Here in winter the journey to school is done in darkness, the sun crawls out of bed about 8.30 am and before that the countryside is dark and silent except for the odd optimistic cock crow and the dogs barking at unseen movement in the night. Often, at this time of year, on returning home I crawl back to bed for an extra half hour snuggled under quilts before I get up to start the work of the day, it is too early to go and tend to the goats, sheep and poultry and it saves electricity. it is like an illicit pleasure stolen from the busy day.
Yesterday the arrival of the day was heralded early when I was greeted by our dogs at the kitchen door, in the night their run had been opened and they were running free, the poultry run gate was wide open too and our birds were missing. No sign of struggle no stray feathers just emptiness I have yet to meet a fox who can unlock a gate so I blame a two legged predator. One goose returned forlorn and lonely later in the day, not a scratch on her, her mate sadly I imagine was ear marked for someone’s Christmas Lunch. The ducks and chickens wandered back in dribs and drabs during the day. Not a good start to the festive season. I hope he tastes good.
My living room is suffering from schizophrenia. The lower half is decorated for Christmas, the tree glistening in white and silver and the sideboard is staggering under a Scandinavian themed display of candles baubles and reindeer in red white and silver. The top half looks like a slum dwelling things are piled up in heaps, the floor is there somewhere but I can't find it and on one chair is a large collection of birds nests cleared from a windowsill to make way for the nativity set when we remember where we put it last year. I keep telling myself all will be well by Christmas eve but I am beginning to have my doubts. The kitchen is no better, I made marmalade yesterday and it has been added to the jars of pickles chutneys and jams that are heaped on the farmhouse table, One end is cleared for eating but the other is a mass of vegetables and fruit ready for preserving and cooking. In one corner is a not insignificant mountain of shoes and boots waiting for the children to try on so we can discard or pass on any that are too small or beyond repair. Outside the door is a unruly collection of orange boxes ready to be broken up for kindling.
This is country living, real country living not the photo shopped kind where photogenic women wear designer Wellingtons which will never come into contact with mud. Where floors and sofas are free from signs of wear and tear and dog hair and where children are only in evidence by their hand crafted wooden toys and not as in my case by PS3 controllers, last nights empty juice glass and odd socks. Where cats in their generosity leave dead mice on the carpet as gifts and the French windows have a tide mark of dogs nose prints at Labrador height. This is real country life mud, dirt, mess and all, this is home and where better to spend Christmas than here.
Christmas is coming and I am glad to be here!