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 ?

16 comments:

deborah said...

i was wondering how life has been in Le Chateau and i see cold. hmmm,i spent my childhood getting up in an unheated bedroom and galloping to the only heated room on that level - the bathroom. typical drafty new england farm house....
the garden is done and i am in the studio this week, blissfully ignoring the house.
i heard the carols being sung as i read your post and expected mistletoe to spring from somewhere, the smell of mulled wine to be wafting on the air....
best regards,
the jaundice eye

Un Peu Loufoque said...

I do hate central heating, so bad for the health, how does one know what the seasons are if one is constanlty cacooned at an ambient temperature of 25 degrees in the house?

I bet your house will be warm and sparkling as ever by teh time teh weekend guests arrive! Lucky8 them and lucky you too to live in such a wonderful place with such beautiful memories.

muddyboots said...

christmas, lights, food, wine. seem to be organized over there!

Pipany said...

Oh that was lovely Sally. Really encapsulated that quiet I love about this time of year yet never actually get to experience. Thank you xx

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Well you know me, I would definitely say a ghost of some sorts has arrived.

The tree sounds beautiful. Are you going to post any pictures?

CJ xx

mountainear said...

I'd love to see your tree in situ - any photos?

You blog was a lovely Christmasy picture - I too expected hear carols and catch a whiff of mulled wine and mince pies. (Do you do mince pies in the south of France?)

ChrisH said...

Coo, impressive writing! Will you do my next OU assignment for me?

Grouse said...

I believe every house always holds a little of everyone who has lived there and loved it. If this is so, Le Chateau will forever resonate with the passion and imagination you have poured into it. How lucky for its future owners!!!!

Frances said...

Sally, all the prior comments express many of my thoughts. Your post really has such an atmosphere. I so agree with Grouse, that your time in the Chateau is definitely adding to its layers of charm.

Pondside said...

What a lovely post, Sally. You paint a lovely picture of a place that I know is utterly beautiful. Oh to be the guardian of all that collected memory/energy/history. I love the thought of you polishing the bump in the ancient glass. Christmas at the Chateau will be forever lit by a golden glow in my imagination.

Withy Brook said...

For a little while you carried me right away into your word picture. I agree that we leave something of ourselves in places were we have lived and the Chateau will have a goodly slice of you.
UPL, 25 degrees? We have central heating and it just about takes the chill off! We aren't talking about horrid modern hermetically sealed houses here, dear!

blogthatmama said...

You've sold it to me Sally, even without the pictues that I'm now looking forward to seeing. I'm feeling so Christmassy with the snow piled up outside and Radio 4 on inside and I've got the heating on full blast!

LittleBrownDog said...

I loved reading about your Christmas preparations, Sally. I bet the chateau really comes into its own when the halls are decked and the warming scent of mulled wine is everywhere. Hope it warms up soon. xx

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

The pleasures, and pain, of living in an old house. I do think it's worth it, don't you? Do post a photo of your Christmas tree!

Tessa said...

I love your reverie, Sally. It has conjured up a series of mellow memories, albeit that most of my memories are sunlit. But still mellow. Beautiful photograph...winter trees in jewel colours.

Sally's Chateau said...

I have to say here and now that I did attempt to take a picture of the tree but it didn't quite reach my exacting standards, rather spindly I thought so I'll have another bash nearer the time when I've hung a few more baubles.