Sunday was all about the carol concert. Some of that, of course, was more directly 'about', some less. I accompanied boybear to the supermarket / hall of wonders, where he was probably very focussed on preparations, but I just swanned about saying "Oh, look! Camel milk!" (no, I didn't buy any). The Christmas cards had to be admired, arranged, displayed, discussed: why are there so many hares this year? The party in residence had to be sustained with soup and the progress of any early arrivals determined, in case they too needed soup.
In the absence of F., I had a free hand with preparing the mulled wine, and assembled the wine, fruit and spices well ahead of time, to allow the flavours to blend. I don't know how much difference this made, but the end result was pleasing. Other variables are that in the absence of F. I went easy on the honey, and was nervous about this until an Ent arrived and pronounced it good; also the choice of wine, so, for the record, this was the Wine Society's Lascar Chilean carmenere, probably the cheapest wine on their list but very rich, good in the mulled wine and good in itself later. Also for the record, four bottles, and add another before the break.
The Carol Evening is always the same and always different (that's what I always say) and this time the difference was the absence of F. No doubt he has missed years before (and no doubt so have I) but he has been a regular since the very early days. He contributes an expertise with the mulled wine, which by now is more traditional than actual, and a powerful bass (for which we substituted S's rather more musical version). But you couldn't look at the carol books (which F. compiled and illustrated, long ago) without thinking of him. He had told us that he was spending the evening with an old friend (in both senses of that expression) who was visiting from Scotland, and this, though disappointing, was hard to resent. i would have been more upset had F. not been part of our lunch date the following day (when we learned that actually, his absence from the carol evening was based on his misremembering the date as the Saturday, the previous day. Oh, well...). Other than that, it was a splendid evening, with much fine singing and many fine songs. Only two Shepherds this year, Cranbrook and Sweet Bells, and some interesting information from people who had been watching programmes about carols on television (that Oh come all ye faithful is 'the Portuguese hymn', and a Catholic rallying cry, for example).
Monday felt like a continuation of the Carol Evening, in various ways. Lunch was a chance to talk to A., with whom I had conversed only briefly between carols, and F., whom I had missed. The 'absent friend' from lunch was A.'s husband (another A.) who died shortly before our corresponding lunch last year. That's not the reason for the change of venue, simply that A. had identified a better option: and although I knew this was in Waltham Abbey, it was only as we walked from the bus stop that I realised it was directly opposite the house where I used to visit her when we were schoolgirls (now the town museum). Old friends in old haunts, the conversation dwellt on old times - and also on the awfulness of Christmas cracker jokes!. That evening, a different selection of the carol singers reconfigured themselves as Dorten Yonder, and durham_rambler and I accompanied them as guests of the Cruising Club for a very select musical evening at the Waterpoint. Not all of the songs were the same - I hadn't heard Dorten Yonder's King Harry's Men before, and durham_rambler led the singing of The Man who Waters the Workers' Beer.
We managed to make a Tuesday lunch date with his niece and, on condition we met near his office, her husband: but that's a day out in London which deserves its own post, and illustrations. Wednesday was more family visiting, in Essex this time, but home early enough to catch Dorten Yonder's weekly band practice (more carols).
Then we came home. And now it's Christmas ... This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.