Saturday, 31 December 2016

How we spent Christmas

It has been a really nice Christmas. People say that Christmas is for children and having an appreciative child really does make the wonder come back.
We were just five for Christmas – me, Margaret, Lucy, Tom and Julia. Sam, Lucy and Arthur are in Jersey with Lucy's parents, while Max and Inna are in New Zealand, spending Christmas day at Hot Water Beach. We were able to speak to both of them - Max on Christmas Eve and Sam on Christmas day. Skype is a wonderful thing!
Julia is too young to be into the whole Father Christmas commercialised thing, but she did love the tree, the decorations, the company, the food and the presents.
Julia checking out the Christmas lights.
All the stimulation seems to have spurred her speech along and she is now learning new words every day. She can say “Olly” and when you know the dog's name, you're well on the way. A few days later she asked me for a “raspberry” quite clearly.
Tom and Lucy came up on the day before Christmas Eve. I was busy in the kitchen, putting up a new towel rail and installing childproof locks on the cupboard doors. It was all a bit of a fiddle, made harder by the fact I was not able to have a swear (Julia would learn “bloody hell” as quick as a flash).
The towel rail was done with minimal drama and just needed the glass end superglued back on when I dropped it on the floor. The childproof locks were to go on the cleaning cupboard, bin cupboard, glasses cupboard and drinks cupboard. I got magnetic locks which you open by holding a magnet on the outside of the door opposite the lock and this causes a catch to be disengaged.
The lock and catch have to be in exactly the right position otherwise it doesn't work and the design of our cupboards means that you can't position the locks in the obvious place (at the top). The doors are also quite thick oak, so the magnet has to be in just the right position in order to release the catch.
This might sound like a long list of excuses, but it is, in fact, just a few reasons why the locks didn't operate completely smoothly, despite some repositioning work and a few strategic dots placed on the outside of the door in permanent marker to show where the magnet should be placed. I think Julia might get the hang of opening them before we do!
My final job of the day was putting up the Christmas lights on the front of the house. I'd bought a set of pink lights from Tapps garden centre in Baldock and once up (with Tom's help) they looked quite good, except that a metre length of lights (the first metre of 11.5m) were not lit. We had to take them down and reposition them so the unlit section was out of the way. Miraculously, a couple of days later, every other light in the dud section came to life.
Julia thinks the lights are amazing and has to be taken out every morning to see them. Margaret pretended to brush her head on the loops, so Julia has to do that as well. If you ask her which is the red, blue and green light, so can point them all out for you. She doesn't seem too keen on the yellow ones for some reason.
On Christmas Eve, Tom and I took Julia to Moor Farm to pick up the goose, a cockerel for Boxing Day and a ham. We were good and early, so the shop was very quiet. I had a mince pie and a cup of mulled wine, while Julia got to pet the farm dogs and to go round to the barn to see the cows. We have enough food and drink for an army, including Chimay Blue, sparkling wine from Gifford's Hall (Suffolk) and English white wine from Three Choirs in Gloucestershire.
Something catches Julia's attention on Christmas morning. Holly's
attention is on the biscuit in Julia's hand.
Julia likes to get up in the morning and come downstairs with me to make a cup of tea, which allows Tom and Lucy and extra hour's lie-in. As soon as we're downstairs, she goes straight to the cupboard where the biscuit barrel is kept and wants a Rich Tea biscuit, which she sits and nibbles while I drink my tea. She's learned the joy of dunking and likes to hand me her biscuit to have the end dipped in my tea. Lucy does not entirely approve of Rich Tea biscuits, but she does approve of a lie-in.
We had goose on Christmas day. I'd had goose once before and it's quite nice, but I probably prefer turkey, especially the one we had last year from Moor Farm, but Lucy had mounted a successful campaign for goose. It was actually very nice and dinner, cooked by Tom, was a success. We had a visit from Pauline, Chris and Jasper in the morning to exchange gifts and then we walked the dogs around Toneham.
Julia in her Christmas pullover.
For the first time in a number of years I missed out on a Christmas drink at the Rose & Crown but my sister, Alex and Clare came round for more present swapping and drinks before dinner. Julia was very happy; she loved opening her presents and was happy with everything that she was given. I think she would have quite liked Holly's pheasant toy but she was happy to see the dog playing with it. Holly also got a new duckie from my sister, so it was a pretty good Christmas for the dog as well.
On Boxing Day, we had a cockerel for dinner and Margaret took charge of the cooking, while we went to see the Fitzwilliam hunt meeting at Stilton. Julia really enjoyed it and was able to stroke a horse, got a 'horse kiss', saw a golden eagle and met a variety of dogs, including a massive St Bernard. Dinner was nice and there was a round of Telefunken (a card game popular with Lucy's family) in the evening. It was only my second go at Telefunken and I got off to a very bad start being caught with some high-value cards in my hand. It was between Tom and Lucy to win and I was playing for pride. Lucy is very competitive and she was very put out when I unloaded some cards that Tom needed to win the game. We had a second round a few days later and all the cards seemed to fall perfectly for me; I even got a batatarse (I think that's the right spelling) which is quite a feat. Lucy was very gracious this time round and said I had won fair and square.
We have discovered that Margaret has a knack for getting Julia to go to sleep. She's very good at spotting the right moment to take her to bed and at calming her down when she doesn't think she needs a sleep. Consequently, Margaret has been in charge of the afternoon/late-morning nap and one afternoon, she had left the baby monitor on. We heard Margaret snoring quite loudly, then Julia woke up, woke Margaret, who stopped snoring and then I think they both had another 40 winks.

Hamerton Zoo - the Bactrian camels are enormous beasts.
Lucy has been working quite hard during the holidays, trying to get ahead (or keep up) with her reading. She's also doing interviews for a study in breastfeeding and part of her first-year PhD. It's not been all work, but we have tried to give her a few days when she can spend a few hours with a number of books. On the day after Boxing Day (also a bank holiday), Tom and I took Julia to Hamerton Zoo (her second visit). It's quite a good place to spend a few hours and Julia can do plenty of walking to tire herself out. Tom can't really get his head around it, but this is exactly what we did when he, Sam and Max were little. For me it's déjà vu.