It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, it was a toned down English version, an English Christmas without the paper hats and streamers; without the family rows, and bored kids; without endless hours of television. Even without a turkey. Dear kind friends took pity on us and gave us a Christmas dinner of roast goose instead. All very civilised, with good conversation and enough goodwill to solve half the ills of our planet. Sadly, nobody takes notice of sensible, kindly, friendly and peace-loving folk like us.
Christmas is usually a difficult time for me. It’s the time when I’m most aware of being in voluntary exile. The Christmases of my childhood were slow and modest and contemplative ones, festive, with an unchanging order of events, lasting for at least three day, including Holy Night (Christmas Eve in the UK), Christmas Day and the second day of Christmas (Boxing day here). Nowadays, I do my best to forget, ignore, avoid all old-country-ways but all it takes is a sliver of Silent Night sung by a children’s choir on German TV and a secret tear rolls down my face. Ah well, there’s sentiment for you.
We had promised ourselves that we would finally broach our very small collection of decent French reds which we bought many years ago from a proper French dealer in the Loire region. "After all, we don't know what next year will bring; will we still be around to drink it?” We use this phrase rather a lot now. I chose this Gigondas from 2002 to start us off, entirely suitable to go with roast beef on Boxing Day. Beloved took the bottle between his knees and operated on the cork, which promptly crumbled and broke off halfway through uncorking. I had a go and broke the remaining bits of cork. I’d managed to poke a hole through though and laboriously and very slowly emptied the bottle into a plastic jug by means of a paper towel lined funnel. From there it went equally slowly into a glass jug.
And what do you know, it was still drinkable. Not that either of us knows what a 14 yr old Gigondas, chateau-bottled, tastes like before it’s messed around by a pair of rank amateurs. Cheers.
TV was an acceptable part of the festivities too; we watched the final, very final and very stickily sweet two-hour-long episode of Downton Abbey. All’s well that ends well with not a dry eye in the house. Even the below-stairs lot gets paired off. Most of Doctor Who passed me by, the tremendous noise irritated me; Then there’s the Dickensian, a rather messy soup of most of Dickens’ novels which goes on for twenty half-hour-long episodes (will I stay the course?) and Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’, a stylish adaptation to my mind. I like a bit of mindless murder and mayhem, particularly when it’s done in muted colours, bristling moustaches and kind elderly gentlemen being sweet to damsels in distress.