Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Past

Christmas eve has stirred up so many memories this year. 

It's been a difficult year, loosing Mum in early February has weighed heavily on the year. Even though she was about to get the all clear from cancer the endless chemo and radiation therapy had left her body too weak to cope with much more, by Christmas last year she weighed just 6 stone. So when her kidneys gave out there was little to do and thankfully she left us within 24 hours of getting really sick. We hope that having finally packed away her house earlier this month that time will start healing the gap that she left here.

Christmases have never really had a pattern here and all manner of events have marked the day. From huge family gatherings attended when very young. One memorable occasion happened when elderly relatives plied me with too many sips of sweet sherry and I ended up asleep at the table, head resting in my Christmas lunch!

Other festive family gatherings included raucous house parties held up in the wilds of Scotland where my Mother's brother lived the 'good life' in a tiny Croft. Water was from a spring further up the fell, Christmas tree was cut from the land and uncle would arrive from the shops with a car boot full of wooden crates of satsumas, bottles of sherry and vast boxes of liqueur chocolates. The day was filled up with laughter, so much that by bedtime stomach muscles ached with the endless jollity.

Gary and I have enjoyed German Christmases where the generosity of neighbours have led to many attempts to recreate delicious rumtopfs they used to ply us with. We've had Christmases enjoyed in France, spending the day cycling for miles along the quiet country lanes with the odd passer by shouting 'Joyeaux Noel' in our direction.

One of our most memorable French Christmases was the first year we spent at our little farm. It took over three months to purchase the place and we finally found ourselves sat in the Notaire's office to sign the final ream of paperwork on the 23rd December. I had the most dreadful cold and it had taken all my strength to help Gary pack up the caravan and awning before we rolled off the closed caravan site, (where the owners had kindly allowed us to stay until our farm was ready). So on the 24th December, with the keys to our new home in our hands we hitched up the van and set off to start yet another adventure. 

Before the renovations started...

The house wasn't habitable, with a colander for a roof, no heating other than an ancient, wood guzzling stove, a sink in the living room and an infestation of woodworm that meant in the evening light it looked like it was gently snowing within the house.

The wood monster that gave off no heat at all!

On arrival there we tucked the caravan into the corner of the courtyard well protected from the east wind. By this time all I wanted was my bed, so as I climbed into it with our well travelled tabby cat for extra warmth, Gary set about putting up the awning single handed.

As Christmas morning dawned the sun shone down with welcoming warmth in it's rays. As I lay coughing and snuffling Gary set off, camera in hand to walk our land. We had acquired a mixed number of acres of French countryside, which included pasture, assorted fruit trees and a couple of acres of mixed woodland. The land rose and fell steeply offering us breath taking views of the Pyrenees to the south and the glimpse of  bastide villages perched on distant hills.
View of the nearest Hamlet
The eastern slope
Our wood in summer
Our view of the Pyrenees chain

When Gary returned he downloaded the many photos he had taken onto the laptop and as I sat up in bed taking in the views he donned his apron and started our Christmas meal. In a tiny caravan kitchen he prepared a chestnut and apple pie, along with an assortment of roasted veggies. (We'd had trouble sourcing Parsnips as no-one had heard of them in our region but had stumbled upon a bunch at the market being sold by an enterprising ex-pat). Even though my appetite wasn't up to much the effort that had gone into the preparation of our first Christmas meal in our new home spurred me to make a dent in the plate Gary served up for me. 

And so another Christmas memory was made...

And now the kitchen is calling here, the tree still isn't decorated and there are presents to wrap for Santa to look after. So we would like to wish all of you lovely people who took time to stop by here a very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful and Happy New Year.

Our two furry girls awaiting Santa

Take care and see you all next year!


  1. Heather, I can't tell you how much I loved this post and learning more about you and your adventures past! I think that first memory of your farm is wonderful. You know, it's those that we remember -- the lucky December 23rds that make the 25th all the more special.

    I'm so very sorry you are having your first Christmas without your mom. I remember those holidays very well -- trying to get the twinkle for all that is real and now and yet having that sense that someone is missing. I hope you will light a candle in her honor or make one of her favorite dishes so she will be your invisible family member at your holiday table.

    And I adore your cat print of your two. It may be my favorite of all I have seen.

    Finally, I want to thank you for your lovely comments. They come in as no-reply blogger comments, so I can't reply personally as I like to do, but I value each and every one and they mean so much to me. I am delighted we discovered each others' blogs in 2014 and I look forward to many wonderful visits in the New Year.

    Sending beautiful Christmas wishes your way!

  2. It was lovely to read about your French farmhouse and to see your land
    (how grand!) It looks a beautiful place.

    I can empathise about missing your Mum as this is my 7th Christmas without my Mum and we never stop missing her.
    I really enjoy reading your blog and want to thank you for reading and commenting on mine too :D
    Enjoy the rest of the holidays!