Family visit

Christine, Adam, Lewis and Jessica visited today. We had a quick lunch, including the first use of the new chocolate fountain that Nuala and Joel got us for Christmas: it worked very well, but we only ate about 25% of the 800g of chocolate.

Adam has a long reach

We entertained Jessica and Lewis for a while with our camp computer game (on aged Dreamcast) Space Channel 5 but it was a little too difficult for them. Had a walk around Midsummer Common and stopped off at the swing park on Jesus Green, which was great fun (see below).

Pirates of the tree stump

Gymnastic work

St Johns Silhouetted over the Cam

Quick coffee in Henry’s on Quayside, then back home to play with some amazing underwater sculpting sand that Michael bought after enjoying playing with it at Emma and Chris’ house last week. Jessica and Lewis loved it, and Christine enjoyed herself too: here she is “cleaning up”. The sand is completely dry when out of water, but sticks together in water so can be shaped.

Christine cleans up

More photos in by GrahamMcCannCAM in my Christine and Adam photoset on Flickr. Some of the photos can also be viewed as a map.

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Christmas Day in Glasgow

David picked us up from the hotel at 11 and drove us through empty motorways to Croftfoot, south of Glasgow. We had a lovely welcome there and pink champagne to start the present opening! There were two huge piles of presents to work our way through. The calendars that I made with iPhoto were a great hit and my dad liked the 100 year old cona coffee machine that I bought for his birthday–christmas. Michael also got some going-away gifts.

Graham and Michael Calendar

Presents: From Christine and Adam, Snowflakes are Dancing byTomita, The Green Wing second series on DVD, From Elisabeth Quo Vadis by Dyson, Huysman’s “A Rebours” (Against nature). From Dad & Mum 15 year old Glenmorangie, Telescopic Fork (so I can steal food from other people’s plates!), From David Oil and vinegar pourer set, From Michael “Oscar Wilde and his Circle” by Simon Callow, man made of wire with pink-crystal cock and balls, Jim Grimsley “Boulevard”, From Nuala and Joel “Perfume” by Patrick Suskind, Chocolate Fountain.

Mum and Dad made a lovely lunch of prawn cocktail, followed by roast sirloin with roast veg, then my homemade christmas pudding. We polished off about five bottles of wine (not bad for six of us) and didn’t get close to touching the sloe gin or vodka that mum brought back from St Petersburg.

The day whizzed along, and before we knew it it was 6pm. Mum and ad went to a great effort to make the day go well, and it was lovely. The taxi arrived pretty much on time and took us back to the Hilton. We had a rest for a few hours and then went down to the buffet at 9pm, which we had managed to get included in the room rate. The buffet was not needed after our lovely lunch, nor was the quality great. There were pretty ice sculptures but sombre music. We had a little nibble and the free glass of champagne.

Michael and I had a walk to clear our heads and Elisabeth went to bed. When we got back, we had to change rooms again, this time because the air-con was broken and the room baking hot: we’re still on the 14th floor, three doors along.

David and Elisabeth

Michael, chocolate fountain

Michael, Mum and Dad

More photos in by GrahamMcCannCAM in my Christmas 06 Photoset on Flickr, which can also be viewed as a map.

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Christmas Eve in Glasgow—Frank’s 70th Birthday

Started with a light buffet breakfast in the hotel at 9am, so very leisurely! Michael and I had to change rooms because the solenoid in our door failed, probably overnight. So we’re now on the 14th floor in a standard room, sniff. We all explored the 20th (top) floor to see what the view was like but the fog is still lingering and there really wasn’t much to see. Grabbed a taxi and went to the Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street, which were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1904. Most of the space is a jewellery and gift shop but upstairs is a little gallery tea room, which was interesting but definitely a tea room rather than a tourist attraction. Above the shop there were a couple of smarter rooms which we had a peak at and that were more impressive.

Elisabeth in the Willow Tea Rooms

Had a bit of tea and cake then Elisabeth bought a lovely enamelled silver necklace, before we we grabbed a taxi out to the Burrell Collection in Pollok Park, both of which I love. The museum had reserved a wheelchair for Elisabeth (which Michael also made use of) and we wandered round the lovely galleries, looking over the winter woodland beyond.

Face, Burrell Collection

Had a light lunch and left the gallery about 2pm to head back to the hotel. Elisabeth for a nap, Michael and I to have a swim, steam and sauna in the hotel pool: very relaxing and very quiet (theme of the season!) More mooching and relaxing before the big ticket event of the trip, my Dad’s 70th birthday night out at the Rogano.

Exchange Square looked great, covered over with strings of fairy lights for Christmas. The Rogano was really packed: so much so that about half a dozen people were standing outside in the street dressed in fur coats, and sipping champagne. Michael, Elisabeth and I were the last to arrive, everyone else was early. We struggled through the crowds to our table and had a couple of bottles of champagne to get he night going. The Rogano is a champagne and oyster bar and quite a few of us lived up to this by having oysters. They were very good: lovely, plump and fresh. We had a great meal, with lots of chat. I met Bob and Sally, Joel’s parents, which was lovely and Nuala and Joel, David and Mum and Dad, Michael, Elisabeth and I made 10.

Dad had a few of his presents at the end of the evening and had a wonderful time, even making a short speech. The meal was great.

Oysters

70th Birthday Party at the Rogano

Michael and Frank (70)

Graham

Dad opening his birthday presents

Rogano

More photos in by GrahamMcCannCAM in my Christmas 06 Photoset on Flickr, which can also be viewed as a map.

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Driving to Glasgow

Yesterday, Michael picked up a lovely hire car (Ford Mondeo ST, 2.2L Turbo diesel) and then a wheelchair from the Red Cross. He had mince pies at work at 3.30, and said a few final farewell from colleagues at Engineering. He then drove us both through the fog to Bicester to spend the night with Tony, Gemma and Hannah. Had a lovely evening with Tony and Gemma, over pizza, sparkling wine and Glenfiddich from Tony’s collection.

On Saturday we picked on Elisabeth at 8.30 and again drove through the fog, up to the M6, M6 toll road and M74 into Glasgow, where we checked in at the Hilton, at Junction 18 of the M80. We left at 9 and arrived at 4:15, roads were clear, no real hold-ups and the car was fantastic to drive. I now know why I have never liked driving—I need power.

Driving from Cambridge to Glasgow

The hotel’s lovely. Elisabeth ended up on the 8th floor, in a smoking disabled room and we ended up on the 7th floor, in a large corner room with a massive king-sized bed. The views aren’t great (even through the national fog bank) but it is diverting to watch the cars go along the motorway.

Hilton Bedroom

We had a nice gin-martini in Raffels Bar in the hotel (pricey!) and then buffet dinner (free!) in Minskys. The buffet was above average but we were all a little tired after our journey and the restaurant was quiet, so the atmosphere felt a bit hollow. The poached salmon was lovely, the caviar was awful. I had four little plates of various selections. The Thai meatballs were good. Lots of Scottish accents, so I feel like we’re in Scotland now. The hotel is very well staffed by great Indian and Polish staff, who are all very friendly and efficient. They have been thoughtful opening doors and sitting us near the buffet so that Elisabeth could pootle around in her zimmer frame. Michael and I wandered out for a walk about 9pm for some fresh air, although the area’s not great.

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Michael’s leaving

Caroline had been conspiring with me for ideas for Michael’s leaving present and I was invited along (as the only partner) to his leaving party–Christmas lunch, in the Borrodaile Room of Selwyn College. Michael was really surprised to see me, as you can read in his blog, and it was my last change to meet a lot of his colleagues, some of whom I know quite well after 10 years of party-going with them. I had to leave while the party was in full swing and James, Michael’s manager, kindly brought the speeches and gifts forward so that I could be there. Michael’s last day at Engineering is this Friday!

Michael is leaving

Michael is leaving” by GrahamMcCannCAM

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Family weekend in Durham

Travelled by train up to Durham to visit Michael’s brother, Chris, and Emma, Natasha, Eve and Findlay. Had a little detour to a swing park for Natasha, but it was pretty cold and we didn’t stay there long. Nice views over Durham.

See-saw with Chris and Natasha

In the evening we played Misfits (from the 1960’s) with Natasha, followed by a lovely meal of chilli sausages from a local organic farm shop and some mulled wine. Chris, Michael and I went out later to the local Glendenning Arms pub for some Black Sheep in a pleasant no-smoking lounge bar. We slept in late on Sunday and I spent a couple of hours finishing my novel, The Historian (which by that stage I couldn’t put down). Chris and Emma made a beautiful roast chicken for lunch with roast trimmings (including some fantastically crispy streaky bacon that had puffed up crackling on it).

The Gray drummers

After lunch, Michael secured their wireless network and we managed a quick visit to the local swing park before it got dark. Fin and Eve had a go on the swings and the slide. It was pretty cold up North!

Pushed by big sister

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Epicurus in the A–Z of Atheism

Loved this quote from Epicurus

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither willing, nor able? Then why call him God?

Who represents letter ‘E‘ in the Independent on Sunday’s The A–Z of Atheism.

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The Historian

Finished The Historian, which was a present from Nuala for my birthday this year. I enjoyed the novel but also found it frustrating because it was one dimensional, particularly in the plot. I started to get quite frustrated faced by by coincidence after coincidence that occurred in a linear fashion chapter after chapter: far too neat and implausible. By the end of the book I as hooked, however, when the end was in sight and Dracula (Vlad Ţepeş) ‘unearthed’. One clever aspect of the novel was the use of multiple stories within stories covering different time frames and revealed from narration, documents, letters, postcards and diary entries, covering a period of >500 years.



“The Historian” (Elizabeth Kostova)

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Skype Video Chat with Adam

AdamSkype with Adam & Christine set up their web cam at the weekend (with some help from David) and we managed to have our first Skype video chat tonight. The sound worked well, but Adam’s webcam image had a deep strawberry red cast (if it’s the cam then it’s my fault because I bought it for my niece as her birthday present!). Still, it works and we need to tinker a little bit to have it all working properly for a Christmas day family chat.

Skype with Adam” by GrahamMcCannCAM

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