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27 December 2021

How was your Christmas? [More:]I've been away for a few days and so I've been out of the loop on everyone's updates, good and bad.

I went to stay with two friends at their cottage in Kent. They live on a country estate, owned by mega-rich landed gentry who live in the Big House, and there are 80 houses of various sizes and grandeur on the estate. It's very much an 'old money' situation, with tenant farmers, gamekeepers, cattlemen, gardeners, etc. living in the tied cottages on the several thousand acres of the estate.

My friends each have a rented home on the estate - they don't live together and he's 28 years older than her, but their arrangement works for their relationship. I used to work with her, and we became good friends, so it was a pleasure to get their invitation to visit for Christmas.

I arrived on Christmas Eve at lunchtime, and came home this afternoon. We had a lovely time. Ellie has a dog, three cats and some chickens. We had lovely food, long walks (including a very brisk and bracing walk on the beach at Camber Sands on Christmas morning - which the dog loved), and watched lots of Christmassy things on TV - carol concerts, comedy shows, light entertainment, Christmas specials. It wasn't much different from what I'd have been doing if I'd been at home myself but it was wonderful to spend the holiday with two lovely people.

Somehow I ended up on the Nice List and had lots of lovely gifts, beyond anything I deserve or could have dreamed of - including an incredible pop-up book of flower arrangements, and a Kitty Karma Sutra (which I will NOT be letting Rudi see, as he is only six!).

The funniest moment was just after we'd finished a huge Christmas lunch and Ellie, intending to ask if I'd take a selfie of all three of us, instead asked me if I'd set up my camera for a three-way! I said "That escalated quickly! Can I let my dinner go down first?!" We literally wet our pants laughing, and couldn't speak for about five minutes.

The only thing that marred the holiday was this morning when the landowner and his 'Hooray Henry' friends in their Barbour jackets, tweed caps and Hunter wellies, turned up with a couple of labradors to 'shoot the pond' - that is, murder the ducks who'd been living happily on the pond in the field behind Ellie's cottage. Hearing the gunfire and knowing those poor ducks were being slaughtered for sport was horrendous.

I often think I'd like to live in the countryside, but I'd find it hard to cope with that side of country life. I'm very lucky to live in the forest, surrounded by 6,000 acres of woodland, but I'm close enough to London to have all the benefits of city life. I like living in a more diverse community than you'd generally find in a small country village, and I like having access to ethnic food stores and larger supermarkets, as well as being a half-hour train ride from the centre of London.

But, overall, it was a wonderful holiday, a really lovely Christmas, full of love and laughter.
posted by: senyar at: 16:18 | 8 comments
Calm. A few phone calls. Not much of anything really and that was good.

On boxing day we picked up some medical supplies that had belonged to a friend with ALS who died a couple weeks ago so my wife can distribute them and they just don't end up wasted.
posted by arse_hat 28 December | 22:44
"diverse community" reminds me; because it was 10 C on Christmas day I went out for an afternoon walk and I was struck by how busy the non Christian restaurants were. People driving up to pick up and the delivery services coming and going.

I'm glad you were able to get together with good friends. Other than the shooting it sounds lovely.
posted by arse_hat 28 December | 22:49
That's the wonderful thing about a holiday destination that's not your standard fare; you can enjoy the special things and different atmosphere; especially if you have delightful companions. A good vacation means that you are glad to go home to ordinary things you freshly appreciate while having created some wonderful memories.
posted by mightshould 29 December | 16:21
I spent the day with mom and had to remind her that is was xmas. We really didn't do anything special.

However, I did receive one very wonderful gift of a whole box full of limenoncello chocolate bars that are insanely delicious. They rival the bespoke lemon chocolate truffles that a long-departed store used to sell. What's nice is when someone knows your weaknesses and caters to it!

And, my SIL did a good job shopping and finally finding a winter robe for mom that's short enough. (Mom is Jan-level short.) I am so glad to not have to hem it.

posted by mightshould 29 December | 16:32
... how busy the non Christian restaurants were
I guess you mean something like 'ethnic restaurants' but am really surprised that, one, restaurants are open on Christmas Day and, two, there is a noticeable difference in how busy different restaurants are on that day. Not being snarky or anything at all - just quite curious about what's going on there.

We ended up having a pretty reasonable day. Our plan to have the kids, their families/boyfriends/girlfriends etc over and have them stay a while by making sure we were the last in the round of family events worked out well. We were able to mostly relax and enjoy a quiet Christmas morning as a couple, then finish a few last-minute preparation things before people started arriving. Everything all went well and we had up to 20 or so people in the house at various times. Lots of good food eaten, plenty of drinks drinked and music played. The only stressful part was having to constantly get up and help my mother get up from her chair, then down the hall and onto the spare bed for a nap, only to see her tottering back up the hall ten minutes later. Rinse, repeat at 10-15 minute intervals. Dementia is such a cruel mistress.

But then, of course, I got an email from the home my mother lives in to say one of their staff was a confirmed COVID case and was in the home at the time I was there picking her up. I only went into the reception area and the home has been useless about any further details of where the staff member had moved around, so I won't be getting tested since I pretty much never leave home anyway and the queues for testing are 4-8 hours long and many people are getting turned away in the end or, if they're lucky enough to get a test, end up in isolation for 5+ days waiting for the result.
posted by dg 29 December | 22:44
dg, the restaurants I saw on my walk were south Asian (Indian), Halal shawarma (Lebanese), and 2 BBQ places (Muslim eastern European. Don't expect pulled pork!)

As they are not Christian it was not a holiday for them and they were open. They all do a good take out business as they make good food but it was definitely amped up on Christmas day. I guess a lot of people still want take out on that day and the number of choices is much diminished.

As it is a statutory holiday they would have been paying double time and a half to employees but it looked like it would have been worth it.
posted by arse_hat 30 December | 01:40
That's interesting - Christmas Day here means literally everything except 24/7 shops like 7-11 are closed. I sometimes wonder how it is that 'non-christian' businesses at least give lip service to things like Christmas and Easter (the only times when businesses universally close down here, apart from before 11:00 am on ANZAC Day), while things like Ramadan are ignored by pretty much all non-Muslims. I mean, I do understand why it happens, but it just irks me a little.
posted by dg 03 January | 19:42
dg, that irks me too. We don't even seem to make a slight effort to respect "other religions".
posted by arse_hat 05 January | 21:30