Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Having a very quite cosy night in by the fire.   Olly is away at his Christmas works do/leaving do and won’t be home until tomorrow so I am using this opportunity to get ready for Christmas.   We have brought a little Christmas tree and put it in the corner of the study.   I love decorating the tree although I am always left vaguely disappointed at the finished article.   Growing up we always has fabulous Christmas Trees.  Mum is brilliant at decorating them and has a knack of making them look so magical.   You could stare at one of her trees for hours and still discover wonderful decorations hidden in it’s branches.   She is a bit of a perfectionist – it must have driven her mad when we helped her as children and I am sure she must have rearranged the whole tree once we had gone to bed.   I have to say this is a trait that my husband thinks I’ve inherited as each year he tells me there is no point to him helping as I only move the decorations to a more aesthetically pleasing spot as soon as he’s plonked them on.   Of course, I tell him each year that is not the case and that I really love it when he helps with the tree – and each year I change the position of every single decoration that he puts on as soon as his back it turned!   This year he quit whilst he was ahead and took some decorations out to decorate other parts of the house.   This is not something that we normally do however, I really quite like it.   Having not put any of them up myself I keep discovering new ones every so often – in fact, I have just spotted a Father Christmas parachuting down from our rather lovely velure crushed velvet gold curtains (inherited with the farm)!

All in all, we’ve had a very Christmassy week. The weekend saw the arrival of the lovely Megan who spent the whole weekend with her coat on. I think I forget just how cold it can get here sometimes.   And to add insult to injury I dragged her along to our Farmers’ Market on Whiteladies Road in Bristol on Saturday morning and made her stand on the pavement for three hours asking strange men if they wanted a taste (obviously of our jams and chutneys!). In fact, she was brilliant and with no uncertainty demonstrated to Dee and myself the benefits of getting people to taste our produce before buying. We eventually sold out and made our way home frozen!

Sunday daytime I got the house all clean and tidy to the tune of Kings College Choir singing Carols on constant repeat.   Sunday evening saw the Carol Service at the church which was lovely.   There was a little girl in the choir who can’t have been any older than 6 or 7 years who was singing her heart out – it was so sweet to hear this lovely choir all in tune and then this real belter of a child at the front!   I always get a bit carried away at things like Carol Services and Olly couldn’t help sniggering at me as I spent the first two carols with tears streaming down my face.   I just find the whole thing really emotional!   After the service we were invited to ‘supper’ to friends of our in the village.    When I say supper, I actually mean Champagne followed by a five course dinner – it was beautiful!    Simon used to be in the wine trade, so not only was the food fantastic but the wine served with each course was exquisite.   It is the second time we’ve been round to their house for supper and both times I have come away with a renewed vigour to have a proper dinner party where we really push the boat out and make a huge effort. It was such a lovely evening and we came away feeling utterly spoilt.   So often these days, entertaining at home is made to look as if you haven’t gone to any trouble or made any effort so as to make for a relaxed atmosphere but actually, it is really nice to go that extra mile and to make the effort.   Next time, I will do three – maybe even four – courses and I will use the best silver and have Champagne to start.   I cannot promise that the wine will be quite Simons standard, however, I will make sure I do the whole thing properly!

If I thought I had had enough of Carols by Monday I was wrong.  Monday evening saw Wotton Brass Band in the Chipping outside the pub for more Carol Singing.  Once again Olly was away so I made my way up there alone.   As I was walking up there I bumped into Wendy (With from With Lunch or Dinner) and we and her dog Champ joined the throng of villagers just in time for Silent Night. It was very lovely and made me feel very Christmassy. Snow fell gently around us as we sang our little hearts out!

Tomorrow I am going to my aunt and uncles house in the Cotswolds where I very much hope we will sing Silent Night in German around their tree. It is a Jourdan tradition to do this every year along with eating Herring Salad made by various members of the family. There is German in our family from my Grandfathers side so hence the customs.   As it turns out, we, as a family also sing abysmally, so the Stille Nacht, Heil’ge Nacht is a little ropey and the Herring Salad is a definite acquired taste.   Ask any poor man who has gone out with or married a Jourdan girl and had to put a brave face on eating a purple salad made mainly of raw herring in front of the whole family – not only on Christmas Eve but Christmas Day too and if their lucky there’s enough left over for Boxing Day with the ham.

So that’s it. I’m ready. Just got to get a couple of last minute things tomorrow and make some mince pies for Dee’s drinks party (Dinner from With Lunch or Dinner) and that will be it. Christmas 2009 will be upon us.

So, here’s to you, my lovely little band of readers. May your Christmas be magically and shiney like the baubles on your tree and your New Year be full of ambition, achievements, laughter and love. 2010 is going to be a cracking year. I can feel it. We have lots planned and a farm to build and I cannot wait!!


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Can’t sleep so have decided to get up and have a cup of tea instead. Very rare for me not to be able to sleep and even more so when it’s so bad it actually drives me to get out of bed. Usually I just lie there and pretend I’m in hospital – but I think I may have shared that little nugget of my inner psychie with you before!!

Lack of sleep tonight is due to many things, most of which I cannot detail here. It’s not that I want to be super secretive or alienate you at all, it’s just that it’s work stuff and it would be unprofessional of me to discuss that on the internet. Unprofessional and a little dull. Especially when this is supposed to be a blog about farm life and how we are progressing with our house that is slowly sinking further and further into the ground. So much for the life less ordinary. I didn’t quite expect that to include waking up in the middle of the night worrying about my day job.

I guess that’s the ‘catch 22’ isn’t it? I watched River Cottage Christmas on the iplayer tonight. It really made me long for the time that we can start carving up the fields into separate livestock pens, get a really good selection of vegetables going and have outbuildings and barns to create storage and commercial kitchens and that sort of thing and I guess that’s the frustrating part. All of that would enable us to live a completely sustainable life here where the farm would pay for itself and we could live off the land and make the farm work for us. But, and here’s the catch, you can only do that if you have a massive cash injection to spend in the first place, i.e., a really good day job. It is almost impossible to step off the tred mill of 9 – 5 life and live a self sustainable life, ‘off-grid’ for as much as you can be, without having a huge source of income to begin with. Therefore, the self sustainable life, in true Tom and Barbara style, is only achievable by living in the rat race. I mean how did they pay for their mortgage on the semi in Surbiton?

On other matters, Christmas is only a week and a bit away. I can’t see how that happened so quickly. One minute we were at the 1st or 2nd of December and I was thinking how ridiculously early people were in getting their Christmas shopping sorted and Christmas trees up. The next, wondering when on earth I’m going to get my Christmas shopping sorted and Christmas tree up! It is always at this time of year that I truly wish I was uber organised. I would love to be one of those people who have an immaculate house and by this time of the year have the tree up with wrapped presents underneath and all Christmas cards posted well before the last posting date, but I think it’s part of your DNA structure. Obviously, I have that particular gene missing and however much I try it is a skill that I can never possess and all that know me are doomed to have rubbish presents every year as I panic buy on Christmas Eve. It’s the nieces and nephews I feel sorry for. I’m rubbish and I know it. If any of you are reading this now – apologies in advance.

It’s not as if the intention isn’t there. I had dreams in October of getting fairy lights wrapped round the postbox at the bottom of the driveway and having a huge Christmas tree in the front garden laidened with twinkling white lights from top to toe for all of the village and dog walkers to see, but I can’t see it happening now. Haven’t even got the fairy lights and where’s Woolies gone when you need them? Was also planning to have a Christmas Drinks party a la Nigella Lawson and look seductively at people as I served them delicious canap├ęs while they sip champagne cocktails in front of our roaring log fire, but the wall paper is only just hanging on in there on the walls, the door from the sitting room to the hallway keeps blowing open by the amount of wind whistling around the main house and the carpet is still muddy brown when it should be cream and I am just not 100% sure I’ll be able to pull off the Nigella look with all that going on. Never was particularly good at looking seductively at people anyway.

Monday, 7 December 2009

December already… summer and spring seem so far away today.

As I worked at my computer this morning, I heard a raucous going on outside between some rooks and magpies. For a stretch of my legs I decided to see what all the fuss was about. As I wondered back from the front orchard with the wind and rain howling in my face, I tried to imagine us having a chilled glass of Rose sitting underneath the apple trees like we did in Spring. It was virtually impossible!! The ground was sodden and squelchy underfoot and the sky had a nicotine tinge to it which I always associate with snow – I was wrong in this instance, but when you have no central heating or running hot water, it often feels like it’s cold enough to snow.

The ducks are loving it, of course. As soon as you let them out in the morning they head straight for the brook running through the pen and spend the rest of the day running between there and the mud flat they’ve created on the other side of the house. Depending on which cycle they are on you will either find brilliant white or muddy brown ducks! Count down is now on for Olly finishing work. Three weeks left and then FARM TIME!! For fear of sounding like a stuck record, I cannot wait to get started on the build. The novelty of living so rustically is wearing thin and I feel we are both at the stage where we need to see some kind of progression. The house is constantly dirty and unkept and I strangely find myself going the same way – it’s as if the house is a reflection of me, or me of the house. I find I’ve really let myself go of late, so much so that a friend posted a picture of me on Facebook and I was appalled at what I saw. I could not believe that I looked so knackered and overweight . I’m forty next year and refuse to have my 40th birthday looking like this. We are fortunate to have enough laborious jobs around the farm to get me into shape as quickly as my motivation will allow and those photos are going to come in very handy!!

With Lunch or Dinner had it’s first stall at Christmas Under the Edge in Wotton on Saturday. Unfortunately, the weather was not kind and therefore was not as busy as it could have been. But we took a decent amount of takings and it is excellent to no longer be ‘stall virgins’. We are doing Chipping Sodbury Farmers’ Market this Saturday which will be another steep learning curve and then, apart from online orders, we break for Christmas. It is so good to have the comradery of Dee and Wendy – it makes a huge difference to have that support. After we had taken the stall down we all piled down to Dinneywicks (local pub) for a well deserved bottle of wine or two. It was great as all of our other halves get on too which makes it a very jolly party!!