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Post 501 – Getting Ahead

It has been lovely seeing so many comments coming in from readers following my New Year’s Day post and my offer of a books giveaway, and there is yet almost two weeks to go before I close the giveaway and the draw is made.

I thought I’d start today’s post, the 501st, with the flower ‘theatre’ in Waitrose (I use this term as the serried ranks of flowers remind me of the flower theatres on which auriculas are usually displayed.)  We need all the colour – at least those of us here in the northern hemisphere – we can find right now, on these cold, dark, rather drab  winter days.

But before I go any further, I want to draw your eyes to the current  display just inside the main entrance of the supermarket:

It is a display of reduced-price cleaning products (either cleaning for the home or the person, in the form of shower jels and toothpastes.)  Haven’t we been thinking how wonderful it is – once the Christmas tree is removed and the needles vacuumed up, and the cards and decorations taken down –  to set about the spring cleaning, or pre-spring cleaning as we’re still in the depths of winter here in the UK. Perhaps in Australia and New Zealand there isn’t the same urge to clean and, instead, you are just doing your best to keep cool!

I think the supermarket is now filling in time between displays of Christmas produce and St Valentine’s Day which will be the next big (commercial) thing.  And then, of course, Easter.  But I think they might be a little wary of raising the hackles of the customers by putting out Valentine cards even before 12th night and so, instead, why not get the customers *dashing away with a smoothing iron, or disinfecting the loo?  They have picked up on the zeitgeist, have they not:  to have a good clean-up after the party season?  One friend, I believe, is clearing out her loft! [*19th century English folk song]

But to the title of this post:  Getting Ahead.  This has come about because this Christmas – the one just gone – I was caught napping a bit.  I don’t have the same amount of things to do now, certainly not the cooking, because our daughters in law have taken up the cooking baton, but I find there are still lots of things to do. Further more, as I get older, I find even those fewer things are now tiring,and there were moments when I wished Christmas would simply go away so that I could sit down with a book and not have to write cards, bake a cake, and decorate the tree.  I love Christmas Day, but as I’ve said before, I dislike all the Christmas hype from September onward.  But as I’ve also said before, it was ever thus, and I know becauase my parents had a shop in the 1950s/60s and I can recall all the Christmas goods being put on display at much the same time as they are put on display now, 60+ years later.

So, yesterday, having received three more presents (they were a little late as elder son and daughter in law went to visit her parents and brought the presents back with them) I wrote three more thank-you notes and posted those today. I then made some appointments, dealt with some business correspondence, and wrote the shopping list after first checking the contents of the fridge/freezer/larder (aka food cupboard) and  making soup with the veg bought just before Christmas, so they are not in the first flush of vegetable youth, but on the other hand, not fit only for the compost bin.

So while my desk now needs a thorough tidy, the household file (in which I keep all the correspondence to do with council tax, water rates, insurances, Denplan, etc) needs weeding, and anything truly out of date shredding, some paperwork has been dealt with.  (Coincidentally, there was an article yesterday in the paper about how doing such tasks – and they needn’t be huge tasks – can not only prevent stress but also release endorphins that make you feel good, and I do think there is something in that.)

As to the Getting Ahead, I then decided to print the address labels for next Christmases cards!  Yes, I have printed all the labels and next time I visit the post office I plan to buy the 50 or so 2nd class stamps for the Christmas cards.  And if I see any Christmas cards in a Sale anywhere, ones I like of course, I shall buy those, too.  At least having all that done would really help me to have a less stressful pre-Christmas time, would it not?  Husband has said that if I weren’t around (i.e. pushing up the daisies) he’d simply not bother with cards.  I wonder how many other men think this way? Would Christmas as we know it cease if women did not Make An Effort?

Back to today, I bought another small bunch of daffodils but I’ve noticed that instead of putting up the price, there are fewer blooms to the bunch.  Did the supermarkets  think we’d not notice?  Even so, I just love their brightness on a dark winter’s day, and once these open, they will brighten up the kitchen.

With them I used some foliage from the garden, as I have also done with a bunch of bright yellow freesias (below) which are now in the sitting room:

I have to say I wasn’t particularly keen on bright yellow, but I thought the foliage might soften them a little. The reason I bought yellow is that this colour (along with red) has the strongest fragrance and that is why I buy freesias, for their lovely scent.  The pretty floral jug was a present from a dear friend.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the white hyacinths are looking wonderful although you either like the fragrance or you don’t – I’m the only one in the family who likes it; our young grandson holds his little nose when he comes in and goes “pooh!”

And in the sitting room, the freesias from last week are still looking good:

The light from the lamp makes them look more flame colour, but they are a deep red and the scent, even a week later, is still lovely.

And now, at just gone 4.30 pm, it’s time for a cup of tea and a look at the paper.  Daylight has faded, we have the lamps on, and truly, I can’t wait for the brighter, lighter days now, but I do feel more buoyant because of the desk-work done, the appointments that have been made, and the Christmas card envelope labels for next Christmas printed. Isn’t it funny, the satisfaction provided by minor tasks accomplished?

Until next time.



About Margaret

Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. At the end of last week I went through my paperwork file and did a lot of shredding. And today I bought some reduced Christmas wrapping paper ready for next time. I still have enough cards for at least one more
    year. I like to feel organised. From now on I start buying birthday cards when I see one I like so that I had supplies in ready.

    I find Christmas stressful. I always did really and being mocked for liking it when I was young soon took the joy out of it. I always start early so I don’t have to shop while the shops are busy and then wrap early and try to relax the last few weeks.

    I don’t like the smell of hyacinths indoors, or lilies, but outside or in a very large space such as a cathedral is different. I haven’t bought any flowers yet this year but you might have inspired me 🙂

    • Margaret

      Yes, that’s a good idea, Alison: to check on the birthdays and buy the cards so that you have them ready. I shall do that, too! It’s great when we can give each other tips. They might see obvious, but only when someone points them out!
      I have to admit that the scent of lilies in the house can be overpowering, and I’m not keen on those at all. And as the hyacinths age, the smell becomes more like cat pee than something nicely fragrant (not that I make a habit of going around sniffing cat pee, you understand!)
      I think Christmas can be very stressful for a lot of us but we just don’t admit it. I really intend, after 54 years of marriage, to get myself well and truly organized for next Christmas. I’ve made a start, as I say, by printing the card address labels. I do have some rolls of gift wrap, and I bought tartan check (is that tautology, tartan and check?) paper and some with spots on, so that it could be used as general gift wrap, too.

  2. On 31st December our local Tesco was displaying Easter Eggs!! Ridiculous. I know that people like to buy ahead, but really. Strangely I didn’t notice a Valentine’s Day section and yet this comes before Easter. Who understands the reasoning?
    Labels already and stamps soon – now that really is getting ahead! My mother used to buy all her cards and paper in the January sales. There is merit in being prepared but I haven’t even got around to un-decorating from the Christmas just gone yet. It is on my list of things to do tomorrow, but getting back to the gym is a priority in the morning or I will just let it drift. Yes, Christmas would absolutely cease to exist (in my house at any rate) as my husband probably has no idea who we even send cards to!
    Completing a collection of small tasks can be more satisfying than one big task – I love crossing things off a list (whether a physical one of just in my head) – it’s very cathartic.
    Those freesias are a stunning colour.

    • Margaret

      Oh, that’s not only ridiculous, Eloise, but really rather awful. After St Valentine’s Day is soon enough, surely, to put out Easter eggs? Last year there was a rather large Valentine’s section in the branch of Waitrose in which we shop, not only cards but roses, chocolates and wine (I mean large in relation to the size of store – it’s quite a small branch.) At least we’re spared silly costumes for St Valentine’s Day, but for how long, plus silly home decorating items, fluffy pink hearts for example – or perhaps they are available already, only I’ve just not seen them!
      My husband is just the same, Eloise: he has no idea to whom we send cards! He is in the habit of saying “they’re for all my friends anyway”, conveniently overlooking the fact that I am an only child with few relatives and the vast majority of cards are to his family or friends or old working colleagues (they are called coworkers today, I think, but I always want to pronounce that cow-orkers, rather than co-workers, so I stick to the old word “colleagues”!) I’ve said I will go through the cards received and make two piles – those which originated through my family/friendships and those which originated through his. I’m very tempted!
      Yes, I love crossing things off a list. I’ve even added things which I’ve done on occasion, simply so I could then strike them through as being accomplished! Aren’t we funny!

      • Haha, what a good idea. You could put all yesterday’s completed tasks on a list and then sit with your feet up all day, and still feel virtuous! To be fair to my husband, the majority of cards are for my friends, family and ex-colleagues (yes, much preferred) so he’d probably only send half a dozen!
        I’ve seen Easter trees so maybe Valentine trees will make an appearance soon. Oh dear!

        • Margaret

          Yes, that’s an idea – writing down all the things I did and then putting my feet up! I sometimes write a list of things I’ve done, step by step throughout the day, because I often come to the day feeling I’ve achieved little when in fact I’ve done between 20 and 30 small tasks. I do think we women in particular (for I wouldn’t want men to think they weren’t capable of this) are very adept at being able to jump from task to task. Yes, it’s good to start on one thing and complete it, but life doesn’t always allow us to do this, so jotting down the jobs completed is often reassuring to us.
          Oh dear, Easter trees. Everything now has a ring of commerce to it, doesn’t it? Yes, Valentine trees, ha ha, all pink and fluffy … I’m sure now you’ve mentioned it, it will happen!

  3. You are absolutely right – the gap between Christmas and Valentine’s Day is being filled!! I expect we also have a ‘ Home Affair ‘ selling pillows and crockery and so on over by the Toiletries aisle. I’m looking out for Christmas cards but haven’t found any I like. I have to admit I’m with your little grandson on the subject of hyacinths – I love to look at them but I can’t bear the scent in the home. It’s far too strong for me. On the other hand I adore the scent of lilies – indeed when I got married I filled my parents’ house, which is where we had the reception, with the big white Madonna lilies. Husband here managed to make our shredder explode in a blinding flash of light and an enormous bang after it chewed some paperwork up without shredding it. He thought he could fix by inserting a screwdriver whilst it was switched on! I’ve told him to make sure his life insurance is up to date if he tries that again!!!

    • Margaret

      Yes, I had a quick look-see there, Fiona, hoping to see some Christmas cards on Sale (as opposed to for sale) in Waitrose. But by the time we get to the toiletries aisle, husband has decided that’s the end of the shopping and he’s making a bee-line for the checkout, so I rarely get a chance to have a good at the products there. Of course, Ii could dawdle but I have the My Waitrose cards needed at the checkout so we can have our free coffee etc. Also, it it’s not on the List, then we don’t need it, is his modus operandi (and I’m inclined to agree, but I do like a look-see, too!)
      Oh dear, a screw driver and a plugged-in-and-working shredder isn’t a very good idea! He musts learn the first basics of electricity, that it can kill if not doesn’t respect it!
      Isn’t it funny, the various scents we either like or dislike? I love to lovely white lilies occasionally in our home, they are stunningly beautiful, and so I put up with the scent for a while, or if it becomes too much, remove them during the evening when we’re sitting watching TV and put them in the hall.

  4. I totally agree Margaret. When those small tasks are done, we can feel no end of satisfaction, and, is this just me? I feel a trifle smug when I have finished them. But. I do get a bit down knowing that I have these tasks to do, especially when I may nt have created the mess in the first place.

    • Margaret

      No, you are not alone in feeling slightly smug when you have accomplished a series of small tasks, Ratnamurti. So do I! It’s lovely to cross them off a list, isn’t it? I love knowing I’ve managed to get all my thank you notes done and posted already; last year I was much more tardy, but never intentionally so.
      Now that it’s just the two of us here, any mess we create is of our own making, I can no longer blame two teenage sons, or even our two cats, long gone to the great cat home in the sky.

  5. Our supermarkets started selling hot cross buns the day after Boxing Day! It’s too hot here to do much more than essential cleaning although I shouldn’t complain as I we have lovely sea breeze here. Some parts of the east coast are experiencing the hottest conditions ever with inland towns expecting 47 degrees.
    My favourite flowers are freesias, hyacinths and roses and when we were children we used to visit a bulb farm not far from home where the whole hillside was covered in hyacinths. Just wonderful.

    • Margaret

      I think I can beat you there, Pieta, ha ha! It would appear that Waitrose are selling them all year round. We bought some before Christmas and since, as they have few tea cakes (which are similar but not quite the same) and they are just the right size for us to enjoy one, split and toasted and buttered.
      Oh my goodness, your east coast and inland towns sweltering under 47C degrees is dreadful. We thought it was hot last year when our temperatures reached 36C.
      How lovely to have seen a whole hillside covered with hyacinths! That must have been some spectacular sight!

  6. Thanks for brightening up these short days with all the lovely flowers Margaret, can’t say I enjoyed the cleaning product displays quite as much…too much like hard work and always relentless! I detect the days are lengthening a bit and there was a glorious pink sunset here tonight with cold mists rising, another chilly night coming I think, about -5C here.
    The one thing I do buy in advance is Christmas cards when a charity I support sells them off just now, so I have a stock for next time but won’t give it much thought till later in the year.
    I’ve noticed lots of catkins out on the roadside trees, I always look for signs of new life amongst the plants and trees, they never stop do they? At this time of the year I love the dark open tree branches and glimpses of things that are usually out of sight. That includes other people’s homes just as much as natural views! Keep warm and cosy if you’re having the same cold weather in Devon.

    • Margaret

      No, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the display of cleaning materials, either, and a lot of them will, of course, are minor pollutants in themselves. The fewer the cleaning products we can use, the better. Which doesn’t mean we must not clean, but soap and hot water cleans a lot of things, and white vinegar cuts through grease like a knife. I don’t use fabric conditioner, I don’t find our clothes or bed linen requires it. However, I made use of the 1/3rd off Sensodyne toothpaste, which is what i use anyway. I only buy offers if they are what I would normally buy, not simply because they are cheaper.
      I will check out the charity shop, perhaps tomorrow, and see if they have any Christmas cards.
      Oh, catkins on the trees, how lovely is that!

      • I use white vinegar as fabric conditioner. I don’t like the smell of most fabric conditioners, I just like the smell of clean washing from the powder. And my washing doesn’t smell of vinegar 😉

        • Margaret

          Oh, what a good idea, to use white vinegar as a fabric conditioner. Mind you, I use the Lidl liquid washing machine detergent and the items come out smelling very pleasant (not strongly perfumed) and dry nicely, too. But a good tip for another use for white vinegar.

  7. I think our Waitrose needs to take a look at your flower display. Tried to find a decent bunch of anything. I might write to them and put in my first complaint of the year! Haha!

    • Margaret

      Oh, that’s so funny, Margaret … complaining about the lack of a good floral display, ha ha! I like the flowers in Waitrose, but they are more expensive than elsewhere. However, we mustn’t forget to count blooms in other supermarket bunches; there might be fewer and so the extra cost in Waitrose might be justified. However, I do find that all supermarkets only stock a narrow range of flowers and seldom are these altered, so year in, year out, we have the same range. I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more innovation where flowers are concerned as I’m sure there are more varieties that supermarkets could stock if they had a mind to.

  8. Hello from Indianapolis, Indiana, Margaret! I just found your blog and I LOVE it! It’s like reading Rosamunde Pilcher. Thanks for sharing bits of your life and I hope you have a wonderful new year — I’ll be following!

    • Margaret

      Hello, Annie, and what a lovely compliment, to be compared with one of my writing heroines, Rosamunde Pilcher! On one of my posts, or at least a response to a post – and I can’t now recall which one – I mentioned that I’d interviewed Mrs Pilcher many years ago when she was the guest speaker at a literary dinner in Plymouth (Devon, UK). I was interviewing her for our county magazine, Devon Life. It was an interesting half hour, for half hour is exactly what was allocated to my interview, it was in connection with the publication of her novel, Winter Solstice, which I’ve read several times and love it again every time.
      Happy New Year to you in Indianapolis, Annie, and I hope you will look in again.

      • How wonderful to have interviewed and met her! I have many of her books, but this time of year I always take a look at my copy of Rosamund Pilcher’s Christmas, which is really just photos and descriptions of how she and her family celebrated Christmas. Your descriptions remind me of it! Have you found any authors similar to Rosamund that you like? If so, I’d love some book recommendations!

      • And I just saw your post about Christmas at Strand House and ordered it on my Kindle – just the kind of book I love. I’ll be reading all of her work!

        • Margaret

          Sadly, Abnie, not having a Kindle, I can’t order the Christmas novella from lovely Charlotte Betts. I love her books, particularly the early ones which include The Spice Merchant’s Wife.

  9. Wow you are keen – preparing your correspondence for Christmas 2019 when I admit to being one of those who are glad it’s all behind us for another 11 months ha ha. I bought a pack of 10 Christmas cards yesterday whilst doing the grocery shop as they were reduced from $AU3.00 to 75c according to the sign on the shelf but when I asked the lady at the register to check the price for me, the scanner stated 20c ! I do love a bargain and as Christmas cards don’t expire or go stale, I can put them away. The trick is to store these things in places where you will find them again at the appropriate time – and not many years later when you’re moving house !

    Whilst in the supermarket yesterday I saw hot cross buns for sale already. That’s 7th January ! And Easter is in late April this year.

    I can’t say that I’ve ever smelt hyacinth flowers so I have no idea whether I like them or not.

    Our weather here in sub-tropical Australia has been quite hot and humid. It certainly doesn’t inspire any heavy work or spring cleaning, I’m afraid. Anything taxing is best done early morning or not at all. I then try to plan my errands throughout the day so as to maximise my time in air conditioning or ceiling fans – rushing from the comfort of an air conditioned car to inside the house where the ceiling fans are on permanently. I really do envy your cool climate when I read your posts and it’s hot here but I don’t think I’d cope well with light fading by 4:30pm each day xx

    • Margaret

      I haven’t found any cards for next Christmas yet, Lara, and feel my time has passed, they will soon have Valentine Day cards on sale. But it’s printing the labels I find a chore, strangely enough, and I feel great knowing that’s been done. What a bargain you had with those cards! Yes, I think we can safely say we all love a bargain like that.
      It is hard to imagine having to rush from a car to indoors, where the fans are on all the time, but I expect it’s much the same for you, trying to imagine our very changeable weather, when we can even have a very warm day in winter and yet we can have cold weather right until June sometimes. We never know in the UK what the weather will throw at us as we’re at the crossroads of the world’s weather, influenced from all corners so to speak.

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