‘Christmas happens, no matter what. —I might as well roll with it.’
These were my thoughts as I placed the last remaining frozen Free Range Norfolk Goose into our shopping trolley. It was the night before Christmas Eve, just enough time to defrost the bird in time for our festive dinner (in keeping with German tradition, we have our meal on Christmas Eve. This has several advantages: More time to prepare the food without getting up at the crack of dawn, a romantic meal by candlelight, the wine and port go down easier and last but not least a lie-in on Christmas day followed by a second leisurely lunch—this time with crackers—of the already prepared smoked trout tart, goose with blueberry and apricot stuffing, roasted root vegetables and spiced cabbage.)
And so it came to pass that among the unpacked boxes and upended furniture that crowded our new flat we had Christmas, nonwithstanding a brief mishap to do with cooking a large goose in a tiny oven. At the end of a late lunch, we sat back with a contented sigh. Time to venture out.
In England, pubs tend to shut on Christmas Day—that is unless your mates run the pub.
“How did you get in?” Topper called out from behind the bar as John shut the back door behind him: “Alright, come on through. —But shut the bloody door!”
Gradually the pub filled up with a few more select mates. A bottle of Talisker we’d brought for Topper was opened, as was the box of chocolate we’d brought for the barstaff.
As the evening drew into night, we hit the liqueurs, ‘Love Actually’ dripped saccharine-sweet from the big screen and John stuffed his face with leftover chocolate pudding, courtesy of the chef. Surreal or what?
After the movie had finished and long after the others had left, John beat an increasingly drunk Topper at pool (not a big feat after half a bottle of whisky, but John likes to boast about it) and we played a selection of favourite tunes on the jukebox. I can’t remember what time it was when we finally staggered back across a frosty landscape which glittered silvery under the light of a full moon.
I think I’ll feel at home in Tadley…