Well here I am with another evening on my own and this time I am up here without a car. The wind has been battering the house all day so inside has been the only place to be and here by the woodburner the wind is blowing in the chimney and making the flames leap higher. All day the wind has shouted and shuddered and thrown great showers of rain at the house. Astonishingly the hens, who have been shut into the run all week while I have been away visiting my daughter, were so desperate to get out that they have spent the day being buffeted about the garden, their feathers blown inside out like a bad hair day, struggling against the wind and rain, hiding in the bottom of hedges but determinedly not going back into the henhouse until nightfall.
I, by contrast, have been huddled by the fire, half watching the rugby and half reading the paper. I decided that a good use of a few hours being shut in against the weather would be to make my Christmas cake and Christmas pudding so all day the raisins, sultanas, chopped apricots and currants have been soaking in rum and orange juice for the cake. At five o' clock I stirred myself sufficiently to get up from my chair and grease and line a loose bottomed cake tin, cream the butter and brown sugar, whisk in the eggs and then add the flour, spices and fruit mixture. Then the whole thing sits in a low oven for about three hours. It is stunningly easy. The kitchen smells gently of fruit and spice and rum.
Tomorrow I shall make the pudding and maybe, inspired by mountainear, I might even make some mincemeat if I have enough dried fruit left. I love doing all this Christmas baking. It reminds me of my mother making just these things in a warm kitchen. We carried on doing it when we moved to live in New Zealand for a few years so some of my memories are of the vivid blue sky beyond the kitchen window and of the odd dislocation of eating warm Christmas pudding and white sauce outside in the sunshine. I made them again with my own children and yesterday the phone rang and it was my son ringing to check exactly how to steam the Christmas pudding he has made which he wants to take with him to his in laws for Christmas Day. He seemed utterly matter of fact about it although I wonder how many men in their twenties have spent the day weighing and chopping and tying a pudding into a cloth.