Last night, after Meg had finally ‘hit the hay’ and gone to bed, I started to complete some little jobs that needed doing before the next day. First I located the little crib which we bring in once a year and is made of very simple and stylised figures of a very light wood which I suspect is balsawood. Once this had been put in place, I put another piece of ornamention in place which is a stylised crib in a rather tasteful wood surround. We saw this in the crypt of Chester Cathedral when we were visiting Meg’s Uncle Ken whilst he was still alive and were immediately taken by it. We put a bit of lighting on one side and the shadow cast on the wall behind is somewhat reminiscient of a palm tree. Several years ago, I bought a copy of the Koran from a remainder shop on Bromsgrove High Street and read up on the Koranic version of the Nativity. In this, Mary goes and out and gives birth under a palm tree so perhaps our stylised crib is quite multicultural. Finally, I addressed the Christmas cards for the immediate neighbours – these I always leave to the end as there are no postal deadlines that require to be met. We knew that when breakfast was over, the Eucharistic minister was going to call around from our local church and we had our normal little service inside the house. We exchanged Christmas cards and I was fortunate to find just one, religiously themed, card to give to our fellow parishioner because I particularly wanted to give her an appropriate card as I had tried (and failed) to find some more religiously themed Christmas cards this year. She had brought a little gift along with her which went into the bag waiting until tomorrow. Fortunately, she confessed to a liking for damson gin so I was delighted to give her in return the last remaining bottle of the batch of 2-year old damson gin which I had bottled last Monday.
After that, we posted the Christmas cards for our immediate neighbours through their front door and then we sped in our car to the home of our domestic help to help put her Christmas card through her front door as we were all in a bit of a rush when she left us last Friday and her own card had been overlooked. Then we needed to make one more call which was to the Waitrose supermarket to buy some gravy granules which is a vital ingredient for me when preparing the Christmas dinner tomorrow. Almost inevitably, as happens under these circumstances, I saw one or two extra things that I thought would help to enhance the meal tomorrow when one of the staff in the store, who I know pretty well, informed me that Meg was sitting in the cafe. Although I had left her in the car she was now translocated into the Waitrose store and given a cup of coffee on the house. So after a little but unexpected sojourn here, we made for home and then I cooked a lunch largely of vegetables (onions, peppers, petit pois, some ham ends, tomatoes, mushrooms and a handful of sultanas and a touch of demerara sugar with a modicum of home-made gravy thrown in.) This was served on some pasta and actually we both enjoyed it very much.
We had just about completed our washing up after our lunch when the front doorbell rang and it was our newish Asian neighbours of whom we have not seen a great deal because this year because a voyage they had undertaken in the Caribbean had been followed up by a lengthy trip back to India. They had brought round some Christmas gifts for ‘looking after their house’ whilst they had been away but, in truth, we had done very little. Naturally, we invited our neighbour in so that we could catch up on news of comings-and-goings and spent a wonderfully intimate twenty minutes telling each other some stories about our past lives and the houses we have lived in. Our neighbours are going to invite us round for samosas and perhaps other delicacies so we shall really look forward to this in a few days time. But we noticed that our Irish friends from down the road had also left a carrier bag of Christmas goodies for us on our doorstep so now we have quite a lot of Christmas gifts to unwrap.
Christmas Eve entertainment is generally of a pretty high order but tonight we are anticipating viewing ‘Mog’s Christmas’ which is going to be shown later on this evening. Generally, I devote Christmas Eve afternoon to the preparation of vegetables for tomorrow but I suspect that this is going have to wait, as with many other routine jobs, until Meg is safely tucked up in bed. I always think that Christmas starts at about 3.00pm in the afternoon when the light is fading and I am starting to prepare the sprouts and parsnips for tomorrow’s lunch. We have a bottle of Rioja freshly bought from Waitrose yesterday and we trust that this will complement the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner to which Meg and I treat ourselves each Christmas day.