I've decided that there's been a bit too much smut and degeneration on this blog of late and I feel it's time to emphasise the positive, to post something nice... and so here's my seasonal 7 without sin:
#7 Buffalo Milk: A diminuative Hungarian lady brings many litres of this, plus buffalo sour cream, in from her village once a week and sells it (illegally, now we're in the EU) in my wife's hospital. Not only do I admire her enterprize, her strength and her refusal to wear anything but her traditional costume at all times, but it is also the creamiest you will ever taste - no going back to gold-top after that.
#6 Hat Wearing: Country folk in Romania have the most wonderful array of whacky hats (a whole blog post in itself), each region having it's own style; elderly townsmen favour a small trilby, beret or flat cap - my father-in-law has all three. I bought a beautiful charcoal grey, fur-felt, Sinatra tile for my wedding and wear it whenever it looks like rain; it makes me look either a dandy or a member of a religious cult - and as we Dilos are Primitive Methodists many may agree with that evaluation - but slightly less so than I would do in Blighty.
#5 Kittens: I promise this will be the last post that mentions our kittens... for a while. By the way, they got called Elvis (not sure which one of you won the naming competition) and Mitzi (yep, one of them was a girl). Here they are with our new friend Karen "The Kitten Whisperer", from New Zealand, who's been delighting us not only with her vowels but also her kitten psychology which has got 'em purring with a passion.
#4 My Garden: If you think the kittens have become boring, be warned that I've barely started going on about my garden :-) From the wasteland it was when we got this place it's now got natural stone paving, raised beds, exotic flowers, outlandish vegetables, and a rockery in the shape the Matterhorn (due to be extended into the whole Alpine range in the spring).
#3 British Comedy: I pine for this, and it makes me proud to be British, but these days BBC Entertainment (née Prime) mainly serves up a diet of The Weakest Link, EastEnders and other such slack-jawed tosh. But there are still flickers of comedy greatness, and best of all is when The Missus gets it too. She's a huge fan of Del Boy (who speaks directly to all Eastern Europeans regardless of their nationality), and adores Richard Ayoade in The IT Crowd. Excellent. Now I have a new hero, Omid Djalili, and am trying to convince her that this slobberingly elegant bastard Iranian love-child of Andre Agassi and Alexei Sayle is the new comic Messiah.
#2 Poetry: I'm a total ponce when it comes to poetry, but it serves me well. In my job I rarely have breaks and when I do I usually waste them trying to drag a conversation out of one of my colleagues. But, I keep a small collection of John Donne's love poems in my pocket at all times (I've also got Keats) and when I'm desparate I sit in the nearby graveyard and whip it out:
Oh doe not die, for I shall hate
All women so when you are gone,
That thee I shall not celebrate,
When I remember, thou wast one.
#1 You! Yes, dear reader. I seek not world-wide fame; a small, regular readership is ample satisfaction for me. You cannot image - though actually, when I think about it, you probably can - how much joy I get from people's comments, and from the fact that (I dare to think) I could now probably post a picture of a dog turd and still get them in double figures, so thank you, thank you for your kindnesses, thank you for bearing with me, and thank you most of all for being you.