Christmas sign


in Cornwall


A Christmas Card from Cornwall
Christmas table

It's the nadir of nature's year. The landscape's palette is more Rembrant than Rousseau, rendering the fields and moors with a faded wash of muted taupe, earthy ochres and lichen-grey; sombre and subdued tones portraying pending winter as the land retracts into itself. The first real gale of winter delivered 'weather' in it's rawest sense; unavoidable, physical and exciting... the wind, which had been coiling itself up over the Western Approaches, let loose with horizontal rain, slashing off the back of a southerly and inciting the sea into a wild, white roller coaster. Off shore, a solitary coaster, just visible through the veil of rain, struggled for shelter.
Village evening house in lights harbour in lights merry Xmas

The seasonal rituals are soon to begin as the winter solstice approaches- the darkest day on which the sun starts to regain energy that will climax at its midsummer zenith. Christmas will soon be here and the lights are on in the village generating a luminous sparkle into the opaque night, a glittering relief from the winter-blackness of empty second homes. The village twinkles into life with an illuminated cross, a Christmas pudding, bells, and because it's a fishing village, the outline of a trawler radiates from the lifeboat house wall, add to this an anchor, a couple of dancing dolphins and a loop of lights stretching round the curve of the beach, reflecting kaleidoscopic fractals of moving colour in the lacy edges of the surf.

I'm not religious and come down on the side of the theory that the early Christians hi-jacked the Romans' Saturnalia celebrations; they ate, drank and were merry, with their version of Santa, the Saturnalia princeps, giving out presents including candles, all of which sounds familiar and has no connection to mangers, Mary and the magi. I also avoid self-analysis, but I do admit to an affection for Christmas bordering on the metaphysical. I have been fortunate to have my family around and to wish and be wished peace and goodwill is a lovely sentiment. As for our family, times move on and instead of our home being the destination of the annual pilgrimage, our boys are men now with little ones of their own and are continuing our traditions in their own places with the food holding centre stage. The first call of the morning will be to wish us, ' Happy Christmas', followed by, "Mum, I've got Nigella and Delia spread over the kitchen table and their timings are different, what would you do?" . While the other one may ask, ' How would you cook a goose? Would it taste better like Raymond's with chestnuts or like Gary's with juniper and apple?"

The lights in Mousehole started over forty years ago and since every village has switched on to brightening up our winters. For those reading this who aren't living in Cornwall - Cornwall's not just for summer holidays - it's for the year round, and it's not too late to book into a cosy cottage, cuddle up around an open fire or blow away the city cobwebs, singing along to carols that will never sound better than those sang at a quayside service. So stuff the turkey in the car, along with the dog and kids, and head west for a memorable Cornish Christmas.

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