Blessings and Birch Trees

For three days now we have been suspended in a bubble of tranquility. Christmas woke us at a reasonable hour as Finley crept up the bed from the bottom, clutching his stocking and an extra pillow. As we had no gifts for each other, we were able to give our full attention to the moments as they passed before us, illuminated by fairy lights and steaming tea. 

We ate well, rootling in the fridge to create just what we fancied. Mashed celeriac with bright flecks of parsley, poached eggs with cadmium yolks, roast sirloin of Dexter, rare as you like, salty on the seared crust, sweet and buttery in the centre. We nibbled honey meringues scented with rose water, pear juice jelly pointed up with elderflower honey, scattered pomegranate seeds over a hot cinnamon beef salad and licked the butter from our fingers as we snaffled the last morsel of curly kale.

Never stuffed, no fussing, content to be eating such wonderful produce - delighted to cook it simply and eat it slowly. Nick made a velvety hollandaise sauce for a turbot that leapt into his arms at the fish market, he'd been meaning to make it for years and just never found the time. We savoured every bite, candles flickering, time meandering past unawares. Sighing with pleasure at a meal so perfectly unexpected and exactly right for Christmas eve.

Today we ventured out for a walk in Hook Woods, the home of a local architectural college. Tucked away in clearings are experimental imaginings worked in branches, a forest bar, complete with hooks for bags and a pole for lanterns, teepees finished with mud and leaves, tall lookout towers looking nowhere, just because. Fin was enchanted and chuntered away happily for the whole journey. He found us each a walking stick and then proceeded to explain how the form of the stick suited our characters - Nick's was brave and strong, mine was brave and feminine with a wobbly bit that he explained was for when I felt wobbly and needed comforting, his own stick was just right, straight and forked at the top for his finger to rest in. We took turns vaulting puddles until the wobbly bit of my stick broke off mid leap - Fin reassured me that this was a good omen, no more wobbles.

As the sun reached lower through the trees, casting long gold shadows over a carpet of bronze beech leaves, we came to a patch of firs, dense and dark green - a proper deep dark wood. We passed through with Fin holding my hand fast against the darkness and then right at the edge saw a lone silver birch. It shone brilliantly against those gloomy firs, bark as sheeny as bridal satin, burnished and leafless. I felt as though I had glimpsed a unicorn.

A few steps more and Fin hushed us, pointing urgently into the depths of the woods, 'Deer!' he stage whispered and we heard a rustle and saw twelve finely turned legs gallop into the dusk.

Yes we felt blessed, we feel blessed, we are blessed. Merry Christmas...

x x x