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Saturday 31 December 2022

December in Review

 Heavy snowfall in Epping Forest, east London, December 2022

Dear friends.  December will be the month remembered for snow. We had a significant amount in London which took everyone by surprise. Just one centimeter had been forecast. It lasted for nearly a week in the freezing temperatures. In London this is very unusual! 

People took eagerly to the slopes in Yates Meadow with their toboggans and trays. The hubster and I enjoyed a walk in pristine snow, quite exhausting as it came several cms up the legs!

But the snow quickly became a nuisance, freezing over on ungritted pavements and minor roads. I walked to the gym in sturdy walking boots but it was still a nightmare, slipping and sliding.

This magnificent snow queen was a tribute to our late Queen I think.

Snow Queen memory of the late Queen Elizabeth on the a golf course bordering Epping Forest. Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton shakes her hand

The snow wasn't our only problem. There were lots of strikes in December and the stoppages on trains and the underground meant a couple of my planned outings had to be cancelled. I have sympathy for the public sector workers, of course, but the damage inflicted on the hospitality industry, at a time when its recovery is still tenuous following Covid, has been devastating.


It's become an annual outing now for the Hanlons: a trip to the National History Museum to see the Wildlife Photography Competition award winning photographs, followed by a pub lunch.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner was Karine Aigner from the USA with this picture of bees. Somehow I never seem to get a straight picture in art galleries! 

The winning photograph in 2022 Wildlife Photographer of the  Year

We then strolled to the Hereford Arms in South Kensington for our first Christmas lunch of the seasonn. Our table was tucked away in the corner - just as well, we are noisy boomers - and very festive. 

And here is the assembled throng, John and me (right), and his sisters Sue and Kate, brother-in-law Don and sister-in-law Yvonne.

Happy family Christmas lunch at the Hereford Arms in South Kensington

Kettlewell Colour Club Meet Up, Croydon

Our last gathering of the year started at its usual venue, the Clock Tower Cafe, and we then had an early dinner at Mr Fox. I was home by 8.15, in time for the second half of England v France in the World Cup. We lost.

There weren't many pictures of the gathering, and although I took a few pictures of my outfit, I then changed my mind at the last minute! 

Work Reunion, Swindon

I went to a lunchtime reunion in Swindon of the tech company where I spent 20 happy years. It was the first time I've been to a reunion. There's an annual curry meet-up for people who have retired. I must say, I was extraordinarily over-excited, but the reality didn't quite live up to expectations. It was a pleasant gathering and wonderful to meet up again with Jill and Caty,  two of my former colleagues from the same team, below.


I was a little ambivalent about Christmas this year. The tree didn't go up until the 18th, and it was only the skinny pop-up tree which is pre-lit and decorated, not the usual tree. Postal strikes meant most of our Christmas cards didn't arrive until Dec 29.

On Christmas Day it was the two of us, as it always is. My mother, who's 90, goes to my brother's as his family live very close to her. We had turkey crown, which I'd collected at 7am from Marks and Spencer the day before.  We had champagne and watched The Banshees of Inisherin  (see more in TV Reviews below). I also had my favourite pudding and the only one I eat, bread and butter pudding, served with marmalade and cream and a side order of Baileys!

On Boxing Day John's two children and their families came round for lunch and presents. We had a new addition to the family this year, our second grandchild Olive, now 8 months old. She's a very smiley baby and seems happy to eat anything! Here's John with Olive and her dad Sean. 

I normally use red and gold for my Christmas table settings but upped my game this year and bought some new peacock napkins and tablemats, tiny vases in jewel colours, and new water carafes and glasses, plus turquoise and teal baubles.

I wore my matching peacock skirt! I forgot to print off the menu, but here it is. 

The Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall

And finally December was rounded off with this festive ballet performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. I went with Oxana and we had dinner first at the venue's gorgeous Coda restaurant. We have had no trains for over a week, this time because of engineering works, so I had to plan a route with buses and the underground, but it worked perfectly.

On the day we went, we had the sad news that Dame Vivienne Westwood had died. I wore my VW skirt, pre-loved, as a tribute. 

Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton the over-60s style blog in Vivienne Westwood skirt and feather trimmed lemon jumper from Uterque

Also in December

Winter Solstice

I always look forward to the Winter Solstice because it signals the days getting longer. I watched sunrise over Stonehenge in a live stream, the day after Solstice, but it was cloudy so we didn't see the "money shot" of sun through the stones.

2022 Beauty Advent Calendar 

This year's beauty Advent Calendar was by MAC.  I thought I'd try this because it was make-up only. In the past I've had calendars from Look Fantastic, You Beauty, Decleor, Feel Unique and John Lewis, and sometimes they're hit and miss because you get brands you're familiar with, plus products you don't like very much. 

The MAC calendar was so-so.  They're trying to appeal to a very wide group of women - different ages, different colouring - so there were lots of make-up primers and the eyeshadows were mostly neutrals, browns and beige.  The lipsticks were fairly dark and won't suit me. I think I may now call it a day on beauty advent calendars! The calendars from Liberty and Selfridges appeal to me, but they are far too expensive. 

Goodbye to the Golf

My Golf GTI days are over.  My third Golf was sold to a specialist dealer and is now on sale for just four thousand pounds less than I paid for it, four years ago! This is because it's still a long process to buy a new car these days owing to the semiconductor shortage. My husband handled the sale throughout, as he knew I was a bit flaky about it. I was distraught when I looked out of the window and saw it heading off on its new adventure, so clean and shiny. 

I've never been emotionally attached to a car before but somehow this one was very special to me.  It seemed to signify a chapter in my life had closed.  My husband thinks it's all very foolish as we have a new and gorgeous electric car, and two retired people with low mileage needs don't need two cars, which is very true. 


TV Highlights

Film: The Banshees of Inisherin (Netflix)

We saved this for Christmas Day. I liked it, John was unimpressed. In a nutshell:  Colm (Brendan Gleason) doesn't like Pádraic (Colin Farrell) anymore. After years of daily pub visits together, Colm formally requests that Pádraic leave him alone and never speak to him again. Pádraic refuses to leave it at that.

Farrell has been nominated for an Academy Award, and justifiably in my view. His face registers different emotions so well.

Treason (Netflix)

We've just started this mini series which looks highly promising. It's a British spy thriller starring Charlie Cox as an MI6 agent and co-starring Tracy Ifeachor, Oona Chaplin, Ciarán Hinds and Olga Kurylenko. 

The Peripheral (Prime)

The plot is fairly incomprehensible but can be summarised as:  set in the future when technology has subtly altered society, a woman discovers a secret connection to an alternate reality as well as a dark future of her own.

It's not too demanding and fairly entertaining, although on occasion I find it ludicrous.  As with most modern dramas now, the women are very kick ass, and I particularly like the "old man" who's a ruthless killer, and wins many a fight against young opponents. 

Slow Horses (Apple TV)

The second series is as enjoyable as the first, although the complexities of the plot make it a bit unfathomable. The cast is relaxing into it and Gary Oldman as the scruffy, gruff and brilliant leader of the "slow horses" - MI5 agents who are in disgrace, or on their way out - continues to steal the show. 

Detectorists  (BBC iPlayer, Prime Video, Disney, HBO Max, Paramount)

Better late than never, I have discovered this gentle jewel. We started with the Christmas special but I'm now watching series 1 from the start.  There are beautiful bucolic countryside scenes with birds and skies as Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones) take their metal detectors out, hoping to find treasure from the Battle of Braintree.  There are ructions and spats too between the detectorists' club and their rivals;  between Andy and Lance occasionally, and between Andy and his long-time girlfriend. I love the recurring humour.  Simply wonderful.

Podcast Highlights

Why do we do that? BBC Sounds

This will appeal if you like your podcasts short, snackable and full of curious info.  Anthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi investigates the origins of everyday human habits and behaviour. Topics include: why do we doomscroll? Why do we sit down to poo? Why do we shake hands? Why do we kiss?

That's it for December! Come back on Sunday for my review of 2022. 


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Monday 26 December 2022

Sparkle and Shine: Style Not Age Challenge

Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in Sparkle and Shine for the December 2022 Style Not Age Challenge

 Dear friends.  it's fitting that the Style Not Age Challenge is "Sparkle and Shine."

I was initially a bit panicky because I didn't think I had enough sparkly clothes to make an outfit.  I've been trying to pare down my wardrobe,  to make it more suitable for my lifestyle. A few sequin items have already found their way to a charity shop.


Wednesday 21 December 2022

Christmas Collection

 & WowOnWednesday

Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in her 2022 Cgristmas jumper, red with sequin Christmas trees from TU at Sainsburys

Dear friends. Here it is, the 2022 Christmas jumper (sweater to my US friends).  It's red with little sequin Christmas trees and came from TU at Sainsbury's. 


Friday 16 December 2022

Best Books of 2022


Dear friends.  As the year heads to a close, I've rounded up my favourites of 2022, and a few of my reading stats. Thrilled to be joining Deb and other blogger friends in the southern hemisphere for #WhatsOnYourBookshelf. 

I read an average of 4 books a month with a spike in July when I was reading voraciously on a Greek beach. Most of what I read was fiction. There's usually more non-fiction. I put it down to the fact that for certain non-fiction books, I prefer a hard back  (definitely for gardening and cookery) but I don't want to pay hard back prices! 



Small Things Like These by Clare Keegan 

Short listed, quite rightly, for the 2022 Booker Prize.  The beauty of Keegan's writing takes my breath away.  It's a short novel but memorable. It's the 1980s and Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, is dealing with his busiest season, Christmas. Everyone knows each other in the small Irish town but Bill finds that miseries and injustices of the past are still with us, and the people of his town are complicit with the Church in perpetuating them. 

Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake

There was nothing worse than being predictable. Nothing smaller than feeling ordinary. Nothing more disappointing than being reminded she was both.

Two people find each other, but this is not a conventional love story.  He is a doctoral student who manages his destructive thoughts with compulsive calculations about time travel; she is a bipolar counterfeit artist undergoing court-ordered psychotherapy. Tender, biting, fascinating.

Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes

25 years after Rachel's Holiday, we catch up with Rachel and find she's working as a counsellor with a family and a great life. But when a man reappears in her life, complications arise. 

Marian Keyes is under-rated in my view: why? Her books are so beautifully written, so funny and so wise. 

At the Table by Claire Powell

Set in 2018, Claire Powell's beautifully observed debut novel follows each member of the Maguire family over a tumultuous year of lunches, dinners and drinks, as old conflicts arise and relationships are re-evaluated. A gripping yet tender depiction of family dynamics, love and disillusionment. 

Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan

Short listed for the Sunday Times Best Young Author of the Year. Nolan belies her young age with this searing and memorable account of a love affair between a 23 year old woman and a controlling older man. 

I'm Sorry You Feel That Way by Rebecca Wait

Hilarious - full of dead pan one liners.  A sharp, wise comedy that explores difficult family dynamics, from all-too-relatable emotional patterns to the inexplicable agonies of mental illness.

Other Parents by Sarah Stovell

The worlds of vaxxers and anti-vaxxers collide in this novel about school gate parent politics. 


Written in Bone by Sue Black

Winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Sword for non-fiction. Forensic anthropologist Prof Dame Sue Black presents an eminently readable account of the bones of the body and the stories they tell when we have died. What we eat, where we go, everything we do leaves a trace, a message that waits patiently for months, years, sometimes centuries, until a forensic anthropologist is called upon to decipher it.

The London Boys: David Bowie, Marc Bolan and the 60s Teenage Dream by Marc Burrows

As a lifelong David Bowie fan, I read all the books about him with a feverish eagerness to find new tidbits. And this book delivered, through its unorthodox comparisons with the careers and lives of two icons born in the same city, in the same year.  Bowie and Bolan knew each other, although I would hesitate to call them friends. 

What else have I been reading?

The Real Enid Blyton by Nadia Cohen

Like many children I adored the stories of Enid Blyton, one of the most prolific writers ever. I loved The Faraway Tree and then the schoolgirls of St Clares. Not to mention the Famous Five.  I was aware, even at a young age, that teachers and academics looked down on Blyton. 

Over the years many of her books have been rewritten or even cancelled because some of the content is no longer suited to our times.  But she is still a publishing phenomenon. 

I was interested to learn more about the woman.  Traumatized in childhood when her beloved father left his wife and family, Enid was a rebel and early feminist who refused to take on domestic chores when her brothers didn't have to do them. 

Her sunny stories and happy endings belied a complex life of infidelities and unconventional friendships. She was sometimes cruel and callous towards her family and friends as a defensive mechanism. 

Enid was a successful businesswoman, ahead of her time.  She wrote books until she could not physically write another word, famously producing thousands of words a day hunched over her manual typewriter. 

The Narrator by K L Slater

I enjoyed and reviewed The Girlfriend by this author just a few weeks ago. She is the writer of 19  psychological crime thrillers. She has sold over two million copies of her books worldwide. 

An audio book narrator becomes involved in the search for the author whose books she has been narrating.  The author has been missing for months and police aren't making much progress. 

As with all good crime thrillers, there are numerous red herrings, and as we gallop towards the ending there's a surprise in store which even I hadn't envisaged.  Justifies the "twisty" acclaim it will no doubt be given!

This book is published on 6 January 2023. Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for the advance reader copy.

The Daughter-in-Law by Fanny Blake

Mother-in-law Hope is persuaded to come on holiday with son Paul and wife Elodie to help look after the young children.  Hope is eager to get to know Elodie, who, although perfectly polite, seems to hold her at arm's length. 

Meanwhile Elodie, a barrister, is finding that two young children and dependable Paul is not the recipe for contentment and happiness that she expected.

Both women have secrets they don't want Paul to know.  But they're moving further apart.

An engrossing read, perfect for holiday reading.

This book is published on 1 May 2023. Thanks to Netgalley and Simon Schuster UK for the advance reader copy.

The New Wife by Amanda Brittany & Karen Clarke

From mothers-in-laws we turn to new wives and stepmothers, another popular "enemy" for writers of psychological thrillers. 

Nell married her husband just months after meeting him. She has a successful career. But her stepdaughters Poppy and Ruby are determined to see the back of Nell and have their father reuniting with their mother, who has become depressed and reclusive.

Are the two girls behind everything that starts to go wrong for Nell?  Her husband starts spending more time away from home and gets suspicious when he sees a rogue text on her phone from an admirer. 

Plenty of twists and shocks along the way. 

Intermittent Fasting for Women Over 50 by Dr. Steve Kringold

I'm a big fan of intermittent fasting, which doesn't involve long periods without food, as many think. 

Dr Kringold's book shows how IF, time-restricted eating ,can help us lose weight, feel more energized, and improve our general health.

Thankfully there are no gimmicks, fads, or ‘miracle’ pills involved. Intermittent fasting is an uncomplicated way to shrink the waist, improve our health markers, and add years to our life without  discomfort.

A good one for menopausal women as Dr Kringold talks about how IF has been scientifically proven to help get women through menopause and out the other side smiling. And a good one for January if you have a resolution to gain energy and lose fat. 

I hope you enjoyed this month's round-up.  In January I'll be sharing the books I can't wait to read in 2023.  See you on the third Friday of the month!

Sharing this post with:  #Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Rena at Fine Whatever,, #Neverendingstyle at The Grey Brunette, Talent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling Boomer,  Traffic Jam Weekend at Marsha in the Middle Fabulous Fridays at Lucy Bertoldi, #WOYBS with Deb's World


Stay in the loop: find extra goodies on the Is This Mutton? Facebook page. Check out the Is This Mutton? Pinterest boards, including boards on other bloggers in fab outfits plus beauty, jewellery, hairstyles and fashion picks. Is This Mutton? is also on Twitter and Instagram

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Going Goblin Mode

 & #WowOnWednesday

Dear friends.  Have you ever been in Goblin Mode? This phrase is apparently one of the most used this year, according to Oxford University Press. Elon Musk has admitted to times when he "went Goblin Mode."

If you're in Goblin Mode, you have "rejected societal expectations" and are living in an "unkempt, hedonistic manner without concern for one’s self-image."


Saturday 10 December 2022

10 on the 10th: Gifting


Dear friends. In the midst of the Holiday season, I'm pleased to be joining Marsha for another 10 on the 10th -  this month about Gifting. The ladies have posed 10 questions about the giving and receiving of presents.  In the UK, we don't have Thanksgiving. The biggest festival for present giving is Christmas. 

1. About how many gifts do you purchase in the holiday season?  

I've counted them up and it's around 30.  My side of the family is small, and I always give money to my  brother's family as they like to go out shopping in the Boxing Day sales. John's side of the family is bigger, but we only give to his children and the grandchildren. 

2. Who is the hardest person for whom you buy presents?

My husband.  He rarely comes up with a list, and I tear my hair out when he buys himself things that could have been put on a Christmas list!  His children always ask for his list, and when there isn't one I have to wrack my brains to think of items he would appreciate. He is not easy to buy for: he has all the latest tech, doesn't like clothes and turns his nose up at things like hankies, socks, alcohol or chocolates.

3. How do you respond to a gift you really don’t like?

I always thank whoever has given me presents and try not to show I don't like something, because it's unkind when someone has gone to the trouble of buying and wrapping a gift. 

Part of the fun with Christmas crackers, which we always have on the two special Christmas days,  are the "gifts," and you can see our reaction below, in 2020.

4. What kinds of gifts do you consider to be the best to give or receive?

Gifts which are thoughtful.  I buy presents all year round if I see something appropriate. I love presents which show that people understand what I like, and what my interests are. 

5. What kinds of gifts do you consider the worst to give or receive?

"Desperation" or generic presents like socks, hankies, bottles of wine, chocolates. Back in the day, gift soaps and bath salts were on the list too. I'm also not very keen on candles  (bad for the environment). 

6. What gift would you never give ever?

I would hope never to give the desperation presents!  Below:  my Christmas table, 2021.

7. What is your process for selecting a gift?

Most of the people I buy for have a list, which is very useful. My mum doesn't write a list but I know what she likes.  I make a note on my phone about what I'm buying everyone, and give it a tick when it arrives. I do it all online.

I also buy a tree present for everyone who's coming on Boxing Day  (the day after Christmas Day, also a public holiday in the UK).  This is a small but thoughtful present. We open these after lunch. Below: me in 2006, with Molly. 

8. What is the best gift you’ve ever been given?

It has to be the Lilliput child's typewriter I received when I was 11.  I loved writing stories and comics, and was thrilled to use my neighbours' grown-up Olivetti typewriter occasionally.  At the time there were two types of childrens' typewriters, the Petite and the Lilliput.  I didn't think I would get either because my parents weren't very well off.  I was so excited to receive the Lilliput.  Unfortunately, some of the keys soon dropped off and it wasn't up to the rigours of my typing.  My dad knew how important it was to me, so completely unexpectedly he took me to Smith's and bought a grown-up Smith Corona typewriter, just for me.

9. What is the best gift you’ve ever given?

I thought it was going  to be a rare soap, Memoire Cherie by Elizabeth Arden, that I found on eBay. This was a long time ago when the internet was relatively new. My mum had always loved this scent and it had long been discontinued.  Unfortunately she didn't think the soap smelt like the original. 

10. Would you ever or have you ever re-gifted something?

If I ever received a Secret Santa at work - which was often quite random, with people who didn't know you having to buy a gift - I would pop it into my re-gifting or the charity bag.  Below:  exchanging gifts in 2007.

I'd love to know more about your gifting.  What was the best present you've ever been given? And when do you open them? Do tell in the comments.

Sharing this post with:  #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Rena at Fine WhateverTalent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling BoomerChic & Stylish at Mummabstylish, #SpreadTheKindness  and #Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, #Neverendingstyle at The Grey BrunetteTraffic Jam Weekend at Marsha in the Middle Fabulous Fridays at Lucy Bertoldi


Stay in the loop: find extra goodies on the Is This Mutton? Facebook page. Check out the Is This Mutton? Pinterest boards, including boards on other bloggers in fab outfits plus beauty, jewellery, hairstyles and fashion picks. Is This Mutton? is also on Twitter and Instagram

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Are We All Having a Low-Key Christmas?

 & WowOnWednesday

Is This Mutton contemplates a quieter Christmas this year in view of soaring costs and the need to be more sustainable. Editor in chief Gail Hanlon in lime and white striped top and lime short tie wrap

Dear friends. The threat of what the Met Office is calling the "Troll from Trondheim"has made me finally relinquish my five tog duvet in favour of the 13.5 tog monster. Last winter, I managed to get by with the lighter duvet and a blanket. 


Friday 2 December 2022

Freud, Fashion and Fun: November in Review


Dear friends. Welcome to November in Review, a summary of what happened Chez Mutton during the last month. 

It was a very wet month and the hose pipe ban came to an end in our area - yay! Here's what I've been up to.

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