Joys of Christmas present

The tree is ready for dressing . . . when the time comes, we’ll move it from the jammed-in corner and centre it a bit. The star will point the way to Bethlehem, and we’ll figure out a proper angel, or perhaps a stand-in, for the peak. The stories will be told and re-told: religious, secular, family, friends, animals, food. The list of stories is pretty much endless, and as life goes on we keep adding to it. But for now, we’re in Christmas present.

So this is our last Christmas here on the high fellside. The decks are pretty much cleared, and I’ve straightened up the holly bushes beside the hot tub. The track is still frozen, hard as iron, but our little Fiat Panda skitters up like a running deer. It’s bleak, Jim, but not as we’ve known it. We got an e-Christmas card yesterday evening from dear friends in Dorset, linking to a YouTube video of The Lost Sound Dartmoor Singers and their rendition of The Holly and The Ivy. Such a lovely sound, and the secularisation of the words felt fine too. Stories seem to have a life of their own, and we pickle them in aspic at our peril.

I wonder what new additions we’ll make to the tales we’ll tell. Our daughter reminds me that I’ve related an anecdote three times now Dad, your mind is wandering! Where would we be without family to keep us grounded, eh?! But if we try to stay in the present, to enjoy each experience as it comes, without bringing too much of the baggage of the past, nor packing away too much for the future, then all foibles and frailties might be forgiven.

And this season is definitely a forgiving time, even though the weather and the icy track are still closing in on real bleak. A dramatic thaw is predicted for tomorrow. Meanwhile, bring on the hot soup, coffee and mince pies, crackers and cheese and music around the fire. We’ll create new stories that our grandchildren may one day tell theirs.

Today we celebrate our own advent: the beginning of a month of transition. We’re welcoming again the shepherds who will live here, showing them some of the ropes of life in this place. And we, like the Magi of old, will find our life materialising anew in the village we’re growing quite fond of.

For now, it’s the Christmas season to love and to enjoy.

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