Today started with a visit to Whitchurch, which is a charming little Shropshire market town somewhere near the border with Cheshire.
We'd rather hoped to park in the enormous Tesco car park, but the place was teaming to the rafters with flustered-looking people doing their Christmas food runs.
We almost gave up, but found a little space on a road just off the High Street, and took a stroll up towards the church in the hope of finding one final present. There are some very curious shops in that town, many of which are hilariously dual-purposed. There's a barber-cum-toy shop, and a pet shop which becomes a card shop and then a saw mill the further back you venture. Brilliant!
It was the sort of pet shop you used to find in the 1970s with hundreds of gold fish crammed into dirty aquariums and scrag-taggy parrots looking forlornly and hopefully at customers from behind their bars. They also sold huge statues of dogs and cats (I assume for gardens) which were magnificently ghastly.
We celebrated our second Scramshit today at Sam's house. Today was the turn of Nathan's extended family who will be scattered all over the country on Christmas Day itself.
It was a brilliant turn-out. Seventeen of us sat down to a dinner which featured pretty much every vegetable you could imagine. I have seldom seen so many colours on a single plate. Purples, yellows, greens, oranges and reds: a rainbow in a roast dinner... And utterly delicious.
There was a slightly uncomfortable moment, later in the day, when we were reminded that it wasn't actually Christmas Day. A whole slew of emails suddenly arrived from people who were trying to clear their desks before vanishing for two weeks or more. Sadly, we enter the Yuletime period without having sorted out our contract, which isn't ideal, but we'll try to keep our spirits up.
Nathan has spent the last few months in his spare time making glorious brioche-knitted scarves for his two nieces and nephew. We spent some time in the afternoon doing photo shoots of all of them so that Nathan can release the patterns. One of the scarves, which Nathan knitted for his erstwhile emo niece, Bex, is called the "scarfe" and features skulls and crossbones with little holes instead of eyes. We took some beautiful pictures as it got dark with torches behind the scarf making the eye holes look like little glowing gems. All of Nathan's nieces and nephews are hugely photogenic.
We played games, blew up and burst balloons and drank tea. Well, I drank tea and Nathan drank coke. I'm pretty sure everyone else was drinking alcohol. Towards the end of the night they moved on to Julius' home made gin, which I'm told was delicious.
I have pretty much stopped drinking any form of alcohol of late. I've never been a drinker, but recently I've worked out that I don't really like the taste and certainly don't like how it makes me feel the next day. I used to think I'd get to a certain age and suddenly appreciate the taste of wine and beer, but that age never came and I'm now fairly convinced it never will.
This evening we had a cheese-tasting with eleven delicious cheeses including a Cornish yarg, an aged Leicester, and two Wensleydale cheeses, one with "drunken sugar plums" and one laced with chocolate brownies. We sat in a circle and gave marks for all the cheeses out of ten and then ranked them all like a cheesy Eurovision Song Contest.
There was controversy when Jenny added all the scores up hopelessly badly and ended up declaring a really very bland shop-bought, mass-produced cheese the over-all winner. The recount revealed that the aged Red Leicester had won... And a bloody lovely cheese it was as well!
My friend Fiona would have fainted at the sight of the table!