A Yuletide to remember

Well, that is it. Christmas is now over for another year. From what I see and read the shops are very busy and the roads appalling! Here at the country house, things are still relatively quiet and thankfully free of snow and ice. we have all had a jolly good time of it. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is one the best Christmases I have had for quite some time. I have spent the past few days with some of the people closest to me which have made it rather special. And after all, that is what Christmas is supposed to be about. I know that some people get a little too caught up in the whole gift thing, but for us this year it has all been about the company and friendship.

The surprising thing is just how quickly the time has passed by. I can hardly believe it is Thursday already. When you look at it we spend days, weeks even, preparing for the one day and it is over before you know it. All that food, the presents and anticipation pile up, just to disappear almost in a flash.

Dorothy took on the role of hostess and, with the help of Angela and Aunt Murdock, served up the most amazing Christmas dinner. I knew she was a good cook, having had the pleasure of eating several of her meals over the past few months, but Monday’s spread was something quite different from the suppers we have shared in Kensington. It goes without saying that we all ate and drank far too much and spent most of the afternoon and evening immobile in the sitting room. Even Dorchester seemed to forget his troubles and really seemed to enjoy himself.

I was delighted when Anne joined us on Boxing Day. Her children had been picked up by their father to spend a few days with him, leaving her free to join us. I must say that she was a very welcome addition to the party and she made a particular impression on Aunt Murdock who seemed quite drawn to her. More than once I saw them deep in conversation. I only hope it was about colour schemes rather than romantic ones! Anne herself seemed happy to chat with the old Mad Duck so I was happy to leave them to it.

But Aunt Murdock wasn’t the only one to take an interest in Anne. I have often been told that I am not very good at picking up on other people’s feelings or thoughts, but even I had noticed that dear old Dorchester has been paying Anne a great deal of attention this week. I think that he is really taken with Anne and I could not have been more pleased.

Things were going swimmingly until Wednesday afternoon until the arrival of my old school chum Simon. I am not sure what possessed me to invite him down here and I am only grateful that he didn’t arrive any sooner. At school Simon was a bit of a loose cannon at times and as an adult has gained quite a reputation for his drinking and womanising. I had obviously had a little too much to drink myself when I invited him.

Anyway, almost as soon as he arrived I noticed that Simon was paying particular attention to Anne who was still with us. In fact, she had been with us almost permanently since Tuesday. I had suggested she stay over for the next few days, but she decided against it as there seemed to be a large enough party as it was. Which was probably just as well as Simon’s attention did not seem to go down to well with her. Not that this seemed to deter him at all, even when she made a point of staying close to Dorchester. It seems that Simon is rather more thick-skinned than I had realised and even after it was made very clear to him that Anne was not interested, the only thing that seemed to distract him was Hope’s arrival in the early evening.

Hope had decided to accept my invitation to stay with us for a couple of days. I was particularly pleased that she brought Charlotte with her but disappointed that her elder daughter, Emily, had chosen to return to her home up north. I had thought this would have been an ideal opportunity to met her at last. But anyway, it was good to have Hope and Charlotte with us.

No sooner had Hope and Charlotte divested themselves of their luggage and coats than the old rogue virtually pounced on the poor pair. I am pleased to say that Charlotte gave him very short shrift, sending him away with the veritable flea in his ear. She may be only seventeen, but she is already quite a formidable young lady and is obviously more than a match for the likes of Simon Fullerton.

Yesterday morning, however, saw Simon return to form and even before we had finished breakfast he was making eyes at Hope. I must say that I found his manner most disagreeable and felt compelled to say something to stop him upsetting my guests. But before I had an opportunity to formulate any kind of plan I noticed that far from being annoyed by Simon’s attentions, Hope seemed to be encouraging him. At one point during the meal, I saw her place her hand on his arm as she laughed at something he had said. Seated beside her mother, Charlotte looked as surprised as I was by this turn of events.

In fact, Hope and Simon remained thick as thieves for the rest of the morning. I could see both Charlotte and Aunt Murdock were not happy about their closeness and made no attempt to hide their feelings. I can’t explain why, but seeing Hope with Simon made me quite angry.

 

The afternoon and evening were rather taken up with playing host to a number of the local families who I had invited for drinks and nibbles. I was kept fairly busy so had little time to ponder on this odd turn of events, but I was a little distracted non-the-less.

The biggest disappointment was when, late on Thursday evening, Hope announced that she would be returning to London on Friday morning with Simon. He had offered her a ride as he was joining friends in town for the New Year and she had already stated that she needed to return to work in the gallery to ready it for a New Year exhibition. I had hoped that she would return with Dorothy, Angela and myself on Saturday morning, although to be fair to both of them, I had not actually asked her as yet, so I can’t really blame her for accepting the offer.

I know that Hope is a grown woman and make her own decisions, but one can’t help feeling protective when one’s close friends are quite obviously making the wrong decisions with regards to their relationships. Simon is a great conversationalist and has added a brighter dimension to our little gathering, but his reputation with the ladies worries me. The way he switched his attention from Anne to Hope is an indication of just how fickle his feelings are. Charlotte is obviously taken in by his charms and I can only hope that she has some influence on her mother, particularly as I believe he has already invited her to join him for the New Year celebrations. I was going to ask Hope and Charlotte to join me for a little New Year soiree being organised by my chum Cambridge, but it seems this may not be possible now.

Charlotte and Hope set off for London with Simon a little before midday and I got the distinct impression that Charlotte was not too happy about the arrangement. I did suggest that she might like to stay another day but she said she felt she ought to stay with her mother, particularly as they had so much work to do at the gallery. I have to admit that I felt a little relief that she would be there as her presence may prevent Simon from making any undue advances on her mother.

We have a small party arranged for this evening but I have to say that at the moment I am not really in the party mood. On the whole, it has been a jolly good Christmas, just slightly marred by Hope’s early departure from our little company. But however the rest of the day progresses, it can not distract from the fact that this has been a very special holiday for me. Aunt Murdock has been uncharacteristically quiet, but that is hardly surprising – she is not getting any younger and it has been a particularly busy year for her. Dorchester seems have got over the loss of Annabelle thanks to the help of Anne who does seem rather taken with him. Dorothy has been in her element acting as hostess and cook and even I can see just how close she and Angela have become. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they decide to live together come the new year. My only concern there would be that Angela’s flat is much too far from the city for my liking.

When not cosying up to Sara, Nigel has spent a great deal of time working on some new business plan. I am worried that he works too hard sometimes, but he assures me he is fine and that his plans should mean he can give up working for the bank and instead be his own boss. I can’t deny that the idea of his making his own way makes me very proud and I have already offered him whatever support he needs.

For now, I must go and prepare for this evening’s little “do” and for our return to London tomorrow. Nigel is staying behind to spend the new year at the house, but the rest of us should be back home in time for lunch.

Another unwanted American import

black-friday-shoppers1Anyone reading my journal might be forgiven for thinking I have become obsessed with the Americans. I haven’t. But they do have an annoying habit of sneaking through one’s defences and getting under the skin. I think I have made my feelings about the crackpot President quite plain, and I have no time for their loud, in your face attitude or their belief that money can buy anything.

Of the many things that annoy me about our cousins across the pond, the one that I find the most unforgivable is their propensity for exporting their more inane ideas. And this week we saw probably the worst of the American imports, Black Friday. To me, this one event symbolises all that is wrong with the American culture, if there is such a thing, particularly as it follows immediately after Thanksgiving. The idea behind the Thanksgiving celebration is not new, events to mark the harvest and the good fortunes of the preceding year have been celebrated throughout the world for millenia. I have nothing against this idea and am happy to see our cousins come together in harmony and celebrate their good fortune. But to then follow this inspiring event with the most flagrantly consumerist binge is almost obscene. The founding Pilgrims would be turning in their graves if they could see what their ancestors had done to their original celebration of good fortune.

I should point out that I have no problem with what the American’s chose to do on their own soil. If they want to celebrate the excesses of consumerism as if it were some kind of religion, then they can do, just so long as it stays on their side of the pond. The trouble starts when these blatantly consumerist ideas start trickling over here, contaminating our British values of reserve and moderation. The images and stories one sees in the newspapers are quite frightening. People fighting over a new television or item of clothing is quite obscene and very un-British. Once again we find ourselves imitating the worst behaviour of our American cousins. Yes, I have read the headlines about the boost to the country’s economy, but at what cost?  It is by these small acts that we begin to lose our identity. Do we really want to become a mirror image of the United States?

It wouldn’t surprise me to find that within a year or two we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Not that I have anything against the thing itself, so long as it stays on the right side of the Atlantic. After all, we have already had rock and roll, Black Friday, school proms and baby showers. What next? I ask myself.

And what about all that Trick or Treating we saw last month? Whilst I have never been a fan of Haloween itself, at least when I was a child it was just about bobbing apples and maybe a bit of dressing up and a scary movie or two. Now it is all about greed. Haloween has become big business and just another excuse for excess and spending. And anyway, Haloween is one of those strange days that we really shouldn’t be celebrating at all. All Hallows Eve is a pagan celebration that has no place in a Christian society and the commercialisation of it makes the whole thing even worse.

Not that we are directly affected. It is one of the benefits of living where I do that casual visitors can’t get to us. But I know from what I have heard from others that these trick-or-treaters are a real nuisance, knocking on the door and demanding sweets with menaces! It is a typically American idea and one that we could well do without.

But getting back to imports from America, it is not only celebrations and commercialism that we had adopted. Our TV screens are filled with shows imported from the USA, our language has been infiltrated, and American-styled fast foods dominate our high street. There are some imports we really do not need, and the American culture is by far the most noticeable.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some kind of stigma attached to having a pride in being British. Well, as far I am concerned, I am British and proud of it. I am not some new-fangled, gender-neutral citizen of some imagined a global state. I am British and proud of it. Let the American’s keep their inane consumerist celebrations, we don’t need them and should not be expected to follow them.