The Novel – is born – the synopsis done(ish)

So after my public declaration of determination to write this long awaited novel I can report the  book is coming on. No really it is. No bullshit. I had the whole story in my head and bit by bit I have eked and squeezed it out into a synopsis. A beginning, middle and an end. Of course each time I read it I change it a little –  but all in all the idea has emerged from the head to the laptop. A major step.

I have made a decision to stop rereading OR  I will never move on with the next step…

There are other things going on this week which inevitably encourage distraction and prevarication.

Like…..We are moving house on Friday.

Like…..David is opening a new bistro/cafe on Friday.

 

Just small things like that…of course the old me would have used these as excuses to do nothing on the book front,  but the new me, the swotty Fiona Bruce type me, is pushing on.

This is the point where I have fallen foul of my plan in the past. I am honestly confused with how the hell to get the idea out of my head and onto paper in any coherent form so the new me (FB see photo above) decided as a first step to download an audio book on Audible called Write Your Novel by Maggie James which I listened to driving to and from Aberdeen to visit my Mum. Oh yes add that to the weeks goings on….

Anyway it was a good listen and the 2 hours from Aberdeen to Edinburgh and back were perfect to take it in.

It turns out listening to an audio book really makes a journey go quickly -not withstanding the number of times you have to pull over to write down things  you really want to remember. By the time I arrived in Aberdeen I had a confetti of Post Its, most nigh on impossible to decipher once peeled off the dashboard.

Still there is some great advice.

First thing is first- find the best place to write.

Every place I have ever lived I have had a designated space to “write” which has never been used. The combination of a sausage dog, a student, a hyper active husband and a visiting Schnauzer (Doris) in addition to our moving home, opening a restaurant and visiting a parent in Aberdeen has made me retreat into my bed – so it seems that is my place.  My bed.

The downside – and downslide is the encroaching IT blobby hanging double chin thing changing me into the  hunch chin of Notre Maison but would that bother Fiona Bruce? Would it? No so I stare at my laptop which is on…well my lap and all this whilst trying to avoid snorkelling a large glass of white  – after all its only 11am.

mmmnnnnn t- this is not my chin – sadly.

So – this weeks update is….

I have completed my synopsis which is very satisfying. It’s about 5 pages long though and according to my new guru Maggie James ” it’s supposed to be 1 or 2 so I am squeezing it and trying to leave out superfluous details  – which is hard when you witter on as much as I do and   love a superfluous detail.

Having reread it until my eyes bled, I have sent it off to my literary genius friend who will give me feedback. Which I will in turn feedback to you. Good, bad, or bin it I promise, warts and all,  it’s coming your way after all we are in this together.

So……fingers crossed she likes it or the fantasy 11am wine will be brought forward to  9am followed by a gin martini chaser.

OK off to pack a box as the removal men are coming….……and  as for your good self –  keep writing!!!!

Charlie Sausage and Doris Schnauzer – in love.

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Trying to write a novel? Me too.


I wrote a book a few years ago which was published and did rather well much to my delight and to be honest, surprise. It was an autobiographical account of becoming a Mum brought on by the shock of relinquishing my title of  the wild woman of wonga  and turning into a confused, helpless balloon in charge of the most delicious baby on the planet. It still available from some wheelbarrow on the A5 via Amazon. 

That was bloody years ago and this is not a plug for ye olde dusty tome I promise. It is to illustrate just because I churned out my diary in public it is not the same as writing writing.

Since then, I have dabbled scrabbled, noted and scrawled.  Blogged, raged, whispered, railed against the machine and done a thousand different things. But always rumbling in the pit of my heart was the belief I could one day write a novel. A book that is not about me me me. A work of fiction. And so it begins…….

I am exploring all the questions which have made up the battery of excuses as to why I haven’t done it and this time I am bloody well going to finish it. However hard. Part of that process is to be honest about my commitment to writing this elusive thing and that is why ye old blog is to reignited with a view to putting out in the ether on this very page  how I am progressing, or not. Why I am progressing or not. And how much gin I am drinking or wine.

So here goes………JULY 2017.

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Meldrum House -a dog friendly, delightful destination.

I know I know I sound like a stuck record but really. This time of year in our glorious country matches and beats hands down anywhere else on the planet you could meander. In my humble opinion. On the road…the long suffering husband.. Charlie Chorizo Sausage Dog and myself.

 

The sausage at Meldrum House – someone shouted BISCUITS!

 

Originally from the North East I have been there a lot recently as I have been settling my Mum into a Care Home. She has Alzheimers and it has been a rollercoaster of a year but she has gravitated home to Aberdeen where she was born and bred.  She has lived in the Central belt for 15 years and yet the moment she stepped over the threshold of this particular home she just put her hand on my arm and said “This is where I want to live”.  So..a very very long story short..I am splitting my time to be with her and to be in Edinburgh. It’s an easy 2 hour drive and now Mum is  settled the long suffering husband, sausage dog and I decided to go away for a few days to just walk, inhale the delicious fresh air and relax.

 

Old Meldrum Golf Course….wow!

It’s hard to find accommodation last minute in the Aberdeen area especially at this time of year and so with a google, a wing, a prayer and a bit of pot luck we rocked up to Meldrum House, about 30 minutes outside the City on the outskirts of Old Meldrum . And well…. be still my beating heart. Its like  Disney Castle – but the real McCoy – and what  a location!

A wee something whilst we enjoyed a pre dinner bev

Privately owned it really is a very special spot indeed.

There was a wedding on  which they warned us about so we were in the main house. The weddings are in an annex and we honestly didn’t know the huge rollocking party was there.

 

We had a great wander about, a delicious meal and retired early to our huge bedroom where we slept like logs (or dogs in Charlies case) partly because of the giant bed but also because the vast windows were draped in the best black out curtains the world has ever seen. Fabulous.

Being an obsessive foodie it was great to find this chef knows his onions and every other item of food. Delicious food. And their smoked haddock and poached egg in the morning was a thing of beauty. Och it all was. Including the hungover wedding guests clutching their heads and gulping coffee with shaky hands – ah yes those were the days.

The staff were all lovely, chatty and informal. Despite it being mid summer or near enough a huge fire roared in the entrance hall which always makes for a warm welcome and nothing was too much trouble.

If you golf – prepare yourself – it is a beautiful course. Its not cheap to play but the hotel can arrange it all for you. I hit a bucket of balls but didn’t play – well I can’t yet! Having just had my first lesson in 20 years I am currently smitten but if the mere thought of golf repels you don’t be discouraged the gardens are like Life on Earth ….Swans and their signets, Geese and their Goslings, 2 Highland Cows and a few tourists……the full enchilada. Bliss.

Mr & Mrs Goose and their Goslings – gas and air for the poor duchess there were about 12!

Love is in the air for these two hairy galoots.

Sausage still looking for that biscuit ……Seriously refreshed and podged up with lovely food we will be back…….and soon.For now the sausage, husband and I are heading elsewhere on the hunt for more dog friendly places to stay….will keep you posted.
Oh and whatever rate you get on booking.com phone the hotel direct – you aye get the best deal that way…..Here’s their details….Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Course
T: +44 (0)1651 872294
F: +44 (0)1651 872464
E: enquiries@meldrumhouse.com

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Confessions of a broadcaster.

So, “yer nae on the telly much anymore are you?” is a question I get asked a lot. No. I’m not. But as you know life has a habit of giving you a good boot in the bum when you least expect it. Which is exactly what happened to me. I was having a rare old time when the shit hit the fan.

You are reading a Blog written by a woman who has LAM.
What?

OK here it is in its unshortened glory. lymphangioleiomyomatosis

No I can’t pronounce it either.

I don’t want to be health bore and go on and on about it but in  a nutshell my lungs collapsed and surgery was the only option. I did write about it for the LAMpost which is the place people with this rare and inexplicable lung disease can gather and find support. So I thought I would repost what I wrote about it here….if one person in a similar situation reads it and feels better – great. If one person reads it and can add any information or theory as to why it happens then it can only be good.

With only 200 women in the UK with this condition – and a few of them being broadcasters –  there has to be a connection and only by writing and talking about it will we potentially find out what it is.

Might as well be hung for a sheep as a LAM.

Oh and I will be writing this blog about life and how I love being able to live it with my sausage dog, friends and fun as I am a cup runneth over kind of girl once I get this off my chest – pun intended.

My Diagnosis By Alison Craig

I had a collapsed lung five years ago then nothing. It was a fast and virtually pain-free fix. The doctors quickly reinflated my lung and off I went.  I racked my brain as to why this had happened and came to the conclusion that it was because I had choked on a tangerine. After a few days of confusion, I rejoined life with gusto.

In between times I continued working on radio and TV, and enjoying life.
Then out of the blue two years later, the same lung went down and the same procedure took place in the same hospital, but then a week after that, the lung came down a third time.  This time, the doctors decided to ‘stick up’ my lung up to prevent it collapsing again. ‘Stick up’ my lung was slang for a pleurodesis. I didn’t really think about it, it was just what had to be done.   Of course, the reality of the procedure is somewhat gruelling, and not something that bears too much thought.  It involves keyhole surgery during which a camera is inserted to check the lung, repair any holes and to glue the lung to the inside of the chest cavity.

During the process, a biopsy was done as a matter course, and then I was sent home to sleep in an upright position. It transpired this wasnt’ a problem as I felt like I would never sleep again, I was so scared. After ten days, I got a call to come back to the hospital; I suspected something was up – after all I had only just returned home and was still in recovery.  My surgeon told me  I had LAM.

LAM? What on earth is that?

My first question was, ‘Is it a precursor to cancer?’ The dreaded C , the big C, the word we all dread hearing. No, I was informed, but we will want to do the same procedure on your other lung as the chances are it will also collapse when you have recovered from this op. Not what I wanted to hear when still in recovery from my first op, so I went home and concentrated on my recovery, deciding against reading anything about the condition until I was stronger.

About a week later, my other lung collapsed and whilst still weak and I was in for another pleurodesis. Double whammy.  I stopped eating as I was a clenched ball of nerves. Honestly I had been the fittest healthier most robust person up to this point. Never a cold, A flu. A chest infection. A wheeze  and now I was unable to walk upstairs and my whole life was in the balance. Only when I began to get a little stronger did I look on-line for information about LAM. That was my first mistake, and my advice to anyone reading this is do not search on-line for information about LAM. Goodness knows it’s tempting, but don’t. The hysterics, the headline grabbers, the out-of-date information that whirls around in cyberspace will do you no good at all. I know. I searched on Googled and what I found threw me into a black hole of panic and despair. “A fatal lung condition” Stress caused me to lose over two stone.  I stayed in that place in information shutdown until I met Professor Simon Johnson at Nottingham University Hospital.

My second piece of advice is ask to be referred to Simon. The day I met him, my life began again. He has made it his life’s work to study this rare condition and as a result he is the man you want to speak to. As there are so few cases in the UK there is a general ignorance about the condition. GPs, doctors, surgeons  – these people will know very little if anything about LAM so don’t listen to any of them, just listen to the man who knows and the great team at LAM Action.  Simon is the man who has the most up-to-date research and who is the voice of reason in a mire of soundbites and historical, hysterical nonsense.

There is so little known about LAM, even in medical circles, that when a patient presents with a collapsed lung or other symptoms which could be related to LAM, she is generally patched up and sent home with no further support, they way I five years ago.
So as I said, do not search for data on-line. Search engines do not update the information on treatment. Data can be out there for years misleading you, me and the next woman to be diagnosed.  It would have helped me immensely to have been handed a sheet on day one which gave the following information:

  • What is LAM in a nutshell.
  • Only women get it.
  • It is believed it maybe oesterogen-based.
  • There is a very wide spectrum of this disease from so mild a patient may never know she has it, to a more severe version.
  • Do not search on-line. (I know I say that a lot, but it is so true. If you were to read the information on the back of a bottle of Night Nurse, you would become hysterical and take it to the local police station rather than take it for a bad cold.)
  • Cherry-pick the information you need and do not immerse yourself in the minutiae – Professor Simon Johnson is there for that. Let him do the medical stuff, you concentrate on looking forward and getting on with life. I do not want you to lose two stone – an effective but unrecommended diet plan .

Until recently, doctors didn’t test for LAM so there may well be thousands of women who have it who had a collapsed lung or other symptoms and never knew what their underlying condition was.



I wish I didn’t know. The main battle with this for me is psychological as the very real questions of ‘why’ and ‘what happens now?’ cannot be answered.  You may feel very alone; I did.  It took me two years to get in touch with LAM Action in the UK and I encourage you, when you feel the time is right, to do so, too. They are great. I am trying to give you a shortcut to peace of mind about the future, though I still lie awake at night wondering was it my diet, pollution, chlorine, living in a city, living by the sea, the hair dye I use, sound studios I worked in for years, stress, bad posture… and so the list goes on until dawn, but whatever it is you and I have in common we have to try and find out what it is.

There are so few of us, the way to beat LAM once and for all is to share every piece of information. I share a lot on my blog (alisonsdiary.com) about life, the universe and everything. In fact, I am going to post this on there too – after all we are all in this together, and we women do LOVE to talk.

I hope one day you will be ready to tell your story and wish you well on your journey.
Alison Craig

 

 

Face Cream that really works? Be still my beating heart.

This woman is 67. I'm lying but read on...

This woman is 67. I’m lying but read on…


The trauma of the mirror continues to horrify on a regular basis. Inside I feel 18 and exterior wise – the swags and tails that used to adorn curtains in the 80’s have moved into my face. Dear God. It is now clear the image of the original gargoyle must have been based on an Aberdonian woman in her 50’s.  So I am at the stage where you will consider anything to fight the ravages of time. Well within reason. So earlier this year I adopted a new regime – a product called Environ.

The guy who developed it is a plastic surgeon from South Africa who noticed when he applied the cream to people recovering from surgery that their skin seemed to improve and rejuvenate. Well I didn’t need to hear that more than once – slap it on! In fact hell I will eat it if it works.

 

We  do love a before and after and so here it is…..
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There are an array of different creams you start at Level 1 and as your skin becomes hardened (not the best word in these circumstances – lets go with accustomed) to the Vitamin A in the cream you can gradually increase the potency. ?I am now a good few months down the line withit and I swear my skin is better. Really.

I am not getting sponsored, paid or encouraged to write this but as a 50 something woman its nice to find something that seems to improve things without the aid of a knife, an anaesthetic or a balaclava.

Its nae cheap but then neither is buying every other cream every other day and slapping it on with no continuity. One set of the stuff kept me going for 4 months so it may seem dear but its an investment I am happy to make.

Every good facial involves gunge. Environ is no exception.

Every good facial involves gunge. Environ is no exception.

In addition you can indulge in anEnviron facial – the photo of which is me in full Hannibal Lecter mask – it just adds to the overall treatment and frankly afterwards I felt fresh as a daisy. I still haven’t been ID’d in the local as being potentially underage but I live in hope.

Just thought I’d share the chat – feel free to ignore it!

You do need to find a facialist who stocks Environ – in Edinburgh there are a few – Claires in Edinburgh is who puts up with me –  she is great at what she does so when you are lying around looking like a nitwit fun I do like a laugh.

This article is all about the Dr who developed it  – have a read if you fancy.

Beware you are unlikely to get a lumber wearing this.

Beware you are unlikely to get a lumber wearing this.

The Brandon at Canonmills – yum yum yum.

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In the place where Cross and Corner used to live there’s now a wee bar/restaurant on that corner of Broughton Street and Eyre Place called Brandon’s of Canonmills.  A refreshing groovsters hangout with food that frankly my lips haven’t stopped smacking themselves about since we tried it.
When I say groovsters hang out clearly not just groovsters as we are about as far from the category as you can get and still be labelled human.

We are 3 middle aged woman and a sausage dog. Sounds like a film but no it’s just my life.

So just to clarify….dogs are very welcome indeed as is everyone it seems.

When you have hit the dizzy heights of 50 odd (with the emphasis on odd in this case) it’s disheartening and annoying the number of people who ignore you, don’t do eye contact or assume you are in for a cup of tea or a slash. Well our shower arounder was a charmer make no mistake and we loved him. So we booked a booth for supper  later in the day thinking it was just a formality –  after all a Tuesday night surely wouldn’t be busy. We were right, it wasn’t busy. It was packed.

2 main courses and a bottle of wine £30 – a good deal and too good to pass up.

Photo of Interior courtesy of Scotsman.com

Photo of Interior courtesy of Scotsman.com

Japes aplenty

Japes aplenty

One Sausage & 3 women ensconced. Happy days. As we arrived a very tired beach exhausted Charlie Chorizo was offered water which he slurped before falling asleep on my foot.

The sausage looking forward to his visit.

The sausage working up an appetite at the beach.

We  had a couple of margaritas to start – blood orange margaritas – hello! A great kick start to any evening. there was no pressure of time so we set the pace giving more than ample time for our well over due gossiping.
And…
Well the food was great. Delicious. Fresh. Imaginative. Slurp. Beetroot and goats cheese salad. A burger – just plain but perfect and panko rolled smoked jackfruit – wtf? I have no idea so I asked. It is an Indonesian fruit apparently which was a revelation.

Resist making that revolting joker please. Thank you.

Resist making that revolting joke please. Thank you.

Our smiley server described Jackfruit as having the same consistency as pulled pork – I was sceptical but he was bang on. The flavoursome pork impersonator oozed smoky paprika and the presentation was like 2 great big meaty delicious Scotch eggs (without the egg!)
Puds were great too. We had Mellis Cheese and oatcakes and – drum roll – adffogato – not with ice cream and espresso but with rhubarb ice cream and a shot of gin. Be still my beating heart.

Dear Santa I will be a good good girl if you promise to take me back here. Soon.

Its warm, welcoming, groovy, dog friendly, cocktail delightful, foodie hangout for all.

Its so good this lazy blogger has broken the habit of being a sloth and got back on the blogging horse. Woah.

The Brandon at Canonmills: Mmmmmnnnnnnn

 

If you fancy going down the Jackfruit route heres an article from The Guardian all about it.

Empty nester.

IMG_4462 (1)Our son left home last year to go to University.

The Empty nest syndrome is something I see all around. Sad eyed middle aged women getting up like clockwork to put out the endless boxes of cereal to feed the ones who have left. Our body clocks pinging at 4pm and the Pavlovs dogs reaction of shovelling a half hundred weight of biscuits onto plates and producing gallons of juice and milk for the hoards to drink when they descend on the house at 4.30pm on their ways home. Only there are no hoards now. All those muddy kneed rugby playing school boy/men are away. Away to begin their lives without so much as a by your leave for the entrenched routines that having given birth to and brought up a child has riven into the homes and lives which they inhabited. The silence. The tidiness. The thrum of music through the wall from his room replace by the ticking of the kitchen clock. The fridge which remains full and the milk which is still bought in gallons going off.

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Until this very moment you have had not a second to think about it as the toddling becomes totting into school turns to hormones turns to teenage battles turns to exams and then to – well this – the point. To bring up a responsible member of society who can clean his teeth, brush his hair, and be independent. This is a success. This was your job. OK its not full redundancy maybe a fairer term would be voluntary redundancy. It is a new beginning for them so why not you?

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So with that in mind I am slinging my bag over my shoulder, grabbing my sausage dog and am off.  Muffin top, hormonal rollercoaster, bouts of dieting, bouts of drinking, bouts of regret, bouts of hysteria, eruptions of spots, despair, creativity, dunderheidedness, insomnia, grumpiness all accompanied by increasing hairiness in strange places – why the inside of my nose is now tufting up is not something I am either proud of or delighted about – and that’s just the half of it, said the bearded slack jawed lady. Still look on the bright side….at least when Santa retires I might be a shoe-in for the big job.

With car, sausage dog and passport am off. Will report back.

 

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From a sweet young boy to a hairy cowboy in a moment.

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Ben Murphy

Hannibal Hayes and Kid Curry the two most wanted outlaws in the history of the west, and in all the trains and banks they robbed they never shot anyone.

God I loved Ben Murphy.

For no reason whatsoever that intro jumped into my mind this afternoon. I tweeted it and got some banter going with fellow fans of the cowboys. The Virginian, The High Chaparal and Alias Smith and Jones were the only westerns I ever watched.

It was  nothing to do with the plot, the setting or the excitement of these programs it was all to do with the early teen hormones.

Unknown-1 UnknownI fancied the Virginian James Drury and Trampass wasn’t half bad played by  Doug McClure – I forgave him that high forehead and of course I was quite partial to  Blue Boy in The High Chaparral  but of course the top cowboy in my life Kid Curry aka Ben Murphy. Swoon.

I had a life size poster of Ben on my bedroom wall in a tin bath smoking a cigar. He must have been about 35 I was 12. I’m surprised my mother didn’t get the vapours. Though maybe seeing him grinning down at her from my wall as she dug through the discarded stuff trying to find the dog and any missing dinner plates and people may have warmed the cockles of her heart too.

I  had gone from Donny Osmond – a truly girl like young man to a great hairy cigar smoking geezer in a flash.  Enjoy this trip down memory lane. I did.

“Gap Years are a waste of time” – ahem – sorry?

Steam, smoke coming out of my ears. Blood pressure risen to dangerous levels. I am not only in high dudgeon am floating well above it and grinding my rapidly diminishing teeth to boot.

The reason The Daily Telegraph. I know I know it’s called the Tory graph for a reason. It’s not the only paper I read but today I was so incensed I dumped the rest and rushed for the laptop when I read this.

“Gap Years are a waste of time, says advertising supremo” by Javier Espinoza, Education Editor.

OK the article is written about a very successful bloke – Sir Martin Sorrell. His claim that “Gap Years are a waste of time” goes on to say that kids who take a year out before continuing with their education are achieving nothing meaningful , that gap years lacked direction, they need to be more focussed and specific.

This is not Harry Enfield. This is Sir Martin Sorrell.

This is not Harry Enfield. This is Sir Martin Sorrell.

Definition of a Gap Year: a period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between school and university or college education._

Definition of a break: a rest, respite, interval, breathing space, lull, recess;

The majority of kids start school 5, some as young as 4 and are relentlessly drilled to learn, to hit targets, to achieve in an ever competitive school environment. School is the official title but as the school day ends often their days continue with extra tutors, music lessons, sports, language learning until eventually these little people fall in an exhausted heap into their homes where, after a brief “break” for their fish fingers and chips, they have to settle down to deal with far too much homework. The self as a developing individual personality being given little or no time or space to emerge.

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Sir Martin Sorrell, putting himself up as the all seeing knowing commentator on such matters as Gap Years according to Wikipedia “is married to Cristiana Falcone. Sorrell was previously married to the American-born Sandra Finestone, with whom he has three sons, but the marriage broke down in 2003, as a result of Sir Martin’s “obsession with work”.

Obsession with work.
Living to work. Not working to live.

So it’s a choice really isn’t it? Some may choose to have balance. Have a life where you expand your horizons and experiences without feeling every moment of every day has to be accounted for in an endless round of point scoring exercises in the pursuit of the betterment of the self to impress potential employers or tart up a CV.

Sir Martin is simply out of kilter. I believe the emphasis is shifting where more value is given to a developed and happy individual as a whole, not just in terms of exams, awards, boxes ticked on an outmoded and outdated list. A list clearly still adhered to by Sir Martin Sorrell, that man in the Ivory tower .

OK steam petering out, jaw no longer clenched, spleen vented. I’m off.

 

PS I have a son. He had a gap year. He came back refreshed, independent, mature and able to settle down to his next stage in life. Best thing he ever did.

 

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Skiing sausage dog.

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We are taking the sausage skiing.?Oh yes.
Well he will be mainly sledging and stomping and I will be skiing.
I can’t wait.
What to wear???
No not me! Him.
I have a ski suit which I will squash my Christmas body into but him. The sleek red haired ginger man of love. What will I drape his sausage form in?
Suggestions welcome.
Wee cold toes. A near bare belly dragging along a snowy street, a aead revealed to the elements if he is tobogganing how do we protect the cranium?
Ah these are big questions and I am counting on you to help me answer them.
Off to google sausage slippers.
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