Steve and I went away for two weeks over Christmas and New Year. We stayed in a cottage in Shropshire with no TV, phone or internet access. The setting – a secluded woodland in a lovely valley on the Welsh borders with only the howling of wolves from a nearby sanctuary to disturb us.
One of the resident wolves, Madadh
We arrived after nightfall and passed a car in a layby being driven by Father Christmas! About 20 minutes after we arrived at the cottage, said car pulled in and our landlord Tony Haighway stepped out, in full F.C. garb (having distributed Christmas gifts in Mainstone Community Hall). He gave a long howl and got all four wolves howling along with him, accompanied by his Irish Wolfhound, Doodles. Besides playing Father Christmas, Tony’s other hobby is collecting wolves and in 1993 he set up Wolf Watch UK, a rescue project dedicated to the conservation of wolves.
We were there in time to observe the Winter Solstice and continued to celebrate the holidays for the next fortnight in fine style with much feasting, merriment, walks through the countryside, daytrips to Wales and the occasional foray into Ludlow to replenish the larder.
Ludlow is a food lover’s paradise containing an impressive number of independent, specialist food shops: five butchers, four bakers, cheese shops, delis, organic food shops . . . . . . In addition, in and around Ludlow there are more Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere in Britain, outside of London. But we both love to cook, so we mainly foraged and gathered ingredients for many fine meals.
High Class Butchers
In between cooking, we took a couple of trips into Wales . . . . .
View across the River Dwyrd
On New Year’s Eve, we got dressed up and . . . stayed in, opened a bottle of champagne, cooked a wonderful meal, watched ‘The Wizard of Oz’, played Scrabble and rang in 2009 to the chimes of Big Ben (broadcast on Radio 3).
Happy New Year
We also took about a million DVD’s from animation to indie to arthouse, as well as some holiday favourites like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and one of my very favourite films of all time – ‘Holiday Inn’. Singing and dancing from Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and a great soundtrack written by Irving Berlin.
Hope you all had a very happy holiday season!