Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 is going to be a Frangipani of a year

Happy New Year!  I have abandoned New Year Resolutions as a bad idea as not only do I break them within a week, but I am then wracked with guilt about what a feeble human being I am.  In past years I was full of good ideas, strangely enough the same ones every year.  It probably comes as no surprise that these annual notes to self always seem to focus on daily exercise, miraculously weight loss and writing more, perhaps in retrospect I should have thought about a way of combining the last two and attempted to write the best selling, ‘Read Your Way Down a Dress Size Diet” or “The Novel Diet” – am thinking of copywriting the latter title which will feature as its central tenet that rather than reaching for the biscuit tin, one should select a riveting read and lie on the bed or in the bath – sure to be a bestseller amongst the London literary set and just imagine the fun I could have selecting titles as alternatives to various foodstuffs.    Anyway best selling diet book fantasies aside, this year I have taken a chill pill on the resolution front as it were and made a realistic assessment of my stock of will power and decided that my only resolution is to be happy.  If nothing else the drama of our lives in 2012 and 2013 has taught me that that love and happiness are really the only things that matter in life.

Happily, in this context we did have a lovely Christmas and New Year.  This particular Christmas was spent in Lymington on the south coast of England and was made extra special by the fact that owing to the winter storms, we spent three days from the 23rd to the 26th living by candlelight and open fire.  All very romantic in theory, but actually very inconvenient, if like my noble sister-in-law you have to contend with 12 in the house with no dishwasher, guttering candles and unwashed relatives unwilling to face cold showers.   

Based on life without power I came to a number of conclusions:

a)   You can never have enough candles.  Forget period drama showing ball rooms lit by a few discreet tapers, the reality is it takes a huge amount of candles to create a liveable amount of light. Likewise tea lights may be atmospheric in an airy fairy type way but do not last for any meaningful amount of time and bear in mind that given the bleak midwinter timing of Christmas, that it gets dark at 3.30pm and not reliably light until 8am.  In fact early morning stocking openers had to be sent back to bed until adults could actually see what was going on as the combination of wrapping paper, bed linen and candles was deemed as too inflammable for anyone to face.

    b) It’s remarkable how much wood you burn when you are relying on fires to heat your house rather than to provide atmospheric flickering and back up to the central heating.  Husband took on the role of wood boy and like the poor man in ‘Good King Wenceslas’ did a lot of ‘gathering winter fuel’.

    c)  Should I ever live in the UK countryside I need to remember the importance of having at least three different sources of heating – and one of those must be an Aga.  It radiated cheerful heat, provided Christmas dinner and heated the numerous kettles of water that were needed for bracing cups of tea needed when we weren’t taking to alcohol to cheer ourselves up.

As ever with these situations, it’s the company you keep that makes the difference, not the environment, and we couldn’t have had a better Christmas in terms of general jollity.

So here’s hoping that 2014 keeps up the happiness quotient that Christmas kicked off to such a good start.  Back in Sydney, my heart thrills to see that for the first time in my career as a gardener, a career characterised less by green fingers, and more by being the harbinger of the black kiss of death to most plants, I have managed to get a frangipani to flower.   The orchid that I did manage to keep alive for a whole year wasn’t quite so lucky and is looking a little less festive.

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