Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Round Robins And Positive Spin

I generally receive only one round robin at Christmas time, now. I met the woman who sends it to me, on just a few occasions, and thought her quite pleasant. I was surprised when she began sending me round robins, after she moved abroad, with her husband and daughter. I was taken aback to discover how much of a snob she seemed to be and to realise how crucial it was to her, to convince a mere acquaintance, that she was enjoying an idyllic existence, since leaving Great Britain behind her.

This woman has never once admitted to being homesick, missing friends and relations, or to missing anything about Great Britain, since she left this country. I suspect that she considers modesty to be the eighth deadly sin, as her bragging has often taken my breath away. Apparently, her husband is a high earner, who seems to be promoted every year and she has a 'model' daughter. They are a family of high achievers. She achieves, where others fail. She never fails. They have lots of money and lots of holidays. They have lots of friends and only good things happen to her. She must be the mother of all positive spin.

Normally, my husband and I glance through her round robins, have a bit of a joke about them and toss them to one side, but, this time, I had a rather wicked thought. I was feeling a bit short of ideas for my blog and I realised that the round robin might provide some good material for a post. I have amused myself greatly by speculating about the true meaning, which could lie behind some of the boastful content and positive spin, contained in the round robin I received a few days ago. The boasting is rather low key, this year, compared to others, but I have listed some excerpts from it, in bold, below. Possible interpretations are in italics.

Hi - it's that time of year again, time for our annual missive - I can no longer be bothered to insert your names in my round robin, because, ultimately, it's all about me. I so look forward to this time of year, because it's very important to me to convince you, in my round robin, that my husband and I have far more money than you and I need you to know how much we enjoy finding different ways of spending it.

2008 has been a fairly quiet year for us - I'm fairly sure that we've spent more money on holidays this year, than you've earned.

My husband, Walter, has been promoted and is now Head of Internal Communication for ****** (all 66,000 + people) so he is spending time settling into his new role - My husband now has a different job, within his company and is earning more money, because he is in possession of some compromising photos of the CEO. Walter has upset so many clients that he is no longer allowed to communicate with anyone outside the company. He hasn't yet worked out what his new role entails.

We enjoyed having our daughter, Winifred, back with us, from university, last Christmas - After starting university in October 2007, our daughter had no desire to see us until Christmas and she only came then, because she didn't receive a better invitation.

In the week before Christmas, we travelled to **** with a group of friends (25 of us) - Winifred and I to ski, and Walter to walk. We enjoyed blue skies and sunshine the whole time. Winifred and I remained unscathed, but Walter hurt his knee whilst walking and it took him several weeks to recover - We can afford an expensive winter holiday, as well as paying for Christmas presents etc. I've counted my friends and I'm hoping that I have more than you. Walter didn't want to go skiing, but gave in to my demands, so that I could keep up with my friends and boast about it in my round robin. It never rains in my world. Nothing dreadful ever happens to me, or my daughter. We are lucky. My husband is unlucky, so he hurt his knee. It serves him right because he didn't want to go skiing and he didn't join in.

Winifred has been studying hard, but enjoying her time at university, whilst achieving good academic results. - Winifred is taking a degree in Snakes and Ladders and only has one lecture a fortnight.

The first year has seen a lot partying. She had a good time during her first year's stay in halls, as there was always something going on -Winifred drank a lot and slept around during her first year in halls.

This academic year, she has moved into a house with 7 other girls - I was impressed when I found out that my daughter had 7 friends. When she told me that they were girls, I believed her.

Once again, Winifred took advantage of her sailing skills, and got a summer job teaching sailing, spending the summer vacation in *****. This time she worked for a smaller company. She seemed to have a thoroughly enjoyable time - particularly when there weren't many guests and she could make use of the hotel facilities - My daughter can sail. I think that this will impress you, because I'm fairly certain that you don't even know anyone who can sail. She's not very good, so the company she worked for last year would not employ her again. The company she worked for this year didn't have many bookings and it was going under.

Unfortunately, this meant that we only saw her for a few days at the beginning of the summer, as we didn't manage to get out to ***** to see her, because it was the high season and all of the flights were full - Winifred was determined not to spend much time with us, during the summer. She got the sack from her summer job, but didn't tell us. She knew that we wouldn't be able to get a flight to ***** to visit her, during the high season and by the time we were trying to book, she was already partying in Majorca, with one of the Greek waiters.

In April, Walter and I had a late celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, (the actual date was October 07) when we jetted off to ******. We had a wonderful relaxing time in the hotel, where nothing was too much trouble for the lovely staff, who all lived locally - My husband was trying to avoid spending too much money on our anniversary celebrations, but I refused to let the subject drop, until he took me somewhere exotic, so that I could boast about it in my next round robin. We took advantage of the local peasants, working in the hotel, who waited on us hand and foot, with gritted teeth and a forced smile, in the hope of receiving a big tip.

Given the heat, we spent much of the day lazing in the pool - It was too hot. There wasn't much to see or do.

The most memorable experience for me was being in the water with a pink dolphin - I was so bored that I got pissed and began to see pink dolphins.

I had to visit a shopping mall and, of course, chose the largest in ****** - Fortunately, I couldn't find much else to do, but shop. I had so much money to spend, that it would have been a waste of time going to a small shopping mall.

The standard of living was quite low. We visited a typical house, in the area and it was like stepping back in time about 50 years. I must say that I was glad to get back to our luxury hotel - I don't like to mix with poor people and I certainly don't like to visit their houses. In fact, I don't know why I did visit a poor person's house and neither does anyone else. It was such a relief to return to the real world and remember that I have lots of money.

Winifred will be heading our way in the middle of December, with a friend. She is then hoping that we will be going to ****, skiing again, before Christmas - Winifred can't bear the thought of being alone with us for Christmas.

In the 10 years we have been here, we have seen many changes. When we arrived, there were no such things as 'ready meals'. Now there is a fair selection of convenience foods - nothing like the UK, but certainly enough to make life easier! Many of the supermarkets are now open until 8pm, instead of closing at 5pm. I wonder what the next few years will bring and whether we will be here to see it - I found it impossible to manage without convenience food, when we first moved here. The opening times for the shops were totally inconvenient, for the first few years, but I never mentioned, previously, that I found some aspects of life difficult here, because it was essential to convince you poor people living in GB, that my life was perfect in every way. My husband may lose his job, in the next round of redundancies and we may have to return to the country of our birth, which we have mercilessly poured scorn upon, for the last few years.

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous and Happy 2009 - Try to have a good Christmas, and New Year, in spite of the fact that you have hardly any money and live in a country, which is on the verge of bankcruptcy.

I do hope that this woman doesn't blog! I'm not sure that she would appreciate my sense of humour! If you are the author of this round robin, however, please don't take it personally. It's just a joke - really, it is and don't be put off sending me your usual round robin next year, will you? I so look forward to it and, anyway, what will I blog about at this time of year, if you don't?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas Ramblings

I managed to write my Christmas cards yesterday. I can't send one to you lot, of course, but, if I could, I would send this one:

It's a lovely card, isn't it? I bought my cards from Oxfam again, this year. There were 3 different views in the boxes I bought. I have used up the one type, entirely, but the other one looked like this:

Anyway, I've written my cards, so that's another tick on my Christmas list. Only another 2 million things to do before Christmas, then. Nearly there!

Every year, when Christmas looms, I am reminded of the things I intended to do during the current year, or of the things I started, but which remain unfinished. I habitually whip myself into a frenzy, during the month of December, trying to finish off everything I've started during the previous months, as well as doing all of the usual Christmassy things, like buying presents, writing cards and putting up decorations.

I won't bore you by going into details of all of the things I need to get done, before Christmas. I'm sure that you each have you own interminable lists, and have no desire to hear about mine.

The Christmas day arrangements are worrying me, a little, this year. For the last few years, I have had Christmas dinner prepared for my immediate family, by 1 pm. By 3.30 pm, everything has been cleared away, the dishwasher has been loaded and we have been on the way up to the Midlands, to pick up my aunt and then have tea with my parents. It has tended to be a busy, but organised day.

This year, my son and his girlfriend have invited the 4 of us (my husband, my other 2 sons and me) to have Christmas dinner at their house, along with son's girlfriend's mother and brother. This is great, but it does mean that I won't have any control over the time everything will be ready! I have asked them, politely, whether they would mind preparing dinner early and they don't mind, but I can see that there is potential for things to go wrong. I am determined to bite my tongue, if they do!

I am an only child, so I like to see my parents on Christmas day. I don't like to think of them being alone at Christmas and they are in their 80s, so I don't know how many more Christmases we have left to spend together. I have been more than happy, over the past few years, to put in the extra effort needed, so that I can be with my parents on Christmas day, but I do feel a little guilty about asking my son and his girlfriend to do the same thing. I know that I won't be able to relax properly this year, until we are leaving my son's house on Christmas day, to travel up to the Midlands. My parents won't mind if we are a little late, but my aunt gets more and more difficult, as she get older and I know that she will get 'arsey' if she has to sit around waiting. She now lives by herself, however, so I don't want her to be alone on Christmas day, either.

It makes me look back, somewhat nostalgically, to less complicated times, when my children were young and my parents used to travel down from the Midlands to stay with us for a week or so, over the Christmas period. They were the best Christmases of my whole life, I think and we were all particularly sad, when my parents were no longer able to cope with the journey, even when we picked them up in the car.

I hope that you all have simple, relaxing plans for the Christmas period. If you are in the fortunate position of having a young family and hale and hearty parents, remember not to take these special Christmas times for granted. They are all too short and things will change before you know it.

I must go into town, now, to post my cards and buy something for tea. If I wait a little longer, the queue at the post office will probably reach my side gate, so that I can join it and shuffle the usual 10 minute walk into the High Street, whilst whingeing and complaining about the Christmas rush etc. I like to keep up the old British traditions, so I think that I may well do that. If I'm lucky I might find a 'nice, young man' to chat to whilst I am shuffling. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Publishing My Book

Firstly, I would just like to apologise for my absence from the blogging world for the past few days. The truth is that I was obliged to concentrate on putting the finishing touches to my second book, so that it would be published in time for Christmas. Move over Wife In The North!

My first book was published in September of this year. I worked on it, in my spare time and it took me about a fortnight to put together. It was published within 3 days and I was very pleased with it. My second book took 4 solid days of work and I submitted it yesterday for publication.

Do you know what I'm talking about yet? In case you haven't guessed, I'm referring to 'photo books'. I'm sure that you must have heard of them, but I hadn't until middle son's girlfriend brought one, which she had put together, to show to me a few months ago.

In case you don't know what a photo book is, it is a book, which you can create on your computer, using downloaded software and your own digital photos. On completion, you submit it to the appropriate website for publication. Most of the companies involved in photo processing seem to offer photo books, such as Bonusprint, Colorama and Photobox. Usually, the idea is, that you download the necessary software from your preferred site onto your computer, but, in my case, this proved an impossible task, even though I tried several different companies. Eventually, I settled on the Truprint site, because I could create the whole book on their site, without downloading anything.

My first photo book was made up from digital photos, mostly taken on our 'staycation', this summer. It included the enhanced photos, which appeared in my post dated 31st October 2008, with my poppy photo (right) displayed in a cut out area, in a black linen, hardback cover. It had 10 pages, which amounted to 20 sides filled up with photos, photos and captions, or text.

My second book is a photographic record of the lives of our 3 sons, from birth through to the present day. I have added some funny captions, here and there, plus a foreword, which brings a tear to my eye every time I read it! I've ordered 6 copies, this time, one for each of our 3 sons, one for my mother and mother-in-law and one for my husband and myself.

The photo books on the Truprint site range from £2.99 to £39.99. There is a good choice of backgrounds and photo layouts for each page. If I had wanted to, I could have displayed up to 9 photos per page. If I had needed them, I could have added an extra 65 pages (130 sides), although this would, naturally, have added to the price of the book.

I put the first book together using digital photos from my camera, but, for the second, I mostly had to scan in the photos and save them as JPEGs, because they had been taken with a film camera. I suspect that the quality will not be as good, using the scanned photos, but I will have to wait and see.

I think that the possibilities for creating photo books might be endless. They represent a wonderful opportunity for passing on memories and thoughts to future generations, are much easier to store than photos and less likely to be lost. I have been unable to find anything on the Truprint site to state that photos must be included as part of your book, so it appears that it would be possible to have a book made up of text only.

Would you like to see your short story in print? Perhaps you could.

Would you like to publish a personal cookery book, using your own recipes and photos? You could give a copy to a friend, as a gift.

Would you like to tell your life story, in your own words, using your own photos? Now, you have the opportunity.

I made up a short story, for my 3 lads, when they were young. They were my 3 main characters, in a fictional adventure, based upon a visit to the Bekonscott Model Village, in Beaconsfield, where we all spent many a happy hour, when they were youngsters. Putting my short story into print could well be my next project.

Now, how about you? Had you already heard of photo books? Have you created any? What did yours commemorate?

I would just like to add a note to suggest that you 'shop around' and do your own research online, if you decide that you would like to create a photo book, as a result of this post. I only have personal experience of the Truprint site, as it was the only company I could find, at the time, which would allow me to put my book together on their site.

PS Do you think I deserve some commission from Truprint? ;0)