A belated greeting to anyone who passes this way with my best wishes for a Peaceful and Joyous Christmas. When I began writing this post a few hours ago I was just sitting down, at long last, with my feet up on a foot-stool to watch the last half hour of J S Bach's Christmas Oratorio in a recording from 2000 at the Herderkirche in Weimar being broadcast over the past several days on BBC4 television and was just settling down to watch Handel's Messiah in a recording from 2006 at the Barbican, also on BBC4 television; since then there have been several lengthy family telephone and video (courtesy Skype) calls. Our Christmas Day lunch kicked-off this afternoon at about 3.15pm, just after Her Majesty the Queen finished her annual Christmas address - something of a tradition when I'm hosting a Christmas Day lunch here. Between breakfast and post-Queen lunch my habit is to open a bottle of champagne at around 1pm to go with some canapés; I've still got a few bottles of the cases of vintage champagne I got for the Millennium in 2000 from the Wine Society, so we had one of those and it was excellent (my normal champagne 'tipple' is Veuve Cliquot NV, my favourite amongst regular NV champagnes).
In fact I shouldn't have been here at all today, or this week, nor most of the next couple of weeks, but should instead have left here last Sunday to begin a drive down to Newcastle for a Monday evening ferry departure for Ijmuiden in the Netherlands, spending a night on the way to Newcastle near Edinburgh to break the journey, specially at this time of year with so few hours of daylight. From Ijmuiden, with a scheduled arrival last Tuesday morning it would have been a drive of just a few hours down to the south of the Netherlands near Maastricht, where my mother and I would have been spending Christmas and New Year with my brother and sister-in-law. However, that was not to be; it became clear early on Sunday morning that my elderly mother was not fit to travel, having experienced a severe 'dizzy turn' when she tried to get up that morning - a doctor visited later in the morning and confirmed, fortunately, that there were no other new factors to consider. Even though she had begun to recover by mid-afternoon I felt that it was still unwise to contemplate taking her on a long car and sea journey.
At a completely mundane and practical level our unexpected stay in Nairn presented a few difficulties. The only fresh (unfrozen) food I had in the house on Sunday morning was what was required for breakfast that day prior to our scheduled 10am departure for Edinburgh, so once the doctor had visited at about 1pm my first task was to visit the local small supermarket to stock up on the basic essentials for lunch and dinner on Sunday and breakfast the following morning, until I could get through to Forres or Inverness to do a more major food shopping expedition. Natually enough I had not bothered, either, to put up any Christmas decorations here, nor had I even thought about catering over the Christmas and new Year period as I had assumed that this would be well in hand in the Netherlands (apart from me taking a Virgina-baked Ham over as a small contribution - I do a baked ham every year for my own entertaining and people always say they like it). So apart from a major 'shop' last Monday, I had to undertake several other shopping expeditions on Tuesday and Wednesday after I had thought about what we might eat for Christmas Day lunch (the Virgina-baked ham is usually for Boxing Day) and get the decorations down from the loft, etc. So this evening is really the first moment I've had to think about posting anything on the blog.
Tomorrow will also see more lengthy international video (Skype) calls - Skype is an absolutely marvellous innovation, one I've been using pretty regularly for three or so years now. After tomorrow (Boxing Day), which is my mother's birthday, which will be another 'big day' for catering, I should have a little more time to write on the blog. Meantime I raise a late Christmas-evening glass of champagne to you, whilst watching the final few moments of the Messiah.