Sunday, 11 December 2011

The run up to Christmas.

You might think from what you read here, that your scribe has been over doing the Christmas Sherry already or alternatively he has a bigger dose than usual of the "Ba Humbug to Christmas" spirit. Last night we joined about 300 other people for a Christmas get together in Sheffield. Organised or maybe better described as disorganised by our friend John. We all had a good time but yours truly was the designated driver and so I was on the soft drinks all evening.

Christmas is almost here, as are the decorations in Aylesbury.
Faulty Christmas lights in Aylesbury Buckinghamshire have been installed with a number of malfunctions, which have led to the £27,000 display being awarded the accolade of being the shabbiest in Britain. The display includes a reindeer with only one antler and one leg. Santa is depicted without a face. Another display describes the town as "a great lace to be" while another declares "seasns eets" from Aylesbury Vale District Council. Barbara Murphy said: "They are terrible. Half the lights don't work, which makes some of the characters more scary than festive. They're more likely to scare children than fill them with joy."

Christmas TV.
Only 13 of the 656 films scheduled to be shown over the three day Christmas period  will be premieres. The rest some 98 per cent of all movies shown during the festive period will leave viewers with a strong sense of déjà vu. The BBC defended the schedule and said it was showing no repeats during prime time on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day. A spokesman said: “The BBC’s focus is on special episodes of Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, EastEnders and Absolutely Fabulous on Christmas Day." I can hardly contain my indifference!

Do you remember the Christmas Sprout famine last year?
As a child I hated them and now I have an even deeper loathing for Sprouts. The gardeners say it has been an exceptionally good year for the much-maligned vegetable. Plus the Sprout has ripened about three weeks early this year. This year's crop of are also bigger weighing in at 25g instead of 20g  sweeter and more flavoursome, thanks to the unusually warm winter weather.
John Lankfer, who grows 70 acres of sprouts on his farm in Wisbech, Cambs said "It has been a really good year for sprouts and the yields are much higher than they have been for the past six years. I think it's all been down to the growing conditions throughout the year. The dry spring helped the roots go down well, then we had rain in the summer to help the plants. The recent mild weather has also helped them grow more quickly so the sprouts are around three weeks ahead of schedule and much bigger than they would normally be when picked."

Oh no!
There is going to be a run on the Christmas Pudding  and the traditional Christmas Tree - Well it makes a change from a run on the banks I suppose. Christmas is coming and it’s time for the traditional tree panic. Recent winters have seen tree shortages and soaring prices which have triggered a buying frenzy, and this year is no exception. Rising prices of evergreen trees have been blamed on many things. In 2007, the Danes were accused of a Christmas tree price-fixing racket. This year there's a reported scarcity of tall trees, and a 7ft tree can cost in excess of £80, Then, in 2009 and again in 2010, it was the poor exchange rate with the euro.

But it doesn't stop there. Waitrose has been forced to order in emergency supplies of Heston Blumenthal's  Hidden Orange Christmas puddings after they sold out for the second year running. The supermarket had tripled orders for the celebrity chef's popular puds this year but has seen their entire stock fly off the shelves after going on sale in September. In 2010, the 1.2kg pudding attracted bids of up to £250 on eBay when a sudden surge in demand decimated stocks. This year the gourmet puddings are already being offered on the auction website for up to £150. Demand for the dessert and its new 227g version, has again caught the retailer by surprise. By the beginning of November, sales had already surpassed the 2010 levels. Heston Blumenthal's is the man who is to cooking what Cyril Smith was to hang gliding. It is highly likley that he would put a real toad into Toad in the Hole

On the roads.
Every year at Christmas, the police have a purge on drink drivers. Surprisingly Britain has one of the best records in the world for road casualties. However, hundreds of people still die on the roads every year. In 2010, the police recorded 1,850 deaths, 22,660 people seriously injured and 184,138 who received light injuries.

The BBC News has produced a web based site of crash data on a map, which shows all recorded deaths on Britain's roads between 1999 and 2010. Using official data recorded by police in Great Britain between 1999 and 2010, the BBC have plotted every road collision in which someone died. In all, 36,371 fatalities are marked on this interactive map. You will also find partial data for Northern Ireland, for 2004-2009. Detailed information about each crash is recorded by the police at the scene. It is subsequently transferred onto a computer database. This is available to researchers from the Economic and Social Data Service.

Christmas would not be Christmas without the Queen and her family.
As the head of a cost-conscious household with a shrinking Civil List.The Queen is facing a freeze to her income until 2015 as part of austerity measures imposed in a shake up of the royal finances. A Treasury briefing document for the second reading of the Sovereign Grant Bill said: "The grant levels envisaged in the early years of the new system are, in real terms, below what the Royal Household spent in every one of the last 20 years. The lowest point was 2010-11, with an income of £32.1m, dropping from £38.3m in 2008-09. It indicates the Queen will have an effective pay cut until at least April 2015." I wonder if she will get the state pension increase?

The Queen has spent £1.8 million pounds on an Archimedes Screw, a nice little sideline earner which will provide lashings of environmentally friendly power to Windsor Castle by harnessing the mighty currents of the River Thames. The amount of energy is estimated at 1.7 million kilowatt hours per year and gives an average output of 200,000 watts. The feed in tariff for hydroelectric on 200kw amounts to 12.5 p per kwh, totalling £212,500 a year. She thus gets free electricity, instead of what she currently has to buy from the grid, plus a gift of £212,500 a year in subsidy. It means an annual 11.8 per cent return on her investment, enabling her to pay for her Archimedes Screw in just eight years.

Christmas Tree given the chop!
Officials in Rome have been forced to bring down a Christmas tree that turned out to irritate residents. Several residents including the city mayor displayed their dislike for the giant papier mache Christmas tree which was placed in the city centre. Mayor Gianni Alemanno said “I don’t like it… I have to admit I don’t like it and I’ve asked for it to be replaced by a normal tree.”

The tree was placed at the main square of the city on Monday. Following several protests from the public, the tree was brought down on Tuesday. The officials have placed the blame on the subcontractor who was hired to decorate the Christmas icon. The city said they plan to install a simple tree to replace the one taken down.

The mayor is not the only high-profile personality who spoke against the tree. Senator Stefano Pedica said “The tree on Piazza Venezia is the epitome of bad taste.” The city council in Rome often comes under criticism after major structures are erected. Earlier this year, the officials were criticised after they installed a giant statue of late Pope John Paul II.


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