So December is finally here and now we can legitimately get into Christmas mode!
On Tuesday, the first day of the month, we officially hung up the Advent tree on a door in the kitchen and filled its pockets with chocolates so that we can act like children each morning. I’d say it would be a good test of my will power except that I’m ashamed to admit it’s a test I’ve already failed!
The Christmas mood continued at my singing group in the evening, where we spent ninety minutes slowly murdering three pieces that we’ll be singing at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in a few weeks. The music is fairly straightforward apart from the song that’s in English, which has three parts convoluted enough to defeat the best of us; unfortunately although the music of the other two is easy enough, one is in Latin and the other, God help us, is in Polish. A challenge, shall we say?
Talking of languages, on Wednesday I drove through heavy rain to my Welsh class in Brecon. A good class this week – there was carrot cake, or teisen moron if you will. I actually feel as though I’m beginning to get somewhere with Welsh, though no doubt I’ll be brought up sharply if I find myself having to have a real conversation with someone. I’ll be like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights. The thing is that Welsh is unlike any other language I’ve ever dabbled in. French (more years ago than I care to remember) is very much like English in terms of the way that sentences are formed, as is Serbo-Croat (don’t ask) and even German to a certain extent. And when German does go off piste at least it does so in a logical and entirely predictable way (once you’ve learned the rules). Welsh, however, is out there on its own. It’s full of idioms and archaic metaphors, the rules are convoluted (and there are dozens of exceptions), and the pronunciation is probably the easiest aspect of it. Mind you, I can’t help wondering if the other Celtic languages are just as bizarre.
I was browsing through my book of Welsh verbs (I know, I’m an anorak) and came across this one: llocio It means to pen sheep. Don’t you have to love a language that has a special verb to describe penning sheep?
Thursday raised the Christmas prep to a whole new level. For one thing some friends arrived for an overnight stay and to indulge in the sort of treat that only comes along on birthdays or Christmas, we went to have lunch in the Walnut Tree in Llanddewi Skirrid. Which was completely gorgeous and I won’t bore you with the details of everything we ate except to say that the Walnut, Rum and Apricot trifle with caramel shards scattered on the top was heavenly. We got home at about four and lay around like bloated lumps for two hours before hauling on boots and waterproofs (ha!) and trekking along pitch-black, muddy paths to the main event: Crickhowell Christmas Market.
You have to hand it to the residents and traders of Crickhowell, they don’t let a little bad weather get in the way of their fun. There were several hundred people roaming the High Street, shuffling through puddles and peering at small but perfectly formed works of arts & crafts through the streams of rainwater running down their faces.Crickhowell in a break from the rain!
The shops were all open late and offering mince pies and other treats; there was bellringing in the church and storytelling in the library. We trudged up the hill behind dozens of schoolchildren carrying torches (who’d been singing (!) in the rain) and past a van selling the somewhat weird combination of curry and mulled wine. I think you could buy one without the other but on an evening like that, why not go for everything that might keep you warm?
So well done, Crickhowell! We didn’t stay long but waddled back home in our waterlogged trousers. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wet unless a bathroom or swimming pool was involved. But the house was warm and lunch was a long way behind us, so we could really appreciate tucking ourselves up on the sofas and enjoying some crispy bread with cheese and fruit. To say nothing of a few glasses of wine!
The rain went on for most of the night. Apparently we’re being assaulted by Storm Desmond, which is the most ridiculous name. I don’t quite understand why we are giving names to every bout of bad weather we’re getting but if we’re going to do it shouldn’t the name be more…well…vicious sounding? Even names for the most destructive tornadoes and tropical storms are completely unsuited – who could forget Hurricane Katrina, for instance? A charming name for a catastrophic event. Apart from which, this is Britain in the winter. Heavy rain and winds aren’t unusual enough to warrant special attention are they? And if we’re going to name every fresh outbreak that dumps on us we’re going to run out of names pretty soon.
At this end of the Brecon Beacons we see the results of a terrific amount of rain higher up in the West, of course. The River Usk is flowing fast and high and even our local stream, usually no more than a two-metre wide gently babbling brook, is practically a raging torrent.
It stopped raining for a few hours today. That’s something that deserves to be noticed! And although the rain hasn’t started again the wind is gusting out there and is strong enough to have blown the garden bin over. I think I foresee a trip to the red room…