Well that was good. First before Christmas a visit from older son, his fiance and our older grandson with older daughter and her three year old flying through to see them. Older grandson has decorated the Christmas cake with Santa and two reindeer and carrots, possibly as well as I would have done.
A quiet Christmas Day with Ian and my father in law, although with a full trimmings turkey dinner, followed by three full and busy days as younger daughter, younger daughter's dog, older daughter and her husband and three year old son, and younger daughter's boyfriend all arrived. The house was full, the cottage was full. The house was so full that the big kitchen table was the only place where we could all sit down on chairs.
Henry the beautiful ginger cat demonstrated his only character flaw: an unstoppable tendency to attack dogs, even one as beautiful and generally unthreatening to the human eye as younger daughter's labrador. To cope with this Henry goes to live in the wooden greenhouse for a couple of days with plenty of food and a comfy chair and intermittent human company in the form of me. But he is not convinced so every coming and going through the kitchen door needs to be policed with someone on cat duty and someone on dog duty, apart from one occasion when younger daughter bursts in through the door with her dog crying "I was a catador!" This proves to be a cat matador, or someone who, by judicious flourishing of the dog towel, encourages the charging cat, bent on getting in, to take a sidestep, and then whips smartly past.
Don't be too sorry for him: he is a dog seeking missile.
There is much food: three quarters of the turkey remain and a huge gammon is cooked to Nigella Lawson's recipe where it is simmered in coca cola. I haven't done this before although people have been telling me for years how good it is. I am not a fan of coke but this is a great use of it and I am now a total convert. There are winter salads of red cabbage, carrot and granny smith apples. There are roast potatoes to sink a battle ship. There is coffee pavlova and Christmas cake and Christmas ice cream and quite a lot of cheese. There is sparkling wine and white wine and beer. There is that sense you have in a big family, even one where the children are long since adult, of sharing yourself out, making time to talk to everyone, time to play with the three year old and walk the dog and wonder if the ninety four year old is all right in his room by himself. You send the three year old in and hear them both laughing and think how similar in some ways it is to be at the beginning and at the end of your life.
Younger daughter's boyfriend has been given a serious sky watching telescope and he puts it up and we wait for the clouds to clear and gaze at the full moon, think we have identified Jupiter and feel yet again how much we do not know.
Joseph, the three year old follows me round with a three year old's cheery determination, with a seamless stream of words. We fill the bird feeders together and he watches chaffinches and tits and the occasional squirrel with delight. "I don't have birds at my house, Grandma. You have lots of birds. We can share them?"
There is a trip to a cold, sunny bare beach where the dog catches a frisbee and the boy digs a hole and there is much running about on the sand.
And by last night everyone had gone. This always works in the same way. For an hour or so there is an aching hole and then slowly the pleasure in the quiet of the house, the time we once again have for each other, the ease of not needing to put food on the table for eight people at apparently five minute intervals, all seeps back. My mother always said when we all went home for Christmas that it was lovely when we came and lovely when we went again.
So now there are a couple of quiet days and I am sitting in the shepherd's hut with the woodburner going, but younger son was working all over Christmas so quite a number of us are going down there for New Year and it will all start again!