• Posted on December 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm
Candlelit living room

A cosy corner

The morning had been bright and sunny and full of busyness: dogs, cats and humans all racing around and in and out of the house; deliveries arriving, washing flapping on the line in the back garden, pans bubbling on the aga – toing, froing, bustle.

By early afternoon everyone except me had left the house. The sun had vanished and the mountains had disappeared behind low ominous banks of cloud which periodically spewed out blinding showers of hail, sleet and snow over the highest crags. Dogs and cats now all lay curled up asleep in various cosy corners. the day darkened. Nothing could be heard but the loud ticking of the German cuckoo clock on the living room wall.

I had several hours of paperwork ahead of me, but it was a pleasure to sit in the quiet and warmth while I worked. Periodically I would glance out of the window across the valley to the ice-bound mountains, glad to be in out of the fierce, freezing weather.

By four o’clock I had done enough. I put my pens and papers to one side, switched off my computer and made myself a cup of tea; cut a slice of buttery stolen and helped myself to my first chocolate covered spice cake of the season. The jewel colours of the fairy lights above the stove glowed in the gathering gloom of the short winter’s afternoon. The silence and stillness enfolded me in unexpected and unlooked for tranquillity. No need to switch on the ordinary room lights; it was wonderful simply to sit in the cosy shadows and watch the daylight die.

A little while later my son returned home, bringing a swirl of cold wet air into the room and with it laughter and loud vociferous chatter about the afternoon’s events. He was also brandishing fruit and spices and soon had a large pan of mulled ale heating on the Aga. The scent was wonderful! No less so was the taste as he passed me a tumbler of the hot steaming liquor, adding a tot of whiskey to it for good measure. It certainly reached, warmed and relaxed every bit of me, even bits I had forgotten I had – I do not often drink alcohol and usually only a moderately small glass.

All the family arrived home and tankards of the fragrant brew were passed around. conversation became hearty, jolly, before we all temporarily dispersed again; my husband disappearing out into the darkness to give the dogs their evening run around the lake before dinner, others to various rooms within the house.

I myself, had to visit our elderly neighbour to give Eileen her hot evening meal. Our two properties are now connected by a high wooden style over the massive slate wall which separates them. With a large bag of clean washing clasped in one hand, an insulated bag containing a hot meal in the other and a small torch clenched between my teeth, I gingerly tottered up the slippery steps. Reaching the top, some six feet above ground level, I paused for a moment to look about me. Christmas lights shone from the windows of several near-by houses, the mountains loomed charcoal black against the dark evening sky where a near-full moon was playing peep from behind billowing, ever-shifting banks of clouds, and from somewhere further down the village I could hear a carol playing. Like a living Christmas card! I grinned to myself, then swayed unsteadily so decided to get myself down to earth again as soon as possible… in more ways than one – too much spiced ale! Time for my own hot, savoury dinner.

Later, I realised that I had had an amazing day and had taken rich pleasure in so many of the little things; the peace and quite interspersed by lively activity and laughter, the security and contentment, (no matter how transient and unreliable they may be), the companionship, the love. It dawned upon me that this had been a perfect day – would that everyone’s Christmas Day was as simply satisfying and enjoyable! Perhaps it was because I had absolutely no preconceived ideas about how it was going to be but just allowed it to unfold and made the most of it while I got on with my normal work?

What constitutes your perfect day? And how many of us have them without really noticing and realising it? For it is often not the great events and one-off occasions that leave such a lasting impression. They actually all too frequently result in disappointment. But it is the days when there is no dissension, illness, pressure or worry, just the regular buzz and hum of day-to-day existence which provides the mundane warp and weft of our life which we often do not truly recognise or appreciate.

Think about it.

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Winter Stillness… and Honeyed Ale – Herbary

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Though mulled wine is more frequently drunk, I’ve fallen in love with mulling ale this winter. Here is the recipe for the ale that so lubricated this magical afternoon! Spiced Honeyed Ale 2 Pints Best Bitter 1/2 Pint Orange Juice 1 Tbsp. Honey 1 Oz. Fresh Stem Ginger, Chopped 2 tsp. Cloves 2 Cinnamon Sticks, or 1 tsp ground Cinnamon powder 1 Capful [half a shot] Whiskey per glass Place all the ingredients, apart from the whiskey in a saucepan. Warm to about 60 degrees C, or until a lively steam without coming to the boil. Strain into pint glasses,… Read more »