Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I'm not going to do it. No, no, no. I said I was on holiday. I said no politics. It is all going to be season of goodwill and festive cheer. For the next few days, this blog is going to be the internet equivalent of mulled wine and mince pies. Or Christmas pudding, possibly, filled with plums and shiny sixpences.
So I am not going to say a word about old uncle Vince referring to himself as the nuclear option, or his declaration of war on Mr Rupert Murdoch, or the rumblings of the old right-wing backwoodsmen, or what Jeremy Hunt will do now he is in charge of the Sky deal. (I have a horrid fear that he has a secret war himself, on my beloved BBC, but I hope I am wrong about that.) No, not one word. Obviously, for political obsessives like me it is so interesting that it is like an early Christmas present, but for normal people it probably boils down to: older gentlemen says mildly disobliging things about his working arrangements to two people he has never met before. If I were going to say something about it, I might observe that The Telegraph is now going to be insufferable: secret undercover operatives PENETRATE the heart of the Coalition. But since I am not going to talk about it, I won't.
What I would like to talk about is silver eucalyptus. I am not a minimalist. I am most certainly of the more is more camp, although occasionally I rue the day. So I decided that one enchanting vase of eucalyptus was not nearly enough, and bent the Heavenly Stepfather to my will for another trip to the flower shop. (My car is immovable, under a foot of snow.) There was no more of the deep green stuff, but instead they had amazing silver foliage. At first, I thought it was artificial, sprayed by elves. But in fact it is an amazing natural silver. I cannot tell you how Christmassy it is. It is a little more expensive than the bog standard version, but for ten of my Scottish pounds I got a huge armful, and bore it away feeling like Nicole Diver after her glorious shopping expedition in Tender is the Night.
We had a lovely time in the village. We found the landlord, stocking up on whisky; I made friends with a very nice black labrador (cannot pass a sleek black dog without stopping); everyone was smiling and wishing each other happy Christmas. There is something very charming about a small village at this time of year.
I bought cocktail sausages and smoked salmon and mince pies, since I am giving a party tomorrow. Also: a nice Chilean cabernet and spices for mulled wine. You can see that I am letting no Christmas cliché go uncovered. I bought Madeira for the Christmas day gravy, and some deep red tulips, which I am having this year instead of roses.
I finished the chicken soup for my mother, and made some potato cakes, which I have not done for years, and which always remind me of my childhood. The sun came out and the thermometer rocketed up to minus eight, which feels quite balmy after yesterday's minus eleven. The relatives are miraculously starting to arrive, mostly by sleeper from Euston, since the A90 is fraught with snow and the airports are impossible.
I am still in a mild state of disorganisation, which is traditional at this stage, but for some reason I seem not to mind. That line from the jolly old yuletide song keeps repeating in my head: it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
Today's pictures are the usual snow/dog/hill melange, plus added tulips.
The hill, this morning, lost in the bright sky:
A little earlier, the sky had been quite apocalyptic:
Then it turned quite pale and clear:
The duchess went out for an inspection:
There was some posing:
There now follow far too many pictures of the silver eucalyptus, but it was so glorious that I could not just take one shot and be done with it:
The tulips I bought a few days ago, now getting into their blowsy stage, like an old Edwardian mistress, slightly past her prime but still wonderfully alluring:
Dog and tulips:
(There is something about that picture that makes a klaxon go off in my head at full blast: GORGEOUSNESS ALERT, SCRAMBLE, SCRAMBLE.)
I wanted to show you the pretty new tulips, but for some reason, I could not get them in focus, even though the house was filled with sunshine. My new camera is still slightly mysterious to me, and I am a bit of a klutz with it sometimes. Then I decided that in fact an imperfect, out of focus picture would serve as a perfect metaphor for this time of year. It is the moment when the perfection genies descend, not in single spies but in battalions. They especially like to torment the Women. Oh, they say, with their nasty insinuating voices: house must be perfect, tree must perfect, food must be perfect, presents must be perfect, hostessly skills must be perfect, clothes must be perfect, hair must be perfect. At which point, if they are anything like me, the ladies run screaming from the room.
Here is the point: absolutely none of it has to be perfect. It can be like my tulips: a bit blurry round the edges, but still lovely for all that -
PS. If you would like to see something interesting about the whole Vince Cable affair, the always brilliant Michael White has easily the most thoughtful and fine take on the whole thing here.