The twelve days of festivities are almost over; we’ve all put on an extra layer of insulating fat, and the Lord of Misrule is about to be de-throned, with the return of business as usual on Plough Monday.
I’ve had a gloriously extended Christmas, culminating in a week visiting friends on their farm in Brittany; one of those parts of France that seems a bit darker and more ancient than sparkling Paris or the sophisticated, sun-drenched south. It was a great place to spend the turning of the year. We played with the children, fed the chickens, split logs for the wood burner, tramped long and muddy walks through the woods and meadows beside the swollen river Aven.
We ate our way through stacks of fresh farm produce, from eggs to turkeys, culminating in an enormous feast on New Year’s Eve, with the house a joyful cacophony of French and English voices as the neighbours joined us for a riotous party. Richly-spiced roast lamb, washed down with excellent wine, was on the menu. So were English party games like Squeak Piggy Squeak, pass the orange and the spoon race. Let’s just say the neighbours were good sports, if somewhat
baffled by the oddities of the English. We all joined in a grand conga around the farmyard at midnight, after an increasingly competitive Gangnam Style dance-off.
On New Year’s Day itself, we gazed at the sunshine like people emerging from long captivity, and took our kites to the beach at Pointe du Trevignon, where I narrowly avoided decapitating strangers with my brand new stunt kite. It was windy, is all I’m saying.
A day later, we packed up the car and waved goodbye. One final treat – we’d booked a night in a tiny hotel in St Malo before getting the ferry home. Surprisingly, we discovered it was not just a bar downstairs, but a micro-brewery, so we enjoyed some Le Port Malo beer before exploring the town with dinner in mind.
We found room for oysters, moules frites and crepes, our appetites whetted by a brisk walk around the ramparts of this lovely old town. The views across the sea, with waves crashing against the walls, were spectacular, even in the dark. In
the pre-dawn, dark morning, we watched the light-spangled Pont Aven ferry dock, from the same city walls, then squeezed in a delicious breakfast of hot chocolate, yoghurt, compote and croissants before boarding for the trip home to Portsmouth.
I’m dwelling on the food, as well as the company and the fun, because I like the atavistic feeling of feasting in mid-winter; the sense of storing up good things to get us through the long, dark months ahead. I’m storing rich, warm memories, as well as calories. This feels necessary, this year especially, when I know that the Gentleman Caller will be heading back to Lowestoft and I’ll be back to the office in London. It’s a long haul from here until the Spring.