An icy morning. Mercury bottomed out around -7 C in the courtyard. We didn’t venture too far from Lagahe. The plan for the day was to stay warm and get a fire going in the late afternoon. The kids were also asked to prepare a Christmas Carol to sing/play in front of the fire that evening. We found some music in one of the cupboards in the study. Nick started practising Silent Night on the piano, while Ruby and Harry rummaged through the song sheets and dress up box of clothes and started preparing their own short form pantomime.
As it was the shortest day of the year, it didn’t take long for the sun to plummet toward the horizon, taking temperatures with it. The children gathered up the wood from the barn and before long, a fire was blazing in the living room. After dinner, we sang carols and watched the kids put on their performance. The pictures tell the story.
A brisk start to Christmas Eve, with frost everywhere. Greg took the children to L'Isle Jourdain to pick up our favorite bread called Le Jauloisie and the rest of the vegetables required for Christmas day. This consisted of parsnips and pumpkin. Good parsnips were hard to come by, and as a standby, we purchased some large, wooden-looking root vegetables. We took those and a couple of large butternut pumpkins along with some croissants and chocolate croissants back to Lagahe. The expedition took about an hour and half, about twenty minutes of which was spent in a tobacconist, buying Carambars, a French toffee that the kids have taken to.
When we arrived home, it was evident that not all was well. Cath had been hoping that some parcels she had ordered from London two weeks prior would be delivered today in time to make it into Ruby's Christmas stocking. A glimmer of hope when the man from La Poste drove up and placed a parcel into the letterbox. She rushed out, hoping her delivery had arrived. The parcel was not the Sylvanians (small animal toys dressed up as people) she anticipated. Instead, she found a parcel she recognized. Recognized, because we had taken it to the Mauvezin Post Office to send to Mum and Dad in Adelaide the previous week. Rather than deliver it to Australia, La Poste had ignored the stamps and prioritie stickers decorating the addressor the front of the parcel and sent it to the sender, us, which was neatly written on the back. So, no presents for Nana and Grandpa and major present for Ruby looking terminal. Still, as they in the classics, " When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping" and that's exactly what we did.
Leaving the kids in front of a movie we hopped in the car and drove the 30 km to Auch, the largest town in the Gers. The old part of the town, with it's gnarled and cobbled streets dates back more than 700 years, but is now home to an array of local boutiques that we had hitherto managed to avoid. Dropping Cath off in front of the Cathedral, I went off in search of a park. After doing a circuit, Cath was waiting for me. She hadn't found the toy shop, but she did throw a kilo of small parsnips she had snaffled from a street vendor onto the front seat as I drove by. She disappeared down a narrow alley and I managed to find a park. Finding the toy shop, I wandered down to the back of the store to find Cath smiling, hands firmly clasped on the last boxes of Sylvanians in the store. The relief was palpable. Having secured her preliminary target, we could now commence the main game. A game in which I had apparently under performed in Barcelona - finding Cath's Christmas present.
Al and Jen Barr happened to be in Auch as well that morning and Jen wasnt backwards about recommending a number of places that Cath might want to check out. I thought we had made it through unscathed through the first shop containing decorative jewellery from Brazil. But, as i was about to leave she spotted something, then something else and then something more. Three purchases, job done. and not a moment too soon. The next store we happened upon, contained handbags that could set you back the price of a good second hand car. The fiscal monster reared its ugly head and threatened a New York spending moratorium if we buckled up a new bag in Auch. This was sufficient stimulus to jolt our Group One spender back to reality. A calamity averted, we headed back to Lagahe.
Late in the afternoon, we packed up all the vegetables purchased over the previous few days and headed over to the Barr's house to prepare for Christmas Day. We peeled and cut up around 10kg of assorted vegetables. Everyone got involve with stuffing the 11 kg turkey, which looked like it came straight out of "Mr Bean's Christmas". After the work was done, we had dinner and headed back to Lagahe around 11.30 pm. As we got out of the car, a flurry of snow escorted us to the door.