On Boxing Day 1964, Joseph enjoyed a creative session with the set of paints a misguided individual had given him. I must have been attempting to interest him in decorating the kitchen. Well, at least he has provided us with an advent picture for today, and he certainly decorated himself. As often when reproducing these ancient colour slides, a certain amount of retouching is required. For obvious reasons, it was difficult to tell which black spots were not part of the original picture.
Visibility was at a premium late yesterday afternoon when we set off for Chichester Cathedral for the annual Carol Service. Just as I was donning my tie and Jackie making adjustments to her attire, we had a power cut. Since this was the winter solstice we were in utter darkness until we entered the communal hall with its emergency lighting. That was the first reason for our cutting our arrival so fine, as titivation by torchlight tends to be a little problematic.
The howling, blustery winds, and tempestuous rain that had beset us all day, continued until we arrived at our destination. First, with only the glow of security lights to guide us, we had to negotiate the pools of water with which the paths to the car park were awash. Then Jackie, gripping the steering wheel much tighter than usual, was almost blinded on the motorway by spray thrown up by overtaking cars, giving the entire scene a Turneresque look. The usual warning signs urged people to slow down because of water on the road. The wind buffeted the car, as it whistled around the damaged passenger door seal. That was the second reason for cutting our arrival so fine.
Then, of course, we had to negotiate the Chichester ring road, which is never to be recommended, especially at night in the rain. A few more minutes lost meant we arrived at the packed Cathedral ten minutes after we should have been in our seats, and five before the service was due to start. Becky and Flo were already seated. Ian was waiting at the foyer, where we were asked for tickets which he held. He then escorted us to our places. Have I mentioned that these were at the very far end of this magnificent twelfth century example of man’s wish to glorify his God? Alongside the main altar? No, I thought not.
The main nave is very long. The main nave contains a lot of people. Each person has two eyes. All were upon us as we attempted to adopt a composed gait hoping we might pass for dignitaries there at that time for a particular purpose. We took our places and enjoyed listening to a beautiful choir celebrating the coming event.
We had left the car some distance away, so only just arrived at The Crown at Emsworth in time. By then the heavens had opened again. This time we were smiled upon from above and parked immediately outside.
Paul and Veronica, who manage this public house are welcoming, friendly, efficient, and attentive. Considering the rowdy revelry taking place in the main bar, I thought the number of times Paul came to check on us was most impressive. I would have thought he had his hands full. Veronica and her equally personable colleague served us well. Mine host is a mine of wit and banter. He and I had an enjoyable time firing off each other.
The range of meals eaten by Jackie, Becky, Flo, Ian and me were excellent. I began with a superb broccoli and stilton soup which I told Paul kept falling through my fork. So I suppose I initiated the double act, because that was my way of indicating that I lacked a spoon. Paul retaliated by bringing me a tiny fork that he said would let less soup through. From behind his back he produced a teaspoon which he said I could use if I preferred, then, finally a proper soup spoon.
My main course was a stacked and spicy Mexican burger with slim wedges and salad. Even with a knife and fork the stack is somewhat unwieldy, so I decided to get stuck in with the teaspoon and pusher. Paul suggested that may be why I was the last to finish, then he upped the ante when my creme brûlée arrived. My utensils for this were a cocktail stirrer and two straws. When I complained that the dessert clogged up the straws and I couldn’t get anything through them, he suggested I added water. I made as if to dowse the food in Bombardier beer, whereupon he cried, ‘No’, and fled into the kitchen. This man would give even Matthew, our arch wit, a run for his money.
For our journey home, the skies cleared and the wind dropped. Bright, unshrouded, stars lit the garden, and the electricity was back on.
This afternoon and evening we spent at Helen and Bill’s along with Shelly and Ron, enjoying a long leisurely lunch; convivial conversation; and a fun game of Scrabble. David and Jen joined us for a while. Helen’s lunch consisted of a starter of prawns in sweet chilli sauce; a main course of perfectly presented pork with numerous vegetables; and finally Christmas pudding ice cream and chocolate roulade. Ron and I drank Malbec. White wine and lager were also consumed.