Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Now that the festive season is behind us and some small level of sanity/ sense of humour has been restored I will try my best to bring to you the latest news of the FTC occupants. I say try because my mind is still a little addled from the last week so and the nervous twitch caused by an endless stream of cooking, baking and festivification hasn’t quite subsided. Incidentally, if anyone would like a pot of FTC Fig Preserve, please let me know, we still have plenty to go around!!!

Christmas Eve – Fanny would be proud.If it were possible for the ghost of a departed TV chef to applaud, then I’m sure the late Mrs Craddock’s hands were raw on Christmas Eve. I started cooking at around 10 in the morning and by the time I had finished all the preparations for Christmas Day, and cooked dinner, I was only left with about enough time for a quick shower and to wave my hairbrush menacingly in the vague direction of my hair. I blame TV chefs myself, and Nigella BL**DY Lawson in particular, for making me believe that I can look utterly divine while peeling a hundredweight of roasted chestnuts, or fishing giblets out of a stock for the next days gravy. I can’t, I look like a scarlet, frazzled banshee who is one sprout away from finding an alternative use for her chefs knife: But I have to admit, there was a bit of me that loved every second of it, most importantly because I was looking forward to having both families round the table and enjoying the fruits of my labour, and also because I knew I was about to spend the evening unwinding in a slightly foolish, but nonetheless enjoyable way.

Keith and I, in our own separate ways, have long had a tradition of enjoying a few ales of a Christmas Eve, and we saw no reason to change that tradition this year. Helen and Paul came over for our usual champagne cocktails and Larry and Kelly joined us to provide Keith with a “safety in numbers” approach to tackling a bottle of Whiskey. It was all going pretty well, until we relocated to the local tavern, at which point I managed to cut myself on a broken wine glass, Keith started on the Guinness and the barman put on “King College Choir Does Christmas” CD. I’m not sure exactly which early hour of the morning I gave up and stumbled home, but I did so with the sure and certain knowledge that the fate of the Christmas meal was now firmly in the hands of the gods.

Christmas Day – “Duckgate”
I have to say, early Christmas morning has become my favourite time of the year. There is something about those hours when you wake up with the day in front of you that would turn the more hardened of stooges into a bed bouncing loon. Unless of course you are Keith and have consumed your own bodyweight in alcohol in which case you wander through the house muttering darkly and clutching your stomach periodically.

With some encouragement we ventured downstairs to where the hound was gently chewing a stray tree branch in a fairly languid approximation of excitement. Cups of tea made and pressies recovered from the safety of the spare ‘oom and Christmas morning was underway. I can’t speak for Keith, but the highlight for me was seeing Harry pick up his pressies, stash them in the corner of the room and then lie down with them and studiously rip the paper from the them one strip at a time. It was a great lesson in appreciating the simple things in life and also of the folly of spending money on the dog when a wrapped box will do just as nicely.

I will move swiftly through the day now, as I’m pretty sure you can all appreciate the events of the next few hours as family arrived, food went into the oven and general mayhem ensued. I will add that Keith did make a valiant attempt to overcome his highly delicate state, but to be honest it was all he could do to sit upright in a chair with arms. For those of you wondering (not many of you I’m sure) the food came out pretty well, the mothers were kept largely out of the kitchen and the day was on track … until Keith regained his stomach and started playing catch-up with the food and I discovered that it is not safe to leave a bloke and a dog alone with the leftovers of the Christmas meal.

Having taken the dog for a walk by the river and stuffed ourselves with every conceivable food and drink, we all settled round the table to play ‘spoons’. For those of you not familiar with the card game it’s pretty simple. Try and collect 4 of a kind and when you go grab a spoon from the middle of the table. When someone else has grabbed a spoon, do likewise. The person left at the end with no spoon loses a life. I’m sure you can imagine that a game like this gets pretty excitable, and (in a famous five voice) a rollicking good time was being had by all when … it happened.

When I say “it” what I mean is a slowly creeping green fog of what was ably described by Jan as an unholy smell. So unholy in fact that the CD practically scratched to a halt and the delicious banquet was in danger of making a second appearance. The source of the smell? Harry the Bagle. It appears as if Keith, in his newly recovered and festive frame of mind had decided to share his belated lunch with the dog and had fed him some duck meat.

Those of you with dog experience will now be chuckling sagely and shaking your head at such foolishness I’m sure, but we were all a little less amused. Not that the poor lummox was amused himself, I’m pretty sure if he could have detached his back half he would have sent it outside himself. As it was, we were left gagging at roughly 2 minute intervals for the rest of the evening until eventually the families admitted defeat and beat a hasty path to the door.

In retrospect it is probably a good thing that they did – I crashed pretty soon after everyone left and there’s nothing more embarrassing than drooling and snoring in the corner of the room while your families are around to see it. Not that I drool or snore – or at least not as much as the men of the house anyway.

Boxing Day – The Blair Witch Walkies
I really think Boxing Day should be renamed to something a little more appropriate to the modern Christmas. I suppose there are committees for these things who have considered the alternatives and I can only imagine that they thought “sitting around regretting eating a farmyard while watching old films day” didn’t roll off the tongue quite as well. In FTC, the day shall forever be known as “Blair Witch Walkies Day”.

It started innocently enough. We were bored, Harry needed to be walked and Keith suggested we go to a local woods which we had planned to visit since moving to the area. Plus, he argued, it would give us a chance to test out Harry’s new car harness. There were only a few drawbacks to this otherwise flawless plan, which I’m sure you’ll be able to spot.

We arrived at the woods at about 3.30 and untangled a very excitable hound from the backseat where he had managed to weave himself into a doggy harness web. We set out, taking big cleansing breaths of woody air and smiled dotingly as the dog bounded around. There were squirrels for the dog to chase, downhill courses for us to marvel over and pretty soon we were deep in the forest without the faintest idea of how to get back to the car park. And it was getting dark. Fast. And we had no torch. Hmmm.

Keeping the dog close beside us we started to retrace our steps. It was great, we managed to find a lot of new areas that way that we would never have found had we just been walking. Unfortunately none of them were the way home. Eventually, quelling a rising tide of mild concern, we decided to head for some lights twinkling through the trees. That MUST be the carpark we thought. No, that would the army base complete with fully functioning sirens.

We did eventually get home in one piece, albeit covered in mud and bl**dy shattered.

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