This last weekend, after my five days in bed with flu and a 41C temperature, some friends, chancing catching my bug, came to stay. We had planned to go off in vans to Cornwall, but it was cold and we were all still hacking and coughing. So we thought we would have a quiet weekend.
I find it lovely if a little odd to be able to say that as an adult, I have known someone for thirty years. I am surely not old enough to have had effectively a thirty year friendship with someone I didn't meet as a child. But it is so and regularly, we meet up and spend lovely weekends together. Much beer and wine is drunk and some excellent food consumed, all the while enjoying the company and conversation of like-minded people. It's what life is all about, I think.
This weekend, we went to Bath to the Christmas market, but it was far too busy and I confess I struggled a bit with the cognitive load of managing to avoid the trajectories of hundreds of people milling about.
So, yesterday, we went for a quiet walk around Woodchester Mansion which I have written about here before. I snapped this picture of the quaint boathouse in which I am troubled now to see that the window is open. Who opened the window and why? In Summer, this is an idyllic spot, but on a Winter's day, there is a strange air about the place and one could almost imagine some troubled spirit standing looking out of the window. I am not usually given to such thoughts but it did feel mildly spooky, especially considering the unfinished mansion just up the valley. The Romans were here thousands of years ago and at the top of the valley, long barrows still exist where bronze age burials took place. It is a place of atmosphere.
So, on we went around the lakes, whilst buzzards wheeled above us in the still cold air and ducks quacked in the water with derisory laughs of ridicule at the muddy feet and hubris of we passers-by.
It was a lovely crisp day and the walk was just so wonderfully English - something I rarely consider since I was born here, live here and spend most of my time here.
So, we walked and talked and there was a bonfire where some National trust volunteers were clearing dead wood, and the woodsmoke just smelt so right.
We returned to the van and drank tea, ate cake and talked some more. Gradually a Winter's day elided into a cold evening as the sun went down. Home called to us, with dinner already in the oven.
At home, I made mulled cider with an otherwise rather undistinguished apple wine from last year, some cider and assorted spices with brown sugar. In fact, I made about a gallon.
Sitting round the table with friends and family, with a big joint of roast pork, home-grown roast potatoes, mulled cider and Jethro Tull "Solstice Bells" playing, the World was perfect for a moment. Outside, the dark Gloucestershire countryside was now asleep but still very present in the feeling of surrounding the room, the house, the town.
|Banana & Ginger wine. A dessert wine of about 18% ABV. Small glasses only...|
A very good long-weekend. And it's not even Christmas yet!