It's the Crazy Christmas Mayhem that we call...
The Watson-Laird Gazette 2015 !!
"Well Alice, what an irrepressible year it's been!” "Don't we always start it like that, Martin?” "Yes, Alice dear, that's why I started it like that. Again. What are we going to talk about?”
Well, about this time we look up and admire the vast expanse of whiteness. Of course it's not an early snow shower, it's the daunting four blank pages of the 2015 Watson Laird Gazette, spreading inexorably across the PC monitor. (A new wide one.)
It seems extra hard this year, as we seem unable to find last year's Watson-Laird Gazette. It's important that we find it so that we don't repeat anything from last year. From two years ago, you won't remember if we repeat anything, but copying last year's we think we'd be pushing it. However, after many minutes of looking, and using various sophisticated computer search tools, we finally realise that as far as we can tell last year's was actually called the 2013 Watson Laird Gazette. Nobody noticed.
If English isn't your first language, you can use the Google to translate it, or else just read it VERY LOUDLY with lots of finger-jabbing.
"Merry Christmas” in different languages from around the world, is embedded throughout the Watson-Laird Gazette. At the end you will find a list of the irrepressible languages used. While you wait for the turkey to thaw (or your family to arrive, or to thaw), try and identify the languages. Here is the first:
1.Zalig Kersfeest, Wang swietie Kresnetie
Already we've had a couple of cards that arrived early, from friends hoping to get a quick peek at the Watson-Laird Gazette. As ever, we have been very strict and nobody has seen it yet, but it has been nice having Christmas cards from two of you on the table since August. For new subscribers to the Watson-Laird Gazette, it's all a bit ‘tongue in cheek' and politically incorrect. We try to insult everyone, i.e. minorities like vegans, cyclists, librarians and the rest of you. The phrase ‘tongue in cheek' only exists in English.
It really has been a bumper 2015. Every year Alice gets a calendar showing photographs from our year, so she can remember whether she goes anywhere often. This year it is so packed with memories that it has 17 pages, including three Februarys and Julys so we get multiple birthdays.
As part of our never-ending irrepressible mission to keep an eye on the British Empire, we visited Canada this year. For those of you who are cartographically retarded, it's the pink bit above the United States, on the way to Santa's place. We spent a week with a delightfully crazy French lady in Montreal, before moving on to Ottawa, for this year's Puzzle Party. Martin's latest design featured a load of lumps of wood to be stuffed into a box with a stupidly-small opening. Holiday highlights included seeing a raccoon, and groundhogs and a beaver, as well as more exotic birds than you can shake a stick at. (Alice, being a bird-watcher didn't actually do that.) We saw grey, red and black squirrels within a few seconds of each other.
We are already well into the Christmas CDs, doing them alphabetically this year, and we are currently listening to Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers sing and play Old-time Traditional Christmas Traditional Best-loved Irrepressible Fireside Winter Traditional Melodies for all the Traditional Family.
Some of the things we've done this year include an architectural heritage tour of Brentford, Alice's birthday visit to the great Victorian cemetery at Nunhead; achieving one of Alice's life time ambitions, we saw the chirpy Cockney Rockers, Chas and Dave; we got a new PC; visited Syon House, Putney Vale, Hampton Court several times for bird counting surveys with friend Thelma, the Water Gardens, (a stately home), the Medhurst reunion, Nag's Head and Newport nature reserves; The Trumpeters, a posh house in the centre of Richmond, for afternoon tea; the local car show, the House of Commons, Kew compost heap, and Kew Gardens Laboratories, some of which we might have time to expand on.
Over the last few days, it being the irrepressible anniversary of moving into this house, 20 years ago, I've spent a lot of time working on renewing the buildings and contents insurance. It's one of the highlights of Christmas. It's bizarre, have you ever read the things that aren't included in your household insurance? No? Well, don't! It doesn't even mention burst pipes. It does mention something called "unscheduled outflow of water”, which doesn't sound half as scary.
Depending on whether you get a card with a 1st class or 2nd class stamp, either we will be going in a few days, or have just been to see this year's pantomime, performed by the Richmond Shakespeare Company, Dick Whittington and his Cat.
On that subject, seeing as this will be our 25th year together, we wondered about using all the bits that Alice had removed from all the previous Christmas letters. However she'd still remove the same bits.
2.Ewadee Pe-e Mai
Alice's irrepressible nephew Christopher successfully completed his degree course this year, something to do with pizza eating and computer games. (What does irrepressible actually mean? Do you ever use words without knowing what they mean?) His irrepressible sister Helen, who Martin used to bounce on his knee, has just started her second year at uni.
The children, Iolanthe and Commode, continue to do well in their own individual ways, and do relish the 24-hour attention that they need. Spending a lot of time cowering in the near-darkness of the attic leaves them in need of a good tanning, which they occasionally get.
3.Hristos Razdajetsja, Gledelig Jul
A nearby house recently came up for sale and we wondered if any of you are you going to be our new neighbours.
Possibly our most unusual engagement of the year was "The Medhurst Reunion”. Alice's great grandfather, William Medhurst, was a war hero, sadly killed at Gallipoli in 1915. Cutting a very long story short, a descendent, who had spent years researching the family history, organised a ‘reunion'. The picture shows the 120-foot long family tree.
A couple of months ago Martin started doing some family history research of his own. He signed up for one of those trial subscriptions to a genealogy service. It enabled him to discover that his grandfather had five brothers, and that his grandmother came from a very, very large family. A couple of weeks ago he was contacted by a lady in Australia, telling him that her late mother was a first cousin who Martin never ever knew about. She has also uncovered details and proof of some amazing revelations about Martin's very dodgy wife-beating great-grandfather, who died in police custody after one of many arrests for drunkenness. We are now working together to try and find out more about these weird family secrets...
Do you ever get the irrepressible Microsoft ringing you up and trying to sell you a subscription to the Watson-Laird Gazette? JUST HANG UP!
Looking back at every permanent address you've had, has anyone managed to live at steadily increasing house numbers?
In April we visited the Derbyshire Peak district, staying in a hillside village called Bradwell. We probably visited every hill, dale and pub in the county.
October saw us having a bird-watching holiday in Norfolk, right up on the edge of The Wash. Alice has also taken on the job as website editor for the bird club. Web mistress sounds deliciously naughty.
Early in January, when we started doing the preparatory work for this newsletter, we decided that this year's page three bird would be the irrepressible Mother Goose. A lot of people have subsequently jumped on the bandwagon, with geese featuring prominently in various BBC programmes, including the Archers and EastEnders. Do however remember that she's a children's character, and don't goose your mother by mistake.
We're not making a big deal of it, so Alice won't be taken out for dinner, but this Christmas we celebrate 25 irrepressible years together. Thank you for all the toasters. We also celebrate 20 years at this address, making it easy for Alice to find her way home.
As one of my preparatory tasks for the newsletter, each autumn I study the squirrels in the garden. I don't believe in old wives' tales, (as it's always hard to remember where to put the apos'trophes), and I have no idea what sort of Winter we are facing, but I have never seen the squirrels in the garden working so hard, for so long, starting so early at their irrepressible nut-burying activities.
Do you ever confuse Elgin's Variations with Elgar's Marbles?
4.Subha nath thalak Vewa, Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal
Do you ever marvel at the clever way that we manage to print this Christmas Gazette, like a little booklet on two sides of the paper? This year, thanks to a kind donation "From a Friend”, we have a new printer, and hopefully it will be done in one session, rather than having to take the paper out and turn it over, and cleverly work out which way it needs putting in, and which pages you need to print where, and in what order. (Do you ever do that..?) (If you want to try this at home you need to select Custom print, Pages 4, 1, 2, 3, Print on both sides, Flip pages on short edge, and two pages per sheet…)
As promised, we present our gorgeous, sensational, irrepressible Page Three Bird, this year the ever-lovely Mother Goose. Cooking instructions on reverse. Baste well throughout.
5.Hristos Razdajetsja, Rozdjestvom Hristovim
This year saw us (isn't that a silly expression?) getting a new television and a new desktop computer. Amazingly both were far better and far cheaper than their predecessors. We are hardly trendsetters, but it makes it easy for our neighbours, they don't have to try so hard to keep up. It is a bit weird that we can now watch television on the computer and use the Internet on the television. Next year we hope to wash our clothes in the bath and boil irrepressible potatoes in the washing machine.
The big local excitement is the news that the old huts up the road, used by the air cadets, are going to be demolished, and the land is going to be turned into a nature reserve…
As you think of us, in this idyllic part of SW London, you probably think of the Royal Parks, and the nearby River Thames. Martin's research got a bit side-tracked and for one month he was engrossed in (reading about) the seedy side of Teddington's history, including murders, executions, female emancipation terrorism, and arson.
6.Craciun fericit si un An Nou fericit!
We've just today received a (begging) Christmas card from one of Martin's irrepressible puzzle friends, a long-time fan of the Watson-Laird Gazette. Interestingly, being from a puzzle designer and collector, the card is very much smaller than the envelope, which does give us concerns for the last one that he tries to post. Incidentally he doesn't put "Merry Christmas” on his card, he just puts "We're looking forward to the Watson-Laird Gazette.”
7.lupDujHomwIj luteb gharghmey
This year we both made our debut speeches in the House of Commons (anyone wanna try and beat that!?!?!?). Well, actually we spoke to other librarians at a special conference that hired the HoC terrace. We did have a wonderful evening watching the security helicopter circling overhead.
This year's puzzle (below) comes from the year 1827, the very depths of Martin's collection, not a very nice place at all. As you sit down to your Christmas lunch, consider all the different family relationships that surround you, and then see if you can deduce who was ‘at table' that day in Trowbridge.
Before you sit down to your Christmas lunch, just ask yourself, when did you last wash out your recycling boxes?
Those of you that don't have a memory like one of those whatchermacallits that you use to rinse rice, (where was I now…?) oh yes, Century of Books. Last year Alice started on this Century of Books project FOR FUN, where she decided to read, in date order, a book published in each year of the 20th century. Well, so far she has reached 1962 via Rudyard Kipling's ‘Kim' and Hermann Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny” among a few dozen others.
They say video killed the radio star, but Alice has been recorded for the Radio 4 Book Club programme. She reads a specified book, then joins an audience to discuss it with the author. The show is set to be broadcast next February.
Christmas greetings solutions: 1 Surinam; 2 Thailand; 3 Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands; 4 Kazakhstan; 5 Sri Lanka; 6 Republic of Moldova; 7 Klingon.
A few days after the village idiot had sent his two children to school, a door to door salesman called and said "Now that your children go to school, you ought to buy them an encyclopaedia.” "Buy them an encyclopaedia?!” said the Idiot. "Darned if I will.” was his reply, "Let them walk like I did.”
There's one final irrepressible mention of Alice and Martin having celebrated 25 years together. Near the beginning, Martin said to one of Alice's friends, "I think Alice and I are right for each other as we are 50% the same and 50% different”. Alice's friend said, "Oh yes? Which 50% is the same?
Well, it's Merry Christmas from me and a Happy New 2016 from her. Martin & Alice xxxxxxx
Keep up with us at:
http://www.martinhwatson.co.uk/ where you can read much more about our naughty bits that you've missed, and see all the photos. Currently it's undergoing a lot of improvement. So is Martin.
Finally "Mboni Chrismen”, as they apparently say in Syria. You never know when you'll need it…