The watery winter sun rose to reveal an inhospitable morning.
The air was still thick with frost; every branch & bough burdened with the weight of many thousands of hoary white ice crystals. After a luxurious lie-in we joined the family in the dining room for breakfast at around 7am.
Platters of golden-yolked eggs, crispy bacon, juicy fried tomatoes & plump horse mushrooms piled onto thick rounds of buttered toast were passed around & devoured with hungry enthusiasm, washed down with plenty of good stong tea – the perfect meal with which to fuel a briskly chilly day.
We enthusiasticaly accepted Dreda’s invitation for a tour of the barns as we love to visit her beautiful goats – & invariably accumulate plenty of useful snippets on responsible caprine management. We marvelled at the heavily-pregnant & positively waddling Anglo Nubian goats (who still set upon each & every loose zip, button or cord they could find, cheeky devils); the magnificent British Saanen stud male, snowy white & stately in stature; the up-&-coming young lady goats, born last season; & the sweet new calf, the latest arrival to Dreda’s herd of pedigree Dexters.
Afterwards it was time to bid farewell to friends Warren & Ellie; before regretfully taking our own leave, ourselves; & heading off into the frosty morning air for the next destination on the agenda – back to our old home in the Cotswolds to visit our dearest chums Michelle & Neil (& their two lovely children), who still reside in the village where we used to live together as neighbours.
The earth seemed transformed; an unfamiliar frozen world where all that we had known was recognizable & yet given a new & icy perspective, as if viewed through frost-covered spectacles. A delicately beautiful young doe paused at the edge of the woodland which once we called ‘home’ before bounding away into the tranquil safety of the silent, silvered trees; now a world away from where we are now & yet so close, as to be almost tangible.
But the warmth of our friends’ greeting was as timeless, as ever; always a happy, comfortable reunion & yet inevitably tinged with sadness that our time together would all-too-soon, be at an end. We enjoyed a delicious, impromptu lunch with our friends, glad of an excuse to linger before having to head back to the Ffarm & the evening chores. Shakespeare described parting as ‘such sweet sorrow’. Oh, how true that is; & I seldom feel it so much as when Shelley & I bid each other farewell. It is the one & only time I ever feel a twinge of regret at leaving our old home, our old lifestyle. Popping into one anothers’ houses for a cuppa & a chat was pretty much a daily occurrence; & we were (& still are of course!) unfailingly there for each other. Whilst in spirit we are as close as ever, my heart often aches at not being able to see our friends as frequently as I’d love to.
All too soon Tony & I were homeward bound once more. After a year of gloom & doom it seemed people were anxious to begin the celebrations even earlier than usual; & staccato bursts of colourful fireworks lit up the night sky as we drove onwards. But by far the most spectacular sight was the clear arc of the crescent moon, glowing softly in the deep sapphire of the evening sky, reflected on the silver sea; with Venus’ bright luminescence seeming to hang from its tip like a fiery spark.
Pulling into the arrivals yard in the soft glow of the twilight of another clear, perfect winter’s evening my heart leapt for joy at the soft golden light radiating from the windows of our comfortable little farmhouse. After a quick cuppa & replying to the volley of questions about our excursion I rolled up my sleeves & started cooking the fabulous joint of local Welsh Black beef we were to enjoy for our New Years’ Eve celebratory meal, chatting amiably with Mum; whilst Dad & Tony muffled up to tackle the evening chores together.
Whilst dinner was a relatively late & leisurely affair it was wonderfully relaxed & congenial; better I think, to eat a little later on this occasion & linger over the meal rather than sitting around for hours, glancing at the time & wondering when on earth the clock would strike midnight so all us ‘oldies’ could dutifully chorus Auld Lang Syne & head thankfully up the stairs to bed.
None of that, tonight; the conversation was enjoyably animated until…..