching copyright.

 1 Boil some water, let it cool down a bit. 
 2 Boil it again. Let it cool down again. This makes the cube clear of bubbles, looks nicer.
 3 pour a bit of the cooled water into the bottom of the ice cube tray.
 4 Jump about a bit if you didn't let it cool down enough. Get a new tray.
 5 Freeze it in the freezer, it has to be really frozen or instruction 8 will melt it.
 6 Put a bit of fruit, (or whatever you want to freeze into the cube) onto the ice. Avoid poisons and choking hazards.
 7 Repeat 5 
 8  Add cold water from instruction 2, if it is a bit warm the insert will float. Be warned.
 9 repeat 8 until the ice cube is complete.
​ 10 Put a cube in a guest's drink (not hot drinks like tea or coffee) 
 11 Never put one in Whisky. It's a sin.
 12 Small dead fish are not appropriate.
ditto ball bearings, flakes of gold leaf are considered a bit naff. Tiny mannikins are a bit weird and body parts totally unacceptable.
Don't use dry ice. (frozen CO2) It's spectacular but people won't ask you to parties afterwards. Ditto Frozen Nitrogen.