At Tyrannell we cut a tree from the grounds and bring it in shortly before Christmas. We decorate it on Christmas Eve and it stays in the Hall for the entire twelve days. The youngest child in the House that day hangs the star on the top; Lucy is the Artistic Director and makes sure that the garland is beautiful, all the rooms are decked with holly and that the tree itself is the best yet.
All our decorations tell stories: the ‘Heavenly Host’, a group of tiny wooden angels playing instruments, is from my childhood and always hangs as a group; there is a stained glass window made by one of the children at school; my pupils often give me a bauble as a present, and Lucy has started a tradition of buying one each year, on an animal theme. We had a knitted squirrel and a penguin in a scarf this time although my favourite is the felt robin from a couple of seasons back.
New Year’s Eve is a party day. A long while back I read an article which proposed a party theme called ‘Desert Island Dishes’. The idea is that each guest chooses their all time favourite food and/or drink and the host arranges these, in a pleasing order, to be served each hour in little portions, starting t twelve noon and finishing, with Champagne (of course) at twelve midnight.
Here is the 2013 menu: –
Twelfth Night sees the decorations all taken down and the tree is unsentimentally consigned to the fire. This is also the signal to get things moving again in the potager.
My first task is to sow tomato seeds in the propagator. Within a week they have germinated and this makes me feel that life is returning. A week later I take the overwintered broad beans from the greenhouse out to the bed to join those sown under cloches in situ; a little shorter than the indoor ones but good, sturdy plants. Next I skim a layer from two pumpkin beds and load in fresh kitchen waste collected over Christmas in a bin. This is a wonderful way that I discovered last year to make bean and marrow beds both rich and moisture retaining. I net my pride and joy – five fine plants of purple sprouting broccoli – against hungry, marauding pigeons. I lost them last year and intend to win the fight this time.
Life in the garden is on the move again. The days are lengthening and there is more light. A little more warmth and I shall feel that we have survived another winter in Mid-Wales.