|Our revels now are ended...
||[Jan. 6th, 2013|10:37 pm]
As far as I'm concerned, tonight is Twelfth Night. I have heard a certain amount of discussion on this point over the last couple of weeks, and some of it was just silly, and some of it (valydiarosada, I'm looking at you) was very plausible. But as far as I'm concerned, tonight is Twelfth Night. All the guests have departed, all the turkey has been eaten, ghost stories have been told, the tree has been stripped of its finery. It's been a good Christmas: I feel that it's been quiet, and then I think of all the excitements and the comings and goings, and can't imagine why I feel it's been quiet - even-tempered, then, perhaps.
The tree, once it had been appeased by the sacrifice of blood, allowed itself to be wrangled into its stand, and stood in the window shining for the whole street to see and scenting the whole house with pine. I'd have preferred a tree that is smaller than I am, but size isn't everything.
On Christmas Eve durham_rambler collected the turkey we had ordered and discovered that our supplier's supplier had fewer small birds than promised, and would we mind having the next size up for the same price? So there was altogether more turkey than we had intended: we checked, before we said yes, that it would still fit in the oven, but there was only room for one shelf above it, and the vegetables had to be cooked in shifts.
On Christmas Day I decided to skip the traditional Christmas morning gathering in favour of last minute preparation for guests: stuffing the turkey, decorating the tree, washing the last of the blood from the floor... I was sorry not to go to the party, it's always fun and such a long established tradition that people we only see there once a year have become old friends; but not going to parties seems to have been one of my coping mechanisms this Christmas, and it has worked, leaving me more relaxed to enjoy my visitors. So by the time durham_rambler returned with house guests, we were able to peel the last of the vegetables and open our presents in a leisurely way. The turkey was good, if enormous, and Heston Blumenthal's Christmas pudding (crouching pudding, hidden orange) was nice enough, though it looked rather sinister when I turned it out onto the dish: the fruity pudding fell apart revealing the dome of candied orange inside (worth trying, but ultimately two good things that didn't benefit from being served together).
Our guests departed after a leisurely Boxing Day breakfast, and our next guests - weegoddess and J. didn't arrive until the following day, so we had time to breathe.
We all went to the Gala Theatre to see the pantomime, and had a wonderful time. It deserves a post to itself, and I started to write one but was overtaken by events: the short version is that although the story was - very approximately - Sleeping Beauty, it had been extensively reworked to support a quantity of traditional pantomime business and characters. So the Princess is brought up incognito by the Dame and her idiot son, the hundred years' sleep is threatened but never happens, so that the Prince and Princess can fall in love before the magical sleep and awakening (I was disappointed that Prince was played by a young man, but you can't have everything), and a number of changes were made to create space for Neil Armstrong's villainous wizard Scorchard (he's made a speciality of the pantomime villain, it says here) and rightly so: he was the best thing in the show. Rather like Alan Rickman in Robin Hood, Prince of Theives, he seems to be in a stronger, less insipid show than everyone else: the excitement rises a notch when he is on stage. He also gets the best costume - a flowing black coat hemmed with flames (which I coveted, and was sorry to see replaced in the second half - the show was lavish with costume changes). He has the evil laugh off pat, and is surrounded by a troupe of black-clad shock-headed minions of all sizes - and he gets a genuinely startling transformation himself, later on.
weegoddess and J. wanted to revisit old friends and old haunts. Sometimes we sent them out on their own, sometimes we accompanied them - for a Sunday roast lunch in the cloisers, for example, and a stroll around the cathedral as dusk was falling. And they brought gifts, four neatly wrapped thriftshop finds, all books, to be opened one on each evening of their stay.
They left us one New Year's Eve, and valydiarosada and D. arrived in time for dinner. I pot roasted (is that a verb?) a joint of venison, which was not only very tasty but also unexpectedly easy, and we lingered so long over dinner that it was no effort at all to stay up and see the new year in. There have been years when durham_rambler and I have thrown in the towel and left to D. and valydiarosada the chore of sitting up and drinking the champagne, but this year we were able to help, which made light work of it.
We all went to a New Year's Day party of the light conversation variety; we went out to lunch, to an Italian restaurant so new it doesn't yet have a website, or a phone number or any means of contact but calling in in person; we entertained to lunch, and fed our guests leftovers.
On Tenth Night we celebrated desperance's birthday with Phantoms at the Phil, at which Gail-Nina Anderson revisited one of the "ghost photographs" she had shown us at her solo ghost story session at Northumbria Gallery, and folded it into something quite different; Sean O'Brien told a tale of decadence and possession, a warning against choosing the wrong poet as your PhD. subject, and Phantoms virgin Val McDermid came up with a story both funny and chilling, and a new answer to the old question: "Where do you get your ideas from?"
How do you follow an evening like that? valydiarosada and D. set off for home yesterday morning, and we have been attacking odd tasks and trying to get back to normal. Tomorrow we shop.