Sunday, December 21, 2008

Well that was nice. Villagers had been arriving throughout the afternoon, knocking on the door to pay their respects and then head off down to the stable yard for the soiree at the ice rink. Some had even brought presents for the Memsahib and the children. Good sorts really, and many of them have been associated with the family for generations.

The St John's Ambulance had set up a tent for the inevtiable sprains and breaks that would occur - but we asked each villager to sign a disclaimer before entering the stable block.

Cook had laid on a good table. Even Tarquin had helped. He had declared that the Christmas theme demanded something special for the children of the village, and headed off down to the deer park first thing this morning. I had assumed he was going get a couple of 5-pointer stags to pull a wheeled sleigh. Actually he shot a couple of roe deer and spent the afternoon making what he called "Rudulph burgers" with minced venison and chilli patties in a bun with a cherry tomato on a coctail stick attached to the front. (The chilli was apparently to represent the heat of re-entry as Rudolf screamed across the skies). There were mince pies, plum puddings, and lashings of cream. A huge basin of mulled wine filled the air with a rich aroma of cloves, cinnamon and grape, and in the corner a grubby looking beggar was roasting chestnuts.

Villagers slipped and skidded across the ice, whooping with delight or screaming in pain depending on whether they were observing or feeling the crunch of bone against ice. How they enjoyed themselves! When the table was finally revealed the ice was forgotten and they fell ravenously upon the fare. For some, I suppose, it may be one of the few opportunities they will get to eat venison or drinke wine (however rough) this week.

At the end of the evening I made my customary brief speech, thanking them for all of their help throughout the year and wishing them a Happy Christmas... and when I had finished (some 55 minutes later) the local Constable led three hearty cheers for the family. I was so proud that even after all this time these traditions can be carried on (with little or no coercion).

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