Snowdrops in the garden on Christmas Day.
Today was the first (almost) ordinary day after the Christmas holidays. Many of you have expressed joy at life returning to normal, may I join you? Here in the UK the holidays aren't quite over, shops are open, of course, but many offices remain closed. Before I retired, my last working day was Dec 23rd and we didn't return to work until Jan 2nd. In fact, it was even better when the official holiday fell on a weekend, like this year, we had an extra day or two added in lieu. In those days I was glad of the extra (paid) holiday, but now I usually just want it over.
I shouldn't complain, it was lovely, all of it, really. Beloved and I were left to celebrate Christmas Day in our own fashion, in the end nobody made any demands on us, and the one friend we invited, fell ill. We started very leisurely, revved down to a slow pace during the day and had come to near comatose by evening. It was all most civilised, we didn't even make ourselves sick overeating and drinking.
I hand delivered the last cards around the village on the afternoon of the 23rd. I leave it as late as that for two reasons: a) those who don't 'do' cards cannot possibly feel obliged to send us one at this late stage, and b) those who 'do', but have left us off their list for the year, must scrabble around madly to get one into our letterbox before Christmas Day itself. The latter means that we must then keep them on our list for the following year. Such fun!
Every year we go to a drinks party on the morning of Christmas Eve. Over the years the guests have become more and more ancient - I don't know why the hosts don't refresh their guest list occasionally - and much of the conversation is concerned with health matters. "How are you" invariably elicits an update on the latest health scare during the past year - many of these people we only ever meet on this day. My mother and her cronies used to have conversations like that; I swore then that I would never follow in her footsteps. Strange, how we turn into our parents eventually.
At the party, a couple in their early eighties told us they'd like to buy our house, cash buy, if and when we moved. We have, during the past year, vaguely moaned about the difficulties we have managing a house and garden larger than we strictly need. What makes this elderly couple think they can manage better than us, defeats me. Admittedly, they live further up and deeper into the hills; they really should move into the village soon. After their offer, I am, of course, totally convinced that we must struggle on, at least for the moment. Perhaps gardener will come back in the new year, at the moment his wife is making him move house. She'll probably kill him in the process. Apparently, moving house is high on the list of contributing factors to heart attacks.
The best part of Christmas was a dinner party on Boxing Day, given by my favourite host. He had a house guest, the same delightful lady writer with whom Beloved is mildly in love (not lust). Actually, I like her almost as much as he does, but I am secretly very fond of the host, a highly sophisticated man about town when he's away from Valley's End. Gushing? Who, me?
The conversation flowed as merrily and generously as the wine and the food was excellent. We talked about poetry - even reading some out loud -, the theatre, music, literature, people in the news in the arts, the media and literary circles (the three of them are given to name-dropping; not me, sadly, I don't know anyone worth showing off about), and we even had crackers, the very superior sort, of course, with fillers like tiny tea-filled caddies, a shot glass and one silver earring. The jokes were no better than they should be, here they are:
What did the plate say to the other plate?
Lunch is on me.
What has a bottom on its top?
A pair of legs.
Why do dragons make bad managers?
Because they fire everybody.
How do you clean a flute?
With a tuba toothpaste.
I think we may have fractionally overstayed our welcome. Beloved and I are nightbirds, for us the night is always young, and this was the sort of party I never want to leave. The host and his friend gallantly saw us to the bottom of his drive and the road, the night was starless and we'd probably have fallen into the cattle grid on the way out without their help. There are no policemen in Valley's End, and very few street lights. Both facts helped to get us home safely and with the minimum of fuss. Or disturbance of the peace.
Our Christmas Day friend finally came to dinner last night, which rounded off the festivities nicely. Now I've had enough, certainly until next weekend, when a little more celebrating is on the cards. That is, if Im still standing by then.