A Christmas update

It is Boxing Day in the UK and St Stephen’s Day here in Ireland and the first round of festivities is behind us.  We had a lovely day – quiet, warm and very restful.  This is mainly because we planned carefully and managed to get everything done early, something I can heartily recommend if you can manage it.  I realise this may be a counsel of perfection for many, especially those with big families but the pay-off is tremendous.

Beautiful but very cold wood

We were a bit pushed this year, partly due to the elements.  Like most of you we found the weather turned cold, then colder, then ridiculously cold in the last few weeks.  It was so cold our water froze up. Not the new pipes that are nestled in the relative warmth of the Majestic.  No, the few remaining original pipes buried underground froze.  For three days we were without any water and I spent several interesting hours scraping the hoar-frost off walls and buildings to put into the toilet tank. You don’t realise how important something as basic as water is until it’s gone.  We now have a water butt from the roof for general water. We will lay in a stash of drinking water for the future. Every day is a school day here.

We were planning our writers’ group dinner and it looked as though we would have to cancel but the thaw came just in time. Luckily there were no burst pipes on our side of the system. It was a small but very happy gathering that we all enjoyed, including the dogs who revel in company.  Jacqui had prepared a wonderful selection of food, termed “Mezapas”, a combination of mezedes and tapas.  It was the first time we’ve entertained in the house, due to Covid and Jacqui’s health and it went off splendidly.  We might try it again sometime next year…

A Liquorice Hamper

Although we’ve not had any strikes over here we have been affected by them too. Post from the UK has almost ground to a halt the past few weeks.  This affects items going in both directions so some of you may not have received a card from us yet and some items we ordered weeks ago have still not arrived.  Despite this we had a very happy day with a range of gifts for each other.  I don’t eat much chocolate but do have a weakness for selection boxes.  This year they were in short supply so Jacqui bought four-packs of the most common items and wrapped them up in a home-made jigsaw board. Oh yes – sugar rush for me!

Jacqui loves Henry Goode’s Liquorice, which you can only find in the chemist for some reason.  I tried to buy a box of it but the wonderful staff decided that was far too scruffy.  Instead they used a make-up hamper and filled it with silver glitter straw and ten bags of liquorice, wrapping it all up in gift paper complete with little rosettes.  Now there’s a selection box for you!

Our Christmas Day was enlivened by our dining room roof leaking – again – just as we were getting ready to eat.  This has been a regular problem when there is heavy rain from one particular direction.  We were told it was fixed before we moved in. We’ve had at least three workmen who promised to come and see to it but so far nothing has been done.  It’s getting worse each time so we will have to make it a priority in the New Year.

A Community Library

One disadvantage in living so far out in the countryside is the lack of any sort of facilities.  With houses and farms stretched over several kilometres there can be little sense of community but still people will find a way to make life better for one another.  In the depths of the big freeze there was a knock on our door.  It was a neighbour, Noreen, with her dog Brandy.  She lives over a kilometre away but often walks along the road on her days off.  She was just checking we were okay and didn’t need any help.  We were so touched and felt reassured someone was thinking of us with kindness.   

Driving around the small roads of the area I spotted another sign of community.  Opposite one of the isolated houses was a big wooden box on a pole.  For a moment I thought it was a shrine to an accident victim, a common sight in Greece.  We stopped and I went over to investigate, finding it was a library box.  All of the books are donated, not officially part of the library system.  This box was a way of sharing books of every type with neighbours and friends. There are official libraries but they are far apart up here and often only open part-time.  The service is excellent however with activities for the whole community, computer access and an inter-library loan scheme covering the whole country.

What is this bird?

I leave you with another ornithological puzzle.  When the frost melted away I saw several mid-sized brown birds picking their way across the back field.  Might they be partridges do you think?  They were utterly fearless, ignoring me as I photographed through the fence.

The St Stephen’s Day Rainbow

So, a happy (Boxing) St Stephen’s Day to you all.  This morning we were treated to a magnificent rainbow stretching from the fairy fort to our wood. An omen of better times ahead I hope. 

May the next year bring you peace and happiness and thank you all for reading.