Whilst for everyone else, today is Chrismas Eve,
for us, it’s actually Christmas Day. Unfortunately Tony has been selected to work, over the festive season; he’s flying to Aleppo in Syria this afternoon & has to stay for almost a week owing to the scheduling. At least Aleppo is quite a romantic city with the hustle & bustle of fascinating souks, its towering citadel & ancient gates – I’d love to go but alas, the farm cannot look after itself!
So it was a typically early start, having a great deal to do during the day. The first job was firing up Rayburn ready to cook our roast goose. Tony emerged to eviscerate said bird; all went relatively well (bar the odd bit of impromptu ‘nip & tuck’) until it was time to remove the legs. Tony enlisted Dad’s help & they participated in a sort of bizarre tug-of-war; but whilst one set of sinews was snappily subjugated, the other stubbornly stayed put – so the two chaps resorted to the highly entertaining ‘door jamb’ method of goose leg removal, putting the bird’s foot in the door & using the frame as a lever to effect the separation. Mission finally accomplished, I stuffed the bird with a pheasant, into whose cavity I inserted an apple & an onion studded with a few cloves. Then came the difficult part – getting the bird in the oven – as he really didn’t want to go (trust Chris not to give up without a final fight)! I just about managed it; his drumsticks drumming on the oven door.
I cooked at a leisurely pace whilst Tony did the chores & had a hasty bath. Then, at last we were able to enjoy our ‘Christmas’ meal. We started with a lovely light smoked salmon & asparagus terrine to whet our appetites. Then came the main part of the feast: our magnificent multi-bird roast – the huge goose stuffed with pheasant, onion & apple – served with prunes steeped in Armagnac; goose-fat roast potatoes; sprouts with chestnuts & bacon; roast carrots & beetroot glazed with orange zest; honey-baked parsnips; pigs in sweet bankets (sausages & dates wrapped with bacon); chestnut stuffing; & spiced plum chutney, washed down with a fine bottle Chateauneuf du Pape. I have to say that for all his evilness in life, being a particularly vicious gander, Chris really did us proud with his final glorious feast. Dessert was of course a boozy Christmas pud sloshed liberally with brandy cream; although alas, Tony had neither the appetite not the time to polish off his portion.
But at least our consciences are clear regarding Christmas Dinner this year: our own goose, spuds, sprouts, bacon, sausage, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, onion, apple, herbs, chutney & even cream; only the salmon, asparagus, pheasant, prunes, wine, brandy & fruits for the pudding were not from the farm although I made sure that even those, where at all possible, were locally sourced & if not from our immediate vicinity had at least travelled as few food miles as possible (for example French wine & cognac rather than Australian or Chilean).
We then unwrapped the presents: Tony had got me an exquisite pair of my favourite, Clogau Gold earrings as well as a fantastic digital radio made from recycled & sustainable materiels, to provide music for all those goaty ears in the Dairy Complex once it’s built (although in truth I suspect it’s so I can work late into the evening making Tony’s favourite cheeses whilst I listen to ‘The Archers’!). Tony meanwhile was delighted with the new watch I’d bought him; it’s radio controlled, & automatically adjusts itself to whatever time zone he happens to find himself in, throughout the world. And of course we gave Mum & Dad their presents: a digital set-top box for their TV; a Barbour sweater, a Katherine Jenkins CD & a book on gardening for Dad; a blouse & jacket, some talking books & a windchime, for Mum; with which I’m glad to say, they were delighted.
But we too have been grateful for their exceptionally generous gifts: not only did we receive several pairs of our favourite ‘Splash’ jeans, they’ve also paid for us to go to Italy on a course at Bologna’s Gelato University – not only a great help for the business, but it’ll be a rare treat to get away together for once. And of course, I got a new pitchfork – just so long as Tony doesn’t try to use it to dig the garden or something…..!
Tony took Dad on an emergency dash into town, to collect a prescription for Mum for some essential medication which had unfortunately been left behind in Warwickshire. He then hurried off to Heathrow after a quick kiss goodbye, leaving me feeling bereft that we were spending yet another Christmas, apart.
Dad & I did the evening chores together; & whilst Tony headed off across the world being careful not to bump into Santa on his sleigh, those of us left on the farm watched the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ on TV before the hush of Christmas fell upon the rest of the world; ours, already over.