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Late in December

It is December, traditionally a time when many will be anticipating sitting back in an armchair during the long afternoon and letting life roll on, liquor glass in hand, stomach full to bursting, younger relatives finally quietened and the endurance of the Queen’s speech a duty done.

Here in Yeovil, however, we see things a little differently, as indeed most who know us would expect. But although Kate and I will go out of our way to avoid the seamier aspects of this increasingly secular holiday period, the commercialism, the flagrant over-use of motifs such as holly, reindeer and snowmen, the over-consumption and over-indulgence, we do still try to enjoy the holiday atmosphere that this time of year promotes. One of the (few) things we do like is the way that commercial activity comes to a complete halt to an extent that is not replicated at any other time of year. Shops and restaurants are closed, public transport becomes non-existent, in fact just for a few days every year the modern world as we know it almost stops working. Even buying the basics of life, food for example, will be difficult over this period (something we discovered for ourselves two years ago) as shopkeepers across the nation respect the public holiday and close their doors. Step outside the home over this period and you are transported back to another age. People will walk about the streets, often in the family groups that they have brought together, a strangely rare occurrence today. As we walk about we greet our neighbours unselfconsciously, with a smile and a friendly chat. All this, to my way of thinking, sounds good. It is what life should be about.

What does sadden and even appal me is what western society has done to this season, the way we have turned it into a standardised set of behaviours and experiences, filled it with things we must do, must eat, must sing, and the way it has conditioned us to anticipate something wonderful, something that can never really live up to expectations. Earlier and earlier each year we are pushed into anticipating the enjoyment the season will bring by spending money, acquiring goods, as if this is the whole point of the thing. Stop to think about it and it makes no sense at all, yet we do it, come what may, almost against our wills. I find myself resisting all this as I struggle to think of it as just another month in the year.

Yeovil in the snow

One other feature of this season that has slipped effortlessly into our mental landscape is the snow covered scene like this one and its association with the festivities of the season. This should be a strange sight for most of us living on these isles where snow is infrequent and my own memory tells me that it is more common for winter to get properly under way only once January has started yet almost every card we send depicts just this scene. My reasons for its inclusion here are more mundane – the scene simply presented itself before me as I was en route to buy tiling adhesive from one of our local suppliers – but I hope that this does not detract from the photograph itself which tries to capture the way in which the everyday has been transformed into something of beauty.

After weeks of effort we now have a fully functioning fitted kitchen of which we are proud. The final details are now in place and as we unpack the last of the cardboard boxes to bring our more obscure and exotic pieces of crockery and domestic machinery into the daylight, we can finally relax our construction efforts and enjoy the results. And as promised, there is a short movie of the whole thing…

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