I will admit to being somewhat relieved that the whole Christmas thing is over. I love it, but really it does create an awful lot of extra hassle and stress, doesn't it? Clean this, tidy up that, decorate the tree, bake some more mince pies, discover when the post arrives that there are twenty-seven people to whom you omitted to send cards, run out of firewood, saw another load, buy far more food than necessary... but you all have lists just like that, don't you? We're all victims of the great pressure to make this time of year perfect when life just isn't like that. And with all that extra work, how many of you found any time at all for knitting? I certainly didn't. Oh I meant to. I kept looking forward to it, promising myself a lovely relaxing session, 'once that's done, once I've finished those, once...' It just never happened.
Of course we were working over Christmas. I didn't have any problem with that, since those with small children definitely need the time off more than we do; but it did mean that there wasn't much time for slouching in front of a television set with a strong drink and an open box of chocolates conveniently close. Just for a little while, it would have been nice to kick back and be an absolute sloven, you know?
But Christmas Day in West Cork means enthusiastic swimmers so out we sallied at an early hour to catch first one lunatic lot and then another, on chilly windswept beaches where waves roughly the temperature of an Arctic ocean crashed and beckoned.
Here they are, tearing towards the water.
Even Santa got in on this lot, although I noticed that he wore his long woollen underwear which was probably sensible. And I'll tell you one thing - nobody stayed in too long. About ten seconds was the average. Lookit, Irish waters in midsummer are so cold they almost burn your skin. On December 25 - well, imagine it for yourself. Me, I never go into the sea unless I'm in Goa or Kerala. Mountain streams now and again, but not the cold grey Atlantic.
And after the freezing swimsuits had been stripped off and rough towels applied, there was of course a drop of the hard stuff dispensed from the back of a van to all and sundry (no, no, honestly, the kids were having hot soup, I checked).
By the time we got home we were ready to relax ourselves, but the dogs were waiting for their present opening session so that had to come first. They get a toy each from the local thrift store, and these are lined up in the sitting room so that each can choose her own. At least that's the plan, but naturally tempers fray and possession becomes nine tenths of the toy...
In this picture Muffy is losing her temper on the left while Sophie is being forcibly restrained from snatching both toys and retreating to the landing. Sophie really really wanted the little yellow lion...
and she did get to play with it for a while
before Nemesis in the shape of Muffy the Yarnslayer arrived
But it's ok, Sophie got a big brown squashy dog thing instead which cheered her up immensely. In the meantime of course, Senior Dog Tasha had quietly secured the blue teddy and retreated to the Doghouse where she spent the remainder of the day giggling quietly to herself.
This tiny doghouse has proved a huge success with Tasha who, although undoubtedly Senior Dog, sometimes suffers through being also the tiniest and therefore easily knocked over or threatened by her heavier companions. She took to the enclosed shelter like a duck to water and isn't likely to give it up. I've tied little bells to the top so that when you hear them jingling, you know she's fooling around in there.
On St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day to you English, December 26 to the New World) the Poc Fada or Long Puck takes place on many Irish boreens. This is played by hurling enthusiasts who take turns to hit the ball as far as they can along the road.
It's nice to see it still being played with enthusiasm by all ages, even in a world where computers and playstations have taken over from older pastimes and long may it continue, although our roads are not as quiet as they used to be.
We also found time to wassail the apple trees on St. Stephen's Day. (That's pouring libations around their roots and wishing them well, for anyone unfamiliar with the custom.) We happen to have inherited quite a few bottles of utterly undrinkable home-made wine (and believe me, when I say undrinkable I really do mean it) which prove admirable for the purpose.
It also pleases me mightily to be able to return to the good earth that which came originally from it. May the trees wax strong this spring and bear beautiful pink and white blossoms.
Enough is enough, though. We have worked hard without break for what seems like a lifetime (a few months anyway). We have endured grey skies, rain, wind, more grey skies, more rain, more wind. And did I mention the grey skies? We may celebrate the solstice but in Ireland we know in our hearts that the worst is still to come. The days may be lengthening but the weather 'twixt now and the first daffodils is so awful in Ireland that a saint would emigrate. After all, St. Brendan had good reason to head for America in his little boat of skins. He'd had enough of the Irish winter too! Those of you who are thinking of visiting this little Emerald Isle, take heed and wait until March or April. Then you will be surprised by blossoms and enchanted by soft weather. But only its mother could love Ireland right now (well, maybe Angeluna too, who lives in a state where dry aridity is the norm and rain a welcome blessing).
All this leads up to the fact that we too are going to get the heck out of here for a week or two. Have to go over to the UK for a couple of jobs at the weekend anyway, and will grab a last-minute bargain at the airport after that. You know, the kind of thing where you can get a fortnight in the sun for a snip as long as you're ready to leave in ten minutes. Am packing a pair of shorts and a T shirt and bidding DH to do the same. Don't care where it is as long as it hasn't seen a rain cloud in ten years.
Yes, yes, I hadn't forgotten. I'll also take, as well as the shorts and T shirt, two or three WIPs. The Travelling Cables, you think? And perhaps the Celtic Vest. Plus one tiny sneaky little new project. I saw a nice shawl pattern in Nanci Wiseman's Shawls Stoles and Scarves and realised to my amazement that I actually had the yarn suggested! 'Tis no ordinary yarn either but Prism's Cool Stuff (yes, gasp away, I did have two skeins of that unbelievably expensive stuff squirrelled away for a rainy day, and is this one heck of a rainy day). I hauled it out and wound it into two balls, using my dear little antique swift.
You can see the Celtic Vest there in the background - it hasn't progressed much over Christmas. Hopefully I'll have more to show when I get back from this sun fix.
I will try to post while we're away, I promise. I just don't know if we'll be anywhere that has Internet access. Is it possible to find somewhere with the Net but without crowds and over-development? Probably not.
If all else fails, look for me around the end of the second week in January. I'll be thinking about all of you and missing you. But I'll be back, full of beans and chock-full of ideas for yet more new projects. Love you.