So, now that Christmas has properly done its bit and gone, back up into the attic with the decorations, its time to make a start on my have a go at blog thing.
I am always glad when Christmas has passed. I have a small family, but many friends – real human ones, who live close by. Not having the perfect ingredients for a mass-media ideal Christmas, involving a cast of at least 26 adoring, bickering family members, it can leave me feeing a little sad, and then guilty for feeling sad. We are not alone, or scared, or hungry. And we have our own special rituals and traditions which we know, and love and value and understand. Last Christmas, even these were disrupted by the unexpected arrival of snow AND of a particularly virulent cold which crept out of a tissue at one end of our village and rampaged through to the other end in record time. Before I close the lid on all things Christmas, I am going to share an excerpt from a letter written at this time – just to get me going on this blog-thing!
‘As for our festive fun, well as you can tell this was somewhat curtailed by events this year. There was a minor incident Christmas eve morning when the Lovely Man managed to pull down the curtains in the front room. We did manage to pull together a couple of sniffling gatherings whereby those of us able to prise ourselves from our beds indulged in some mutual consumption of medicinal alcohol.
By Christmas Eve, there was not a sofa between us that was not occupied by a great shape-shifting mound of testosterone moaning and snorting like some creature from the primeval bog. Driven from our homes by the eyewatering quality of air that can only result from the presence of someone large constantly anointing themselves with Vick, six of us ladies bolstered up our bosoms and set off for a Walk.
Our coastline sings and sparkles, constantly. Silver cliffs plummet towards pale, sandy beaches. In winter, blackthorn spikes cut dark shapes into the white sky, and the warm almond scent of gorse blends with earth and salty mist. Christmas Eve requires a traditional route-march around these cliffs, however we found the cliff path, precipitous even on the most mellow spring day, to be hidden under sheet ice.
Recognising that many would think it unsporting of us to kill ourselves just hours before the annual Feast of Peeling 956 sprouts, we were forced to forgo our lengthy trek in favour of supporting local business instead by sitting outside the delightful Surfside beach cafe wrapped in blankies with hot choccie, like the venerable ladies we truly are. We had no sooner settled into our outside seats and wrapped ourselves in the obligatory blankets, when our act of altruism was instantly rewarded by the spectacle of a muscle-man in orange speedos, clearly one of the local lunatics, wading into the sea and training for a cross-channel swim. Later,filled with the spirit of festive generosity, we were able to help the coffee shop ensure that none of their complementary mulled wine was wasted. It all made for a a very pleasant afternoon.
At 10pm we gathered all those who were not Catholics (and thereby already praying somewhere else), marooned by snot, or already unconscious, in our living room where vast quantities of delightful liquers made from the local hedgerows and pantries were sampled – sloe gin, cassis, ginger vodka etc. Thereafter, and once sufficiently warmed, we repaired to church, where we then all rejoiced very enthusiastically.
The usual Christmas morning hosts were unable to meet their obligations this year, having been laid-low with manflu then traumatised by having to return from their home in Ireland. Given the weather conditions this involved a monster trek via the wastes of North Wales courtesy of about twenty taxis and six Little Trains, their flight to Cardiff having been cancelled.
So our own house stood in for the festive drinks morning, meaning that by 6 a.m. preparations had to begin.Now, this time should never be referred to as Morning because clearly it is pitch black and the moon is on high etc and only weird creatures like dog walkers and those things in the zoo with big scary eyes are out and about. Forced like this to to engage with the kitchen in the middle of the night I began to experiment with matronly concepts like ‘Slaving Over a Hot Stove’ and to crave the days when we were ‘grateful for a tangerine and a handful of walnuts’.
There is nothing more to report really, as the whole turkey thing went off as expected. As proceedings at the table drew to an end, the horrid moment approached when it would be necessary to remove the gigantic heap of vegetable peelings from their holding position outside the back door, to the compost bin at the bottom of the garden. Genuinely, this task makes me feel great sympathy with the central character in that traditional English custom where some guy prances about covered from head to foot in bits of tree and greenery. Peering from beneath discarded cabbage leaves and potato peelings I eyed the slush-covered slope before me with mounting trepidation. What occurred next was straight out of the Ladies Downhill in Lake Louise. With cabbage. It began gently but quickly became astonishingly fast, ending with a screaming descent into the trees below the compost.I think the word for the experience is very ‘gnarly’. At least that is what some bored teenager with a phone told me.
If nothng else this spectacle at least encouraged the neighbours to stay away, no doubt exacerbated by the sounds of honking, snot-evacuating and hacking coughs from the other side of the hedge.By 4 pm the invalid man had retired to bed and did not emerge till 2pm the next day, reeking festively of Vick. The rest of us sat around, played Balderdash, and calmly collapsed giant Jenga on each others heads. it was a very philosophical evening…..