27 December 2011


I read a borrowed 1950's Penguin paperback copy of 'The Blessing' by Nancy Mitford on my bus journey back home for Christmas. Towards the end a glamorous, powdered, female French aristocrat throws a party in Paris. The theme is famous parents and famous children, with guests having to bring along a trussed up son, daughter, neice or nephew. Never before had children been at such a premium...legal adoptions were hurried through at a rate never previously known in the department of the Seine.

The party becomes the talk of the town, and the upper crust turns up fully kitted out. Very soon the famous parents dumped their famous offspring at the buffet and left them there while they went off to dance, flirt, gamble, or gossip with other famous parents. The children happily stuffed away with cream and cake and champagne, all of which very soon combined with the lateness of the hour to produce a drowsy numbness. Every available sofa, chair, and settee now bore its load of sleeping babies; they lay on the floor round the edges of the rooms, under the buffet, and behind the window curtains. The grown-ups, all set for jolly evening, waltzed carelessly among their bodies. The party doesn't end until 6am.

Ingleside doesn't have parties like that (well, only on very special occasions...) but it does have ALL the food, ALL the booze, and all the waterfalls on very rainy, very beautiful Christmas day walks. A brother and I had been to pick up the meat from the butchers. SO MUCH MEAT. We had a sword fight with the obscene sausagemeat batons, and dripped blood all over the table. I didn't get the meat sweats as I am a vegetarian, but I did get the rich trimmings sweats. And the red wine sweats. Dad went on a booze cruise (in his car to Majestic Wine) so we will be able to deck out a whole Cathedral with stunning wine and champagne stained windows using the shattered glass of our empty bottles. These tasty panes may even keep the howling winds out. As we sang the nine lessons in carols inside our ancient Abbey on Christmas Eve we heard the winter weather circling the towers, haunting the rafters, heralding the onslaught of chocolate coin showers, epic cooked breakfasts, and sweet mullings of spiced alcohol.

The most hilarious present of Christmas day was a tile bearing the legend 'Home is where the heart is!' - the exclamation mark is the best bit. Perfect to hang above Ingleside's Aga. And I have my new Angel of the North mug to take down South, reminding me of my roots, cheering me with his open wings, looking like a big old dirty flasher. I love Geordies. I am the only true one in my family, having been born in Newcastle. Aye man. But instead of drinking Newcastle Brown, I'm drinking raspberry beer and reading new poetry from Alice Oswald. She writes of dead heroes in her version of The Iliad, and she is my heroine. Her book is the colour of Christmas - bright red, with 'Memorial' picked out in green. I'm so greedy for her words. And greedy for enargeia. Ancient critics praised The Iliad for its enargeia, which translates as 'bright unbearable reality'. This version, trying to retrieve the poem's enargeia, takes away its narrative, as you might lift the roof off a church in order to remember what you're worshipping.

1 comment:

Ma said...

Lovely photos...