Thursday, 31 December 2009

Christmas Day in the Morning

I saw three ships.
I opened the curtains and there they were -- on Christmas Day in the Morning at Druidstone. This pic might need a magnifier to see them, but they're there.

A perfect morning, a million miles from anywhere, with nothing more to do but contemplate the lunch menu and a stroll along the cliff top - or see if the tide was out far enough for a walk along the Newgale sands and watch the surfers - that is if there were any waves of the right height and strength coming in. At this time in the morning though, all looked calm and bright.

Last night the dining room had been packed. Not just with guests, but all the locals - people from Haverfordwest and many of the small villages around had gathered for the annual Carols-mince pies-and mulled-wine event. We sang our way through 27 traditional carols with ALL THE VERSES. I found the simultaneous swallowing and singing more difficult than normal, possibly because the lumps in my throat were not only caused by pastry crumbs, but arose from an unexpected sense of awe and magic.

In all the years I have taken part in this kind of
seasonal tradition, I don't think I have ever been so moved. The man on my left, a real Welsh baritone, brought the memories flooding back form childhood. Crammed into our small parlour, standing round the piano, we'd sing out hearts out in the very same manner. My father's voice, a baritone himself, gave a deep, melodious vibrato backing to hold us all together.

When I'd sung in those days, a school girl at my father's elbow and then a student at the piano, I'd contributed a treble descant. Now, decades later, with a Welsh baritone this time by my side I was surprised at how my voice had descended into the lower register parts which my father had once sung. I was also hearing the words as if for the first time; appreciating as never before the language with its descriptions of sparkling silences, of awesome starlight and the crystalline calm of a winter's night. Well known carols now coming alive, spinning their stories, depicting a past when Christmas was indeed a magical and spirit-filled occasion of bitter cold and loud lament. 'Sire,' pleads the page, 'the night grows darker now and the wind blows stronger. Fails my heart I know not how, I can go no-longer.' Then Wenseslas' voice comes in, 'Mark my footsteps good my page, tread thou in them boldly, thou wilt find the winter's rage, freeze thy blood less coldly.' And then the miracle, springing green from the place where his feet have trod, proclaims the act of loving kindness the two have wrought in the teeth of all that the rude winds could throw at them blesses both giver and he who receives equally.

And so to the feasting.

The most fantastic Christmas meal ever. Plate after plate, course after course, each as wonderfully conceived and presented as the one before. Staff from the kitchen and table servers joining us at intervals throughout the meal so we could exchange recipes and swap tit-bits of personal stories.

Here, on right, Jane presiding over the turkey carving.

Boxing Day morning, view from the window, the sea showing signs of the gale which was making its way across the Atlantic, and which hit us with some force during the night. Brrrr... Our bedroom overlooking the ocean felt like being on board some rather antique sailing ship. Rugs lifting off floor and curtails blowing to and fro all to an accompaniment of lightning flashings and a great deal of rude lamenting.

Morning after the storm the day broke cold and
crisp with blue skies again. Come nightime, the
temperatures dropped rapidly and we set up Ellis' our middle granddaughter's new, state of the art, telescope on the grass on top of the cliff. Mark computerised it to point right at the moon. A completely astonishing sight! Brilliant sliver-white light with mountains and craters clear and crisp and very mysterious. a bit of refocusing and there was the 'near by' Jupiter and her moons. This time the brilliant silver-white was shimmering with moving bands of jewel colours. It was perishing cold standing there, glittering frost forming under foot, it was hard to keep my balance on the sloping ground and some of the shimmering must have been due to me shivering. So, a quick dash for the cottage in the hotel grounds where Mark, Sandhya and the girls were staying. Finally several instalments of the U.S comedy 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', accompanied by glasses of a classy wine plus occasional dips into the Xmas choX boX before we grandparents retired to the big house for the rest of the night.

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