In fact what was left of them have hung around overnight, since the temperatures dropped, and last night the garden twinkled in the torchlight like sugar. Today is the big cooking and wrapping day, where the contents of the jam and chutney shelf which have accrued over the last year are raided, repackaged and reinvented, the pile of slabs of plain German marzipan (which I found at a cut-price supermarket of German origin which will remain nameless because I think I promote them too much here and am in danger of laying on my inverted snobbery with a trowel) are converted into marzipan fruits with the help of food colouring, a fine brush and the fruit dryer ( does food colouring ever go off? I realise mine is rather old...), and the cobnuts Marcelle gave me in the autumn, already shelled and picked over, get made into nut roast along with the tail-end of a packet of pistachios and the breadcrumbs I carefully hoard in the freezer, since I hate throwing even crusts of bread out, and the birds can't have them as Molly would nick them.
(For any who have felt or expressed curiosity about the kitchen at Maison Box Elder, here is an angle of it in all its shambolic, cluttered, boozy, less than elegant glory, cables showing, box of Roche Mazet cab sav from the Pays d'Oc, various bottles of mostly alcoholic liquid - abstainers pace, my excuse is I'm cooking with them - bits of unresolved paper dangerously close to the toaster, pots and pans suspended from a hanging rack left us by the long deceased Victoire who lived her before us. Straining a batch of rosehip and rose geranium schnapps... does liquid come in batches?)
We braved Carrefour in the afternoon yesterday, three days before Christmas and vowed never again, as one always does, but as ever, I'm quite happy that we keep our involvement with that kind of Christmas insanity to a minimum. When we first arrived here, 12 years ago, we were a bit depressed by how little to-do there was about the holiday. Now there's a lot more conspicuous consumption, though much of it is still centred on oysters and foie gras and it's still not as crazy as in Britain, and we rather wish there wasn't. But at least you don't hear Slade's 'Here it is, merry Christmas' belting out anywhere, which was always one of the blessings of not being the UK at this time of year.
When I got home I realised I'd still forgotten the porridge oats for the flapjacks, so I'll have to hope I can get them in Moncontour, and leave it until this afternoon so I don't have to venture out on the ice too early. How intrepid that sounds!
'Où sont les neiges d'antan?' - Where are the snows of yesteryear? Villon's question which Joe put to me pretty much exactly a year ago, as part of the 'Questions' project at the time. Finally the thread, as it now continues, drawn out sporadially fine but still resilient, went another way, and this question was not included. But this, with pictures for ekphrastic substance, was the reply at the time.
Hushed white liquefies, flows
to the lowest place, distills, climbs,
forms in time the sixfold crystal, clothes
earth once more in lovely blankness.
Is trodden, again, to slush.
Must be getting on. I'll post briefly once more before Christmas Day.