Merry Christmas! Or as it was first recorded in Saxon 1038, Cristes Maesse!
I’m home at Foxtwist, allowed day release from the physiotherapy gulag, where I’ve spent the last four months camped out amongst the floor mats, mini weights and therabands. I’m enduring multiple, repeated manual shoulder manipulations, interspersed by tortuous exercise sets. You’ll be pleased to know I’m doing our Antipodean reputation for bloody-getting-on with-it proud. I confess to delaying tactics, sometimes hiding in the carpark and occasionally crying between gritted teeth but my physio says I’m a bonza Shelia (really), the only client he has ever had who has never (as yet) screamed a phrase which roughly translates as Son of Mary-sexually active-Son of God.
I’m only on temporary holiday release and will return January for a further couple of months. In between codamine, wrench / retch and gym sessions (or as my auto correct suggested for one or two mis-taps, “gin sexiness”) I missed my self-imposed November deadline for Foxtwist Notebook. Thank you to those who asked – touched – but confess to feeling like one of those rabbits at a greyhound meet being chased down by canines called Surgery (a possibility until next Easter – “Easter! JFC!”), Christmas Cards and Postal Date Deadline.
As I’m this close to missing December’s deadline, I offer, first my apologies for your missing card and present – please stop checking, it’s sadly not in the post – and secondly my musings in their original time lapsed flotsam and jetsam format.
Nothing magnificent happened in November, sandwiched as it was between October’s golden glory and December’s frosty festivities. Which is strange because the month’s moniker sounds so portentous. Noooo-VEMMMMBERRRR (booming echo, movie promo voice over, Tom Cruise speeding past). It’s the quietest month for depilatory product sales (hello porn star moustaches and, yippee, denier tights), weddings, package holidays, house sales, and sadly (at least for me) electing female presidents. October’s dappled, dainty leaves no longer dangle, transformed instead into rust coloured cut outs carpeting our sepia tinted woods. Saturday’s Foxtwist soundtrack- bang! bang! bang! – coincides with the appearance of pheasants at the butcher’s. And just to remind me of winter’s stealthy creep, the first snow of the season fell in the hills behind Foxtwist.
Last year the UK Meteorology Service forecast a dire 43 snow days and caused a run on portable heaters and fleecy onesies. The Service was unfortunately, to-the-moon-and-back so wrong it’s difficult not to let a sliver of scepticism freeze my confidence in this year’s pronouncement. Except that on one night during our first Foxtwist winter 2014, the Met website predicted snow would fall in our locale at 10pm (yes, my antipodean readers, the UK Bureau of Meteorology, unlike those timid boffins at the Australian Bureau, provides actual and feels-like temperatures, wind, humidity, precipitation probability, etc etc for each hour of the day. None of this it-will-be-30-all-day-wear-screen-stuff. No, no. Hourly forecasting = a small clue to understanding the English predilection for, and endless possibilities within, weather related, ice-breaking, social small talk. Anyway, on this particular night, John and I braved our dark, bone chillingly cold garden at 21:59 and peered up. One minute later hundreds of damp, delicious, dainty flakes floated down to earth. I have been a loyal and staunch defender of The Service ever since.
The last week in November is a meteorologist’s frenzied fantasy. Just-in analogues, sea surface temperature anomalies, solar activity and Siberian snow cover (I didn’t make this up), are frantically combined with seasonal and global blah, blah, blah to create the long range forecast for Winter 2016/17. It’s always released on December 1 followed by on December 2, dire predictions from the nation’s rags.
In a December, Worcestershire’s abundant fruit orchards, bare of fruit and leaves are adorned instead with mistletoe. The berries glisten a soft translucent white, their smooth apple green leaves hanging like pompoms from line-drawn trees. In the weeks leading up to December, thousands of clumps are cut, bundled and delivered about seven miles from Foxtwist to the UK’s largest mistletoe auction at Buford House, Tenbury Wells. Over three days, hotels, pubs, restaurants and function houses bid for bundles of mistletoe as well as holly, fir trees and pre-made wreaths and table decorations spread outside across the estates gardens.
This year, the auction’s first day was bright, blue and below zero. Burford’s water feature was solid, the surrounding grass disguised as toasted coconut. Ice decked the holly. Breath from bidders hung in the air like cartoon balloons. Nick Champion, the auctioneer moved down the rows of product, going, going, gone to wholesale and retails buyers. Sold mistletoe and holly bundles are loaded up into vans and sold at Convent Garden, Christmas Markets and garden centres or transformed by florists into exquisite arrangements seen in conceivably Buckingham Palace, the Ritz and Vogue, while the sold-in-lots-of-30 Christmas decorations (£4/piece) it’s fair to say are more likely gracing the beer ringed tables of shire pubs.
Today, Christmas Eve 5pm, I have the job of Second Reading at St James The Great Church at Pensax, the village up the hill from us. There is no road in It’s reached by a muddy path which tonight will be lit by lanterns. Standard church attire is wellies (to make it in) and head to fingers and toes woolies (to survive a temperature potentially colder outside than in). Mulled wine and minced pies follow. At seven we’ll be in the The Bell, a pint of Hill Climb in hand, and where around eight, a travelling band of local carol singers will Hark the Herald Angels and bring Joy to the World.
Christmas day, tomorrow, is predicted (unfortunately) to be “mild” (ie dark, dank and muddy). I’m yet to decide whether to run in the Worcester Parkrun in the morning. I’m on the come-back trail, running today at my regular Parkrun, Wyre Forest, unofficially the most encouraging Parkrun on the planet, every runner cheered up and over Cardiac Hill towards the finish line. Today a couple a reindeers brought everyone home .
Worcester’s track, normally muddy, will be a bog start and after 1100 trainers tramp over it, a quagmire finish. For lunch it’s over the fields to the generous G family for traditional English fare, seated amongst their stupendous collection of vintage European decorations collected over decades.
To everyone who makes it this far in my blog each month, I thank you. Merry Christmas, my love to you whirring between the hemispheres, up and down the longitude and latitude lines of the earth. x