Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in the countryside

Everyone has Edwardian preconceptions of what a nice Christmas in the country is like and, despite having lived there for nearly 16 years, I'm exactly the same.

The news, therefore, that a massive cocaine cartel had been caught up in the woods out by the front of the village was so exciting I went into a spasm of Clarrie Grundy handflapping. The white car we'd seen parked by the bridle path for the last couple of days was apparently part of said cartel, appropriate enough given that every time we passed it reminded me of seeing in Christmas Day with friends and a spliff in that same spot several years before.

Less amusingly, the ancient village church has been repeatedly broken into by junkies over the past months, repeatedly breaking the collection box out of the wall and nicking the money. Any London liberalism goes out of the window here. The village and the church work ridiculously hard to raise money for all kinds of charities, and said junkies should be chucked in the river if it were any more than two inches deep.

Beyond that, most of the ideals match up to the reality, albeit without the Edwardians. There's turkey for roughly five hundred people, cooked in an Aga that throws a sulking fit and cools down on Christmas Day. There's a lovely Christmas tree, covered in decorations of assorted glitter bought over 25 years, and accompanied by a wobbly star limboing into the ceiling by an overenthusiastic branch, and silver rain of indeterminate age.

The dog always gets a present, and despite still clutching last year's squeaky reindeer on Christmas Eve, is so delighted with this year's squeaky mallard that she temporarily remembers she was born a gun dog and starts ripping it to shreds on the carpet. She then sneaks off and plays dollies, putting it to bed on the armchair with a snoring pig that wiggles its ear which my dad and I got a few days before. This is so sweet we all go "Aaaaah", and the dog is so embarrassed that she tries to disembowel the mallard in order to prove her hardcore flat coat credentials.

Eric, my mother's unfeasibly camp gardener statue has been adorned with tinsel and flood lights, and looks permanently poised to break into medleys from Hairspray.

The Saturday before Christmas, my family piles into the car for the pathetically short trip down to the village Court House hall for carols. Over the years, the hall has probably hastened the death of innumerate Alms House pensioners due to its feudal Arctic qualities, so they've since invested in a rocket launcher heater that screams as loudly as the nearest toddler until the doors are shut and the varying degrees of warbling begin.

The 12 decades of Christmas are followed by a pile-up upstairs into the library for hot something or other afterwards, mince pies and competitive cookery ("Those ones are shop bought" hisses Mrs Someone Else, digging her elbows into my side and pointing out Mr Kipling's efforts lurking among the homemade pies). I vaguely recognise some of the teenagers, and a girl I went to sixth form with playing the dutiful future daughter-in-law. The vague recognising comes from my refusing to wear glasses for years rather than my similarly crap memory. There are lots of people I don't recognise

Coming out of the hall to head home for supper, my parents saw police cars outside the Church. Same junkies, same score, only this time round the vicar had locked them in the church and they'd bashed their way into the hall round the side. The vicar's wife and her daughter had clcoked a glimpse of them as they went belting off, and were waiting to be questioned by the police.

Happy Christmas from the countryside! Ballet Shoes was just as fucking disappointing in middle England.

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