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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Yuletide

Saturday 17th December

The Festive Season started in the afternoon on arrival at the house of my gorgeous sister Jill at Poytnon, Cheshire. After a visit to mother in a nearby residential home, and a little seasonal shopping, I joined Jill and my neices Jenny and Jemima together with nephew Joe and girlfriend Kerry, to exchange presents (other nephew Jack and wife Miki are in Japan). We had a meal of of Jenny's Tai soup (I courteusly tried to quietly swallow the spongy toffu without it touching my taste buds) followed by a more substantial turkey chunks with roast vegetables. All were washed down with champagne, red wine and malt whisky.

Sunday 18th December

I arrived in icy Cumbria mid-morning and obtained more Yule Fayre at the excellent (but not the cheapest) Booths supermarket in Ulverston. The afternoon was spent warming the house and preparing for the arrival of former student, Maalie Courtier, long-time friend and décor advisor Carolyn Lorraine. Upon arrival she immediately set to decorating the Christmas tree and "tidying up" any conceivable article that was not of urgent practical importance, whilst I prepared lobster bisque and a lasagne for dinner.
Carolyn takes a break from decorating the Christmas tree


After dinner the Yultide hamper provided by Alun and Trudy was unpacked, revealing an astonishing array of fayre from Madeira wine to maple syrup, anchovy relish to Christmas pudding.
Supper comprised freshly brewed rich roast Christmas coffee supported by a selection of chocolate liqueurs discovered in the Yule hamper.

Monday 19 December

A lazy start to the day with a breakfast of Champagne, smoked salmon, Philadelphia cheese, lemon, strawberries, green and red grapes and more Christmas coffee. And another chocolate liqueur (or two. Ooops!). This was to celebrate Carolyn's very recent qualification as a Chartered Biologist and election as a Member of the Institute of Biology (C.Biol & M.I.Biol.) to add to her Hons BSc.

The morning passed filling some local bird feeders and walks to the post office. After lunch I was beguiled by Carolyn to take her for "a bit of shopping for some bits and bobs" in Barrow. Health warning: don't ever go shopping with Carolyn Lorraine without consulting your financial advisor for a risk assessment! I'd thought we'd finished with a Tesco's trolly containing melon, asparagus, gravey granules, white wine, Leffe, sausage meat, pork pies, chicken drumsticks and even a herring for fishing bait. But Oh no! It was off down to M & S for browsing through the lingerie section for half an hour. Ho hum. But back in Maalie Court a mug of mulled wine each soon banished memories of the agonies of shopping.

The taste of mulled wine inspired a craving for mince pies and so it was off to the kitchen, pastry out of the freezer and a dozen pies (also sausage rolls) were ready within the hour. Dinner commenced with melon au porto (except the active ingredient happened to be Madeira) followed by feuilles de canard à tangérine (duck breast sliced laterally to look like leaves) and a selection of vegetables.

Relaxing by candle light to Mandolin Rain and carols, the hamper was once again raided for pistachios, biscuits for cheese, after-dinner mints, all washed down with Christmas coffee with squirty cream on top. Oh yes, there was another chocolate liqueur (or three).

Tuesday 20 December

Today was the annual English Nature Volunteers (Cumbria Team) festive scrub-clearing and barbecue at Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve near Silverdale. The clippings from the clearing activity were excellent fuel for the bonfire which cooked chicken, potatoes and warmed garlic bread to supplement sausage rolls and mince pies. All were washed down with a warming punch brewed by the site manager Rob Petley-Jones.

English Nature Cumbria Team volunteer wardens. Manager Rob has the festive hat.

Carolyn used the time for more shopping in Barrow, returning with a bag of clothes for inspection. We decked the rooms with boughs of holly, before embarking on a stroll through Askam to admire folk's Christmas lights and decorations which rival Blackpool illuminations. Target was the London Pub in Duddon Street for a drink and a game of dominoes. Dinner was the remains of Sunday's lasagne followed by warm mince pies with squirty cream.

Wednesday 21st December - the Winter Solstice!

A Happy Winter Solstice to all my readers. May the strengthening of the sun's rays warm you and bring fertility to your gardens, and anything else you have in mind.

After a late (11.00am) breakfast of porridge with golden syrup and squirty cream on top, Carolyn zoomed off to the Midlands in her swish sports coupé - via Barrow to exchange a new pair of jeans that I agreed made her bum look big. Well, what was I supposed to do - tell lies?
The next hour was spent hunting for those little essentials of male existance that she had "tidied up" - and I still can't find my albatross skull. Then it was time to pack away the Baileys and the Archers and the Tia Maria and white wine, and bring out the McEwan's Export, Famous Grouse and Côtes du Rhône. Went into Barrow to do some proper shopping and bought a new pair of wellington boots.

The evening was spent at Max and Sheilagh Scattergood's party on Walney Island with a gathering of "birdy" people. Max is a retired army chef and has actually catered for Her Majesty the Queen during her various visits to H.M. Forces bases overseas. So the buffet was something really special with a whole salmon, boned chicken, loads of various salads, seafood etc. My favourite was the roast ham, the glazing was exquisite!

Thursday 22 December

I was kindly invited to stay overnight at Max's and first thing after breakfast I dashed down to the Observatory to drop something off, then straight up to Muncaster Castle World Owl Trust to do a little ringing around the feeders with trainee Jenny Holden. We ringed a nice selection of 31 birds, mostly Blue Tits. It happend to be the Owl Trust's office Yuletide nibbles party and I was invited to join the staff there. So two parties in two days is excellent going!
Back home, thawed out the frozen pastry and made a pigeon pie. Yum!

Friday 23 December

Up at 7.00 to go bird ringing. Finished up the squirty cream on my porridge (Wah!) and exchanged a couple of text messages with Simon, my mate in Australia. Ringed at Roudsea Wood and caught about 70 birds including Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker and 3 marsh Tits, my study species. Finished the pigeon pie for lunch.

Saturday 24 December Christmas Eve

In response to concerns expressed about my diet, I was up early and at Booths in Ulverston by 8.30am to buy salad materials. These were supported by a replacement tin of squirty cream (just in case), tin of golden syrup (for porridge) and frozen pastry (just in case). Is was a lovely clear morning with skeins of hundreds of Pink-footed Geese appearing out of the sunrise headingoverhead north to the Solway.

Then on to Ellerside Moss where the pale winter sun was struggling to lift the morning mist from the bog. Back at Askam I commenced my annual Ancient Yuletide Custom and Practice: the festive digging of lugworms in the Duddon Sands for fishing tomorrow morning. An hour in gorgeous clear sunshine produced sufficient for my needs, the worms are now cool in my fridge somewhere between the Stilton and the ham.

The afternoon passed topping up local bird feeders then a blitz in the kitchen to make final batches of Welshcakes, mince pies, sausage rolls and some thick leek and potato soup with the stock from the pheasant pie. Dishes done, lit a galaxy of candles and listened to the complete Handel's Messiah on CD to complete the Yule atmosphere. It simply reamains to sort out the fishing tackle for the morn.

Sunday 25 December Christmas Day

My alarm went off at 4.00am and I was fishing at the end of Askam pier by 4.50 on a clear calm frosty morning. Not a single bite, but the calls of wading birds and waterfowl over the estuary was an evocative start to Christmas Day. Squeaking within the crevices of the pier turned out to be rats, no doubt attracted to the smell of my flask of glogg (mulled wine with rum). I abondoned the pursuit of fish at high tide and was back in the house before the first grey streak of dawn (though I did hear the local cock crow thrice), seriously wondering whether this particular Yuletide Custom and Practice was sufficiently rewarding to become Ancient.

Breakfast:
Sausage rolls, Mince pies, Welshcakes, Coffee with rum and extra squirty cream

Dinner

Apéritif: Byrrh; Katherine Jenkins

Home made leek and potato soup with pheasant stock with fried wholemeal bread croutons;
Ensalada mixta with marinated Spanish Queen olives and fillet of Thai spiced mackerel;
Côtes du Rhône: Cellier des Dauphines Millésime 2004;
Roast hen pheasant with asparagus and assorted seasonal vegetables and Oxo dressing;
Luxury Christmas pudding flambé avec Famous Grouse topped with fresh whipped cream;
Madeira;
Stilton with savoury biscuits;
Dates, nuts, fruit, sweets and assorted comfits;
Iced Mocha Cappuccino.

Digestif: Coñac de Puerto de Santa Maria; Darcey Bussell; Billie Piper

6 Comments:

Blogger simon said...

Well, Merry Christmas to all.

My son David and I did a walk into the Blue Mountains National Park and saw a variety of lizards (bearded dragons, skinks & red bellied black snake) as well as a good look at a Lyre bird, brown thornbill, and little thornbill.

The walk was varied:- tall exposed cliffs, deep rainforest and open timber. Dropping into Mt Victoria creek, we had a swim and some lunch before the long climb out.

12:39 am  
Blogger carwynfowler said...

K is slightly worried about your calorific content.

You will also see that I have adopted your 'to be continued' device on my latest update...

11:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HAPPY CHRISTMAS DARBS!

With love from
Worzel & Strudles
xxx

9:18 am  
Blogger simon said...

Carwyn, Worzel, & Jim!

Happy New Year!!!!!.. Jim the diet looks just right to me ;o)

7:32 am  
Blogger simon said...

Jim I appreciate you honesty regarding jeans and fashion comments...

7:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this on a sunny May day, I can't but keep wondering whether all those Christmas meals have been digested by now. As far as I am concerned, I won't need any dinner today, the crumbs left over from your table were plenty. *where is a bottle of eaux-de-vie or other digestive when you need one?*

12:13 pm  

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