Wednesday, 23 December 2009


I really must do something about the roof.

As ever, I'm disgracefully behind with reading other people's blogs - sorry for that.

The purpose of today's post is to wish everyone a Happy Christmas, or jolly holiday, or Winter Solstice, or Hanukah - bit late for that - or whatever way your faith (or lack of it) chooses to celebrate (or ignore) the turning of the year.

I'm a little punch drunk, having driven something like 560 miles since Friday morning in road conditions that, frankly, fell just a tad short of ideal. Detling Hill, near Maidstone was an adventure best forgotten. The M2 passes through some of Kent's most beautifully gardened landscape. Apple orchards and their alder wind breaks make a fine, symmetrical patchwork across the gently rolling downs which is just as well, since we had hours, while crawling in snow, to enjoy it.

On Saturday, the PG and I, along with my brother and his wife, laid on an unofficial Christmas Day celebration for my mother. What I wrote in Saturday's Mail about holly - here - didn't turn out quite as expected. The birds had pecked off every last berry, so my plan to return with armfuls of perfect stuff for decking the halls was dashed to pieces. It's almost Christmas Eve and I haven't even brought the tree in yet. It's buried in the snow somewhere!

At my Mamma's we enjoyed pheasant in a calvados sauce, with delectably butter-fried apple rings on top, cooked by my sister-in-law – a veritable titan among culinarians. That was followed by the PG's classic perfection of a Christmas Pud.

On Sunday we lunched with my daughter and family, also delicious - particularly a baked chocolate and pear dessert. My youngest granddaughter has recently learned to use a knife and fork. Being a typical female, and therefore able to multi-task, she devoted the time, not just to spearing pieces of poached salmon to eat, but also to use as face make-up and hair adornments while beating out some interesting variations of the Bossanova with her utensils.

And yesterday, after a fresh, heavy fall of snow, we had to travel to Norfolk. It was too cold to enjoy the outdoors and the journey was bleak since 'snow had fallen, snow on snow.'

I can't tell you how beautiful the Fens looked yesterday afternoon, when we crossed them on our return. It was too dangerous to stop, and I couldn't have taken a picture, even if I'd packed a camera. But here's what I wrote in my diary:

The beauty of the fens in winter was brought home to me yet again by driving through West Pinchbeck and Gosberton and then across Dowsby Fen. Setting sun, in a clear sky, touched up the snowy landscape with gentle, pastel colours including apricot, turquoise, mauve, pink and soft green – all just hints of those hues, rather than strong statements.

The sky was bright orange, near the gigantic, collapsing sun, fading to yellow and then soft duck egg blue-green directly overhead. The trees made a stark tracery of elegant branches, back-lit and so alive and so strong. I love the way the wind works together with the tree’s natural growth habit, to develop such characteristic outlines. In coastal regions, trees and shrubs are stretched to leeward, assuming grotesque, gnarled outlines. But here, where winds are less severe and swing in any direction, the shaping process is smoother, more subtle and differs more profoundly from tree to tree. One can recognise, from any distance, limes, sycamores, oaks, beech and ash.

The hedges were full of haws and in several places, vast flocks of fieldfares and redwings were feeding. I hoped to spot waxwings, but the icy state of the road wouldn't brook much driver inattention.

I am an icicle, whose thawing is its dying.

I'm listening to Balulalow, performed by Kings College Choir with David Willcocks conducting - an old recording, but a beauty. They've just moved onto The Crown of Roses to Tchaicovsky's haunting tune.

This week's film was Bad Santa - the antidote to the usual Christmas schmooze and saccharine sentimentality. The small fat boy who is constantly bullied has the snottiest nose ever witnessed on celluloid. The Coen bros were joint executive producers, apparently.

This day last year The PG and I were prostrated with 'flu. Our children and granddchildren arrived to find us semi-comatose.

Have a wonderful break, and the very best to everyone for a prosperous, peaceful, and utterly gardenworthy 2010!



  1. Lovely, gentle, sensual post, Nigel. Lovely tastes, lovely colours.

    We're listening to Carols From Clare College, Cambridge (1994) while the Christmas Biscuits are cooking. 'I want a Hippopotmus for Christmas' will follow. Sophistication comes in short bursts in this family!

    Have a very happy and restful Christmas, followed by a challenging and creative and garden-full 2010.


  2. Merry Christmas from another Fenlander-through adoption by marriage (Yes, I am from "away") .It took me years to appreciate the beauty of the Fens,but after 20 + I've finally achieved that Nirvana-like state and don't long so much for the leafy lanes of Warwickshire ;-)
    Happy New Year too .

  3. Gosh you have done some visiting - I feel positively lazy.
    Have a good Christmas

  4. Who needs pictures when your diary conjures up such wonderful images.

    Merry Christmas

  5. I love your diary entry - more please!

    I'm also hoping for waxwings down our way - for some reason Sainsbury's car park has been the best place for finding them in previous years - must be all the rowan berries that attract them.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year :)

  6. Lovely post. Having been bought up in the fens, I always dismissed them as flat, boring and planted with too many cabbages, but I am slowly starting to appreciate them. Having read this, my rate of appreciation may increase.