In contrast to last week, this week I have found myself somewhat lacking in festive cheer. I visited the mistletoe auction full of ideas and excitement, and despite bags and bags of beautiful mistletoe and holly, I left disappointed and empty handed.
The auctioneers had to sell over 1,500 wreaths before they got to any mistletoe lots, and the sight of all the wreaths laid out looked depressingly like a huge funeral. With my boy whimpering because of the cold, and some rather characterful/ shady customers hanging around, (the auctioneer told us to grab any lots we had bought otherwise they might vanish) we managed to rescue our truck from the bog that was the car-park and scarper.
We then went to the abattoir – brave vegetarian indeed – to pick up the tail feathers for my wreaths. Some may say I was naive, others completely foolish to think that this would be anything but disturbing for an animal lover and non-meat eater like myself. Well, the experience has scarred me – it took me about 3 days to get my appetite back. It was rather alarming to see the speed with which the pheasants were de-feathered, and, located in an isolated, dark shed it certainly made me feel rather uncomfortable. Fortunately the butcher was on hand to show me where the bags of feathers were – I was about to reach into a bin of carcasses thinking that this was what he had meant – luckily it wasn’t. So, back home, and with my gloves on, I held my breath and delved into the depths of the feathery bag in search of the elusive tail feathers which I had been assured would be in there. They weren’t. Beautiful, but for me useless.
So my morning was a disaster and I then had to lug the bag onto the bonfire and run away as fast as possible to avoid the acrid, singeing smoke pluming from the piles of feathers.
On a brighter note my husband and I attended the Harvest Supper held for everyone who lives or works on the estate. The two of us – so recently relocated from the glamour of London – mingled late into the freezing night with farmers, shepherds, gamekeepers and dairy milkers. It was a charming evening and despite being mercilessly teased for being a vegetarian – including being told save an animal – eat a vegetarian, we had a lovely evening eating, drinking and playing games. I even managed to win the marble game, which, given my usual lack of sporting prowess was rather remarkable. I also persuaded the lovely farm manager to let me help with the lambing, so come the depths of winter I will be out in some freezing barn in the middle of the night hopefully delivering my first little lambs. He has also agreed to me “the mad girl” adopting and bottle-feeding some of the orphaned lambs. Marvellous. I may also have persuaded him to let us use one of his fields for the donkeys I have been longing for, and a gamekeeper offered to bring us four chickens for our sadly still-empty chicken coop. Watch this space – we will have a smallholding in no time.
I have also spent some time decorating my husband’s tearooms and bakery in Ludlow, and having slightly over-egged the decorations it could explain why I have been reticent to get our own tree up and decorated, something I usually attack with fervour on the 1st December. A trip later this week to Cologne to visit the Christmas Markets should – with the help of several mugs of warming gluwein and a few flurries of snow – put me back on the right path and hopefully restore my love of all things Christmas…