After Winterval comes a mixed bag interval whilst we count down to our trip to Maurice’s Island. The following week saw me witness young Ted, crowned and cloaked as he carried out his kingly duties in the school nativity play. I met Vikky for lunch whilst in Surrey and busied myself at the old homestead, a helpful Granny.
Returning to WK I spent the following day at my screen, honing a Powerpoint presentation for the Conch. Soc. at the Natural History Museum. I have already spent many hours at the screen retrieving suitable photos from numerous folders to compile a talk about my shore activities along the Normandy coast. The amount of preparation time has been utterly disproportionate to the 45 minutes the talk will take.
Saturday arrives, I give my talk and the relief is immense. Shortly after the meeting we meet Dan outside the Museum and take delivery of Lola and Ruby who will spend Sunday with us whilst their parents party. We drive back to Dorset and pop the children into their beds. On Sunday I bring out all the pens, pencils, paper and show them the magic delights of carbon paper. After lunch we go to the time capsule cinema in Dorchester to see Arthur Christmas. Before bed we have tales of Mog, Little Rabbit Lost and Angelina on the wobbly bed.
On the 13th Nick and I take a birthday walk, a very blustery one, and in the evening we join Maddy and Andrew for a curry at the excellent Rajpoot in Dorchester. On Thursday we drive to Surrey so I can join my Book Groupies to discuss Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending and A D Miller’s Snowdrops. Meanwhile, whilst Charles and I discuss the merits of the books we have read with the others, Nick takes Susie to dinner at The Withies. This restaurant has expanded around the core dining area, which has remained pretty much unchanged since we first moved to Godalming nearly 40 years ago.
The clock is now ticking. We join Rollo and her family for a festive Sunday lunch party in East Chaldon. Monday dawns, we are on the threshold of a flight from rain into sunshine. Claire and JACS arrive for some Dorset days. Hugs all round and the stage is set…
Christmas came early for the Light Clan and extended family. We needed to find a day when we could all congregate for a seasonal celebration. The first Saturday in December found us converging at TOW for a late afternoon feast. I cooked Venison Casserole, Moroccan Chicken and a Lamb Curry. Thanks to a good crop of French strawberries I conjured up Eton mess and my sisters provided a Christmas pudding and Mince pies. Once again we pulled Christmas Crackers in the big hall, and we lined the children up the staircase in age order and captured the moment.
This year we were missing Sam and Joel who were otherwise engaged at their Harry Potter-themed Cub and Scout camp. Out under canvas! I was suitably impressed. I thought H&S had gone so mad children would not be allowed to camp outdoors in December. And Dan had a workshop to run in Luxembourg. But it was a full house all the same. The children all had a present to unwrap and the Lights exchanged their gifts before the children went to bed. It was a busy and tiring day for everyone but no less convivial for that. We’ll be doing our respective things come December 25th………….. and there is a rumour that TOW will be reinvaded on the 30th!
Mid-November finds us in St Vaast. We had set aside the best part of two weeks to catch up with building work (some hope :() and our French friends. Nick spends much of the time in the garden, and makes a few fishing trips as the squid are about. He also catches whiting and Francois gives us two dozen fresh herrings (given to him by a patient). We eat them fresh for a couple of days, enjoying the roes as a separate delicacy, and then hot-smoke others. We often get rather good food items passed to us by our French GP – I rather think that customs of yore still prevail in rural France. In the matter of my ‘flu jab I find it refreshingly amusing that I can buy the vaccine over the counter in the pharmacy, and instead of making an appointment to have it administered in my doctor’s ‘Cabinet’, I am required to fetch some alcohol (in the absence of Calvados, Bombay Sapphire will do), to roll up my sleeve, to be swabbed with gin, to receive the injection in the privacy of my own kitchen. Then Francois goes fishing with Nick.
I pass the time indoors, sitting at the computer screen, trawling my numerous folders of pictures in order to start compiling a Powerpoint presentation for the December meeting of the Conchological Society. Entitled ‘Blogging a Way along the Normandy Coast’ the idea is to draw on some of my blog posts and talk about the various beaches and shores which have provided pleasure and provender since we bought our house here.
I do find time to cook in the kitchen which has also been our living room and study this past year. I make some seaweed rolls and winkle butter. The former were inspired by some bread rolls we were served at Hotel Fuchsias along the road, and the butter is a recipe I found in a book by Jacqui Wood called ‘Prehistoric Cooking’. That recipe will soon be found on the revamped Conchological Society’s website, which goes live on January 1st.
Then we do a curry evening chez Poulet. I cook it all and we cart it over the road. The lamb curry is extremely well received (thanks to a great recipe from Waitrose) and they love the red lentil dall. It will be good when we can entertain in our home again.
We are still cropping a few raspberries and figs. One day Nick lugs a large pot of lemons up to the house. There must be about 50 from the small tree in the walled garden and we have left some for our neighbours. We have now found a way to get the best out of our lemons. When first picked the skins are thick, the layer of pith dominates and the flesh is dry. Kept indoors for 2-3 weeks the skin becomes more pliable, the pith dries out a bit and thins, the flesh becomes juicy and we have very usable lemons.
The night before we return to Dorset we eat supper at Le Debarcadere with Jean-Pierre and Tanou, then we cross the Channel with a car loaded to the gunnels, much of the space being taken by the small scaffolding structure we will assemble in order to hang Victoria Doran’s pictures in the hall at TOW.