Thursday, 26 December 2013

Red is not just for Santa

I may have already mentioned that, after 20 years married, this was to be our first ever real Christmas together on our own, as it were, not descending on some one else and not having the hoards descend upon us. We have up to now, most years, descended upon Pud Lady in Hastings for the 'traditional' (to our family) Family Christmas. I was always working right up to Christmas Eve (as was Liz, to 5 pm when those lovely trusting bosses would phone her work from the cosy firesides just to check no-one had bunked off a bit early! Happy Christmas, guys!) and I was often back in again for Boxing Day (St Stephen's Day) morning. The hour's drive to Hastings was about as far as you could go.

No 'Food Miles' on these. Just about 50 yards!
Just a couple of times (and once for me) Liz got enough time to get to Ireland and saw the wrapping paper storm as the Silverwoods children were at those magic ages. Then once we were over here, while we were house building we 'did' the Silverwoods again, and last Christmas they all came to us. Well that was all very lovely and appropriately 'Merry' but we were determined this time, now we have our own house and it is all settled down, to stay here, just the two of us.

Presents and papers from 'home'. We love that!
 We were amused to note that this

would mean we could do Christmas how WE wanted, at our speed, eating and drinking what we wanted and maybe starting our own 'traditions', cherry picking from the nice bits from previous years and walking on by the bits that weren't so much fun. Soft boiled goose eggs and toast soldiers for breakfast, anyone? Feed and release the livestock before taking tea and 'between us' presents up to bed? Your own goose? Ice cream with the 'pud' instead of the regulation custard or brandy butter? Time will tell whether all these bits are 'keepers'.

We also had some fun trying to list the bits of the feast which were home grown and less than a tenth of a food mile - just a few yards from the allotment or the orchard; the goose of course, potatoes, sprouts, any eggs of course, herbs like sage and thyme, onions, beetroot, broad beans. We are hoping to do even better next year possibly including red cabbage, apples and our own sausage meat. Liz may also MAKE the marzipan. She doesn't like shop marzipan but her objection is to the almond ESSENCE flavour - she can eat ground almonds and anything with the almonds flaked into it, so we think that marzipan made with real almonds, sugar and egg might work for her.

So, basically, we had a lovely day, just quiet and 'local'. We strolled round to neighbour Una in the morning to check she was OK. She is struggling to get over a finger badly infected by a rose thorn puncture wound, so we have been fetching logs, turf and coal in from the shed for her and she sat us both down for a cup of 'tay' and a chocolate biscuit. From there I walked the dogs down to the bridge, as usual, and called by John Deere Bob to check on him. I was immediately given the biggest tumbler of whiskey you ever did see. Both he and Una were being collected later by their respective families or loved ones and taken off for the meal, so they had declined our offer of goose.

Back home then for a relaxing afternoon of eating and drinking our fill, chilling and then phoning various family and friends, as you do. Later still we walked down to Carolyn's, invited down for drinks with herself, Charlotte, K-Dub and little Henry who was as proud as Punch with his new sit-in, push along the floor with your feet, car and a fancy 'tent' which had been erected in the living room for him. The girls were dressed in superb white "hoodies" made to look like snow men with black eyes, carrot noses and soft knitted "lumps of coal" for the 'coat buttons'.

 Everyone seems to have had a great time but several of them have suffered at the hands of the huge storm which blew through on the 23rd and 24th. We had a tree blow down but it was an already dead one which needed 'weeding' out anyway and it fell (mostly) inside our woods so no damage was done, just the spindly top of it hitting the stone wall and part blocking the Rose Walk. We hear that Mazy, in Kent has had problems with a 'lean-to' sun-room leaking rain badly, guttering ripped away by the wind and at one stage an internal power cut. The Angel B and Jim have had ridge tiles ripped off by the wind and our former garden fence is broken off and leaning into their garden.

Both these homes and many more are now struggling with the problems of getting hold of surveyors, repair men and insurance assessors over the Christmas break and Jim, we know is very fed up that after paying premiums for 30 odd years with never a claim, he is now dealing with Insurance staff who are trying to argue that his flying ridge tiles are 'just wear and tear'. You have to love these chancers, don't you?

Our hearts go out to them but there is, apparently more to come. Met √Čireann have Red Alerts out all over the place for Ireland tonight and tomorrow, especially south and west coastal counties. The pink on this map is for average winds of 34-41 knots (Gale Force 8), the red is 42-48 knots (Force 9) and there are warnings of gusts up to 150 kph offshore Clare, Galway and Mayo. Batten down the hatches, people, extra rocks on the chicken houses. The only mercy for us, inland a bit is that Roscommon falls in the grey coloured bit ( Force 4 ) but no doubt we will get our turn soon. Look after yourselves. Happy New Year.

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