The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t
A French Christmas Tale. A hot baked turkey with roasted vegetables and “all the trimmings” is still very popular in Australia – even when the ambient temperature reaches 38⁰ outside in the shade, although cold platters and gourmet salads are increasing in popularity. For a couple of months leading up to Christmas magazines start to feature both options with strong preferences often being voiced when the Christmas menu gets discussed amongst families in preparation of the big day.
On our first Christmas Day spent in France, and the first at our nearly acquired home, we decided the occasion befitted grand traditional French fare. The anticipation of preparing, cooking and eating in temperatures closer to 7⁰ filled our minds as we revelled in the fresh food purchasing at markets and the meat purchase at the neighbouring village’s butcher. Having visitors for the
occasion was of special joy and an elaborate festive table setting was also planned.
Christmas attic renovations
This trip also saw the renovation of the attic floor with its completion deadline a couple of days before we had to leave to return to Australia. Our home is a stone three-story 150 year old house which had been recently renovated by its former owners, an elderly British couple who had remarkable good taste. While all the bedrooms, kitchen, lounge, dining area and bathrooms were renovated, the attic still needed the gyprocking to be finished off and the whole area painted. The room could easily be used as it was, but we set a goal of having the work completed this first trip.
With a full house of adults and children and an unsleepable attic, all bedrooms had been allocated to our guests and children, so Paul and I were sleeping on the lounges downstairs. We didn’t mind at all though as the novelty of being in France, sleeping by our own fireplace and sharing these experiences with our friends far outweighed the comforts of a bed.
Picture the attic covered with plastic drop sheets, plastering and painting tools, extension cords and makeshift scaffolding and you can understand why this area was unsleepable. Being on a deadline with more guests arriving shortly we felt the pressure to complete the work in the attic so that the attic bathroom and extra beds could be used.
Christmas morning surprise
Waking very early in the mornings was usual after sleeping on the lounge but we planned to have a sleep in on Christmas morning. However, we woke early and being conscious that this was Christmas morning and not wanting to disturb anyone, we grabbed some clothes, tiptoed up a couple of flights of stairs and started to work quietly.
So with only a soft cashmere jumper for warmth and undies I was up the ladder sanding away when Michael, one of our guests, poked his head through the gap in the plastic drop sheets suspended across the stair well. What greets Michael but my undie clad backside level with his head popping through the sheets – if I wasn’t warm from sanding the plaster I certainly warmed up with the whole body blush happening !!
Michael being such a good sport mucked in and worked alongside us, me still in undies (too late to be modest now anyhow) till we heard the delighted squeals of the children and headed down for quick showers and present opening.
After gifting, breakfast and fire stoking we decided to continue working. So engrossed were we that it was only the call of our rumbling stomachs that reminded us that it was fast approaching lunchtime. So imagine the quelle horror when we realised we hadn’t put the Christmas meat in the oven yet – our first Christmas lunch that was so full of promise and we’d forgotten!
So now, what do you have for lunch with the whole village in hibernation, all shops shut and your baked dinner still 3 hours away…
… Eat baguettes with ham and cheese, drink plenty of wine
… prepare the Christmas lunch to eat at dinnertime!
I ask you, what do you do when your best laid plans come unstuck?
You embrace the spontaneity of life and good friends; curl up in front of the fire … drink more wine and laugh out loud at yourself and thank God for such good friends who are prepared to muck in on Christmas day on the end of an orbital sander, eat ham and cheese baguettes for Christmas lunch; see you in your undies and jumper (minus bra) and still smile and come back again next Christmas!
So, from me and my family to you and your family, we wish you the very best for Christmas and the holiday season. May you stay safe, enjoy each other’s company and be generous to others less fortunate.
If you like reading about our adventures in France and you’ve missed the earlier instalments of Our French Life Story then check out the stories below:
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