January Jokers

If there is one adjective I would use to describe January then it is unpredictable.  And I’m not talking weather as that has shown no surprises.  It is the diversity of activities and the occasional jokers which life brandishes which have served to make the opening weeks of 2015 interesting, and yes enjoyable.

Setting foot outside The Old Workshop late on Thursday night we proceeded to empty the car, boil the kettle for tea and then set about opening the accumulated mail.  So many cards, past their sell-by-date, but reading the greetings was a heart-warming experience nonetheless.  We know some nice people.

On Friday I visited Mum at Chestnuts then boarded a train for Hackney.  I got a cheap ticket with an upgrade to First Class and arrived at tea-time.  I spent the weekend getting involved in the family activities which culminated in a Karate birthday party for Ruby on Sunday afternoon.  That evening an exhausted Ems took an early night and Dan and I occupied a sofa each and watched The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies.  How I love these films.  I am not normally ‘into’ fantasy literature or film but Tolkien stole my heart in my 20s and forever has held onto it.  On Monday morning I escaped to Dorset;)

And then there was a week of catching up with my anchors: dentist, hairdresser, book group, bridge, a WK day for Mum, supper with the lovely Dukes.  Those fixtures which are the framework around which I hang the extras, life’s baubles.

Talking of baubles, on the morning after big storms and high seas Nick walks Chesil Beach and brings me one home.  After a heavy dose of meteo this bit of coast is a magnet for Nick.   He hopes for fish boxes, the lost tackle of other fishermen anything useful really.  What he brings back for me is hardly useful but a delight.


In amongst a tangle of seaweed, fishing line and other detritus he spies a sea fan.  Sea fans, more properly known as Gorgonians, or indeed sessile colonial cnidarians (same family as sea anemones) are closely related to corals. Individual tiny polyps form colonies that are normally erect, flattened, branching, and reminiscent of a fan. Others may be whiplike, bushy, or even encrusting.  A colony can be several feet high and across but only a few inches thick. They may be brightly coloured, often purple, red, or yellow.  My fan is about 20cm wide and is still quite pinky when Nick brings it back.  Drying sea fans bleaches the colour, sadly, as all the fleshy polyps die.  There is nothing to be done, once a sea fan has been uprooted from the sea floor in deepish water, you cannot replant it!

A soiree chez Hunter is another bauble, arriving at 7 in the evening we drink their wine libations, ad lib, nibble some savoury fancies and eventually tuck into supper at 11.  Along the way we have had quality time with the Upcotts, the Hammersleys who are always good value.  On Sunday we pub lunch with Ry and Ted, CJ having flown to OZ for a week’s work.

This the week in which we will bid farewell to the mortal remains of cousin Miles, one of 31 Edwards first cousins of which my husband is one.  All the Light siblings converge for this event, enjoying a birthday tea for Jenny at Maiden Newton a couple of days before.  This is also the week in which the charming Barry Farncombe will travel from Battersea to TOW for a day’s bridge tuition.   At the end of this day, if we thought Bridge was just a bit tricky to learn beforehand, we now know there is a way to go before we can consider ourselves licensed to play.  In the evening cousin Joy arrived to stay overnight and we hosted supper for my bridge partners and their other halves.

After the funeral I need to drive to Godalming for two days of Ted-care.  (Whilst I am Godalming I receive an email from Jenny with a magic bit of writing, her thoughts on the funeral )  Ted is a very easy child to care for and feed.  He is organised and loving…………….  On the morning of the mother’s return I leave Ry and Ted to welcome her and pile into my trusty vehicle and head for Oxfordshire.

So Long and thanks for all the Turkey ……

Late on Sunday evening the Perrymans arrived after a bumpy crossing between Portsmouth and Ouistreham.  Cue for a platter of cheeses, biscuits, pickles and a glass of red wine.  On Monday top of the list was the Christmas tree, saved for decoration by Ted.  We also made recycled wrapping paper chains and looped them around our lovely charpente on the top floor.  Then we looped our vintage strings of coloured fairy lights above the juke box and in Ted’s bedroom. On Tuesday we lunched at La Pernelle, with a table by the window we looked down onto Quettehou, St Vaast La Hougue and our patch of coastline.  One moment sunny, the next cloaked in a mist and then we watched rainclouds shed their burden before the vista cleared to reveal the familiar landmarks. xmasJaNick

We took Christmas Eve at a gentle pace, without the need for too much preparation for the ‘big meal’, we enjoyed a supper of scallops and black pudding, preceded by salt and pepper squid; my recently acquired skill with this method of cooking squid being put to good use.  Ted went to bed at the appointed hour but took ages and ages to go to sleep, fearful that if he did not sleep La Pere Noel would pass him by.  As if ……………..

Christmas morning arrived all too soon, especially for those men who had sat up till 3 a.m. in debate.  Ted would not open his presents until all were present and correct so we curled up on sofas with hot drinks and watched him work his way down a pyramid of presents until he had arrived at the base……….. a Playmobil Pyramid!

I always enjoy Christmas breakfast, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with good French bread and champagne. The Perrymans announced that their Christmas lunch might just be the best that they had ever eaten.  Certainly I am won over my Nigella’s method of marinading a turkey before roasting it, and if there is oodles of bread sauce and not forgetting Goethe’s brussel sprouts, well you cannot go wrong.  A leisurely and tranquil afternoon drifted into evening and once young Ted was in bed the adults were very content to choose their sofa slot and relax with a device or a good book.

On Boxing day we skipped cold cuts in favour of a pizza at Le Debarcadere.  I chose my usual Choucroute de la Mer which was so dire that I will never order it again.  When I first started choosing this dish it was a delicious mountain of sauerkraut with a smooth, thin white sauce, some pieces of white fish and salmon and dressed with prawns and mussels.  Over the years the sauerkraut mountain has eroded and is no longer succulent, the fish and prawns are rather indifferent and the mussels have disappeared altogether.  Tant pis!

The Perrymans departed on Saturday and we spent the evening chez Bri and Georgy celebrating his birthday.  The evening after, we welcomed the Poulets for pool and cards on the top floor, a chance to enjoy the festive ambiance up there. The Hunters arrived on the 30th and we were all invited to Le Vast to celebrate New Year which will ever remain fondly remembered for the banquet we enjoyed and the Methuselah of 30-year old Bordeaux gifted by a friend of Alain and Martine’s.  We rose from the table at 3 in the morning!

We did manage a wine tasting one evening, this is becoming a regular feature for English visitors.  created Saturday departure.  This gave rise to shopping excursions to buy supplies for the Hunter cellar. On New Year’s Day we dropped by the Tailles at the end of the afternoon to wish them well and enjoyed some glasses of bubbly and a Twelth Night galette.  We then walked round to call on some English people whom Nick had met and had a drink with them too.  On their last full day we at lunch at Le Debarcadere and I chose raie a la crème.  After, Eileen and I walked round La Hougue then called in at a sale of Antiquites et Brocantes at the community hall in rue Marechal Foch. There I found a set of 12 individual oyster plates and a large platter for 80 Euros.  Finding 12 plates a little de trop I offered to share the set with Eileen, which suggestion found favour with her.

The Hunters left us on the 3rd and we again found ourselves in the fortunate possession of an invitation to supper on guest departure day, this time chez Daniell.  Lorraine cooked us delicious partridge, preceded by Stephen’s excellent home cold-smoked salmon.

We spent the remainder of our sojourn undressing our Christmas house and getting ready for a departure on the 8th.  We enjoyed one last fling with the Poulets when we invited them for a Beef Vindaloo with a bit of pool and cards thrown in.  This impromptu no frills supper thing suits us four very well and certainly lifts the pressure of expectation when you invite people for a meal.  None of us wants to be up late, a sign of our times 😦