Wednesday, 3 December 2008
The ghost of Christmas.
I received my first Christmas card today. It was of a snowy scene with a lovely sparkling Christmas Tree and I gazed at it for some while whilst kicking a spitting log into place on the fire. Whilst vehemently shunning all things gross and materialistic in the season of goodwill, whether through choice or simply because life dictates I have to, and I'm not prepared to divulge which one it is, I was secretly touched by the act of friendship.
The tree in Le Chateau went up today too. Every year I dream of decorating it in supreme comfort basking in the glow of Christmas cheer, carols trilling gaily in the background, the smell of mulled wine permeating the air as family clasped firmly in the bosom of togetherness radiate simple contentment. The seven foot high brute was placed at the foot of the huge stairwell as I wrestled for yet another year with long lines of fairy lights, unaided I might add. The guests aren't arriving till the weekend so the heating was on low, make that off. I've been warmer on my backside in an ice rink. 'I don't suppose we could light the woodburning stove' ? I hopefully suggested to His Lordship. He looked at me with undisguised horror. 'Have you finally lost your marbles' ?
I spent an awful lot of time slowly cleaning the windows of the kitchen yesterday, could be something to do with being in the vicinity of the Aga and could be a lot to do with the view I was being afforded whilst working. The late afternoon sun gave a beautiful spangly effect to the countryside, the sort of light and magical effect I obtained at Christmas as I bagged the golden toffee in the tin of Quality Street purely for the pleasure of looking at life from a different perspective.
Suddenly lost in a reverie of my own making the glass felt different under my cloth. It was slightly bumpy yet fragile to the touch and I realised that it was one of the original windows that had been gazed out of for over 200 years. Standing there I wondered who had lovingly polished all those years ago in preparation for Christmas. Would there be loved ones travelling from afar over many hard miles by carriage or horseback for an emotional family reunion ? I imagined the fare that would have been planned in preparation, roast goose, whole young wild bore shot on the estate, oysters hauled up the Canal du Midi from the Mediterrean. The logs cut, stacked and dried for the numerous fires, the rich red wine of the Malpere fermenting on organised racks in the dark cold barn, feather pillows to air and be plumped into life, starched linen sheets to lie crisply onto turned beds, silver cutlery to bring to a fine sheen, cut glass goblets to glisten under the chandeliers as the warm glow played upon the 19th century richly patterned and elaborate wallpapers and wooden panelling.
I thought afterwards in the utter stillness of the late afternoon that I may have sensed the ghost of Christmas past, but who can tell ?