Senin, 16 Desember 2013

Chilly Christmas

Chilly Christmas - Part 1 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Ice rinkLast weekend I spent a very pleasant morning at one of our local garden centres. The main attraction was the temporary ice rink, which is set up every year over the Christmas period. The shrub section is moved away to other corners, and the square rink, cafĂ©, snack bar and seating are erected towards the end of November. The sides are all made of sheets of perspex so that children outside and those seated can watch as well. I visited several weeks ago* during the midweek when there were only four people on it. It had been raining and large puddles had collected but this worked to these particular skaters’ advantage, as it smoothed the surface somewhat, allowing them to get up greater speed and there was less of the crunching sound of the skates, more a slushy splashing one. The present rougher frozen surface appeared to be better than a perfectly smooth one as it prevented too much slipping and overly fast skating. However, we did see some falls but I am glad to say that their faces were still smiling through it all. Large plastic penguins are provided for the children to hold on to, and some plain adjustable frames for the older children. Very small children can sit on the yellow sledges and be pushed along. I would like to see all this with some real snow falling, preferably when the light is fading and the Christmas lights are switched on.

* "several wee(k)s ago" Omission phrase

Chilly Christmas - Part 2 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

ReindeerAt the garden centre, they have three live reindeer in a pen in the rear landscaping section. These animals were quite relaxed, although at times a little bored with things, but maybe that is made up for by the guaranteed supply of hay and water. They were completely unaware of why they are the centre of attraction for the children and of all the stories and tales about them, or it could just be that they have been told to keep quiet about their planned activities.  The reindeer theme seems to be everywhere this year, not only decorations large and small, but as cuddly toys, hot water bottle covers, slippers and knitted onto jumpers, hats, gloves and socks. Some of the ornaments made from wood and twigs have been simplified in the extreme, and only the presence of antlers allows you to recognise what they are. Some of the toy reindeer are actually standing up on two legs and wearing Christmas suits and boots, just like cartoon characters – in other words, anthropomorphic* which means human-shaped*.

*resembling or made to resemble a human form or attributes, applied to things that are not human

* "human" above the line, to distinguish it from "humane" on the line - easy to remember if you think of the second vowel as the one giving it its position. Ensure the Tick Hay is clear, and insert the diphthong, so it does not look like "man"

Chilly Christmas - Part 3 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Chocolate umbrellas
Chocolate umbrellas - we
had these in the 1960's
I like to see all the Christmas decorations and I am glad that the shiny ones are now back in fashion, at least for a time. Many years ago most decorations were glistening and reflective, from tinsel to glass baubles, so that there was maximum reflection of light around the branches of the Christmas tree. In later years decorations tended to be duller and not shiny, and I think this may have coincided with the arrival of much cheaper and more reliable lights sets. They provided all the light, and so reflections were not so necessary, and this left the way open to mass produce all sorts of decorative objects from other materials and fabrics.

Chilly Christmas - Part 4 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Christmas light
shorthand pen?
When the cheap lights made their appearance, it increased the craze for covering the house frontage and windows with them, but after a few years this seems to have* reduced as the novelty faded. I am sure having to get the big long ladder* out twice a year in the cold was a large part of the* reason! Increasing numbers of houses had the strings of lights up longer and longer*, and eventually some had them hanging from the gutters all year. It was just too much trouble and bother to remove them and one could occasionally see the wires and dull plastic icicles waving in the warm spring breezes. It is more common now to see lights strung through bushes and trees, where it is easier to take them down at the end of the Christmas season.

* "seems (to) have"  "large part (of) the" Omission phrases

* "ladder" A lone L stroke is doubled for -ter but not -der or -ther

* "longer and longer" See more examples at

Chilly Christmas - Part 5 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Snowflake decorative lightSnowflakes are the most widespread* Christmas motif of late, being flat they are the easiest of all to incorporate onto pages, clothing and shop windows. The snowflake is part of the longing for snow – not a few flakes that hit the ground and instantly melt, but thick snow that accumulates and turns everything white. I am convinced that this is a desire to make everything come to a stop while we enjoy our victory over the rigours and challenges of winter. When I was a child, Christmas meant that shops and businesses did in fact shut down, some for the whole Christmas week. Apart from emergency services and hospitals, everything was restful and quiet. If it snowed then that was interesting and a good opportunity to play, but it was not necessary to have snow in order for everything to be put on hold. However, all the scenes on cards were snowy ones and the presence of real snow outside would ensure that those lounging about in the warm indoors need not feel any pressure or necessity to do anything that involved going outside. I think the only child disappointed with snow on Christmas Day would be the one who had received a new bike.

* "spread" on its own has stroke D

Chilly Christmas - Part 6 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Snowy footpath
Winter Wonderland footpath, but
only enjoyable if you have rubber soles
After Christmas, snow and ice take on a completely different significance, and mean delays in getting to work or shops, danger on the roads, and soaring heating bills. The failure to take precautions, that were considered but not carried out, is now being regretted – insulating the loft, checking water pipes, sealing draughty windows and doors, buying a snow shovel, or getting those snow boots before the shelves are emptied of them once the snow has started to fall in quantity. I did once get some ankle boots in preparation for further snow, but made the mistake of opting for a cheap pair, as I thought I would not really be wearing them very much. The soles, although ridged*, were unfortunately made of a plastic type material. I slipped three times on the same journey, on a particularly icy bend in the footpath, once on the way out, and twice on the way back. It was true that I did not wear them much at all as they went straight into the bin when I got home and I visited the garden centre as soon as I could to get some big chunky rubber Wellington boots, with no expense spared.

* "ridged" For "rigid" insert the second vowel to differentiate

Chilly Christmas - Part 7 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Knitted mittensI used to live in a very old, cold and draughty house. Each winter we taped plastic sheeting to the window frames against the draughts, but on those windows not covered, the condensation would run down the glass and freeze on the inside sill overnight. The pencil shaped pieces of ice could be prised up and removed next morning, sometimes bringing bits of paint with them! We kept warm through layers of clothes and had a coal fire only in the living room, the other rooms remaining unheated. Frost would form on the panes in fantastic flower and leaf shapes. Nowadays I would be wanting to take photos of it but then I just had to admire the frosty decoration while it was there, not knowing when it would be gone. I gained an interest in hoarding a supply of woolly* hats, scarves and mittens which my Mum and Nan made for me, and the furry slippers were always a special Christmas present and worn until they fell apart. In my teens I acquired a pair of hook lace-up sheepskin suede boots, and I really felt I was ready for anything the weather could come up with.

* "woolly" Insert the last vowel to differentiate from "wool" and ensure it does not acquire a hook at the end of the L stroke, which would be "woollen" - all three words have the same meaning when used as an adjective.

Chilly Christmas - Part 8 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Snow chunks accumulating in mesh fencing
Snowball factory
If we really wanted to stay warm over Christmas, we would not be wishing for snow, but for unseasonably mild weather and abundant sunshine. It seems that what is wanted is not a cold chilly Christmas but a white one – snowy outside, but with clothing and housing that prevents it from affecting our comfort level. Without the luxury of these items, snow and ice go back to their real job of freezing not only the water, the ground and the plants, but also fingers and toes, and bringing greater discomfort, danger, disruption and even a halt, to all the essential activities that we need to do. The day after Boxing Day is when the weather conditions can be viewed more objectively, and not seen through Christmas-coloured glasses. (1400 words)

Shop window models with big fluffy white wigs
Snowball wigs - to keep warm or cold in?

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