Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas and beating on Boxing day!

Merry Christmas from abroad once more!

Arrival back in England safely, without any more snowy mishaps blocking the road. The bus took the train back, went right into the train box and rumbled on into the night, under the sea, and back onto the road, this time on the left!

And I planned it right this time, (had to wait quite a bit for the tube train) got off at Marylebone, checked the schedule for the High Wycombe stop on the National train, and rushed and bought a Cornish Pasty before jumping on for the final stop.

Christmas Eve started off at noon with the annual local pub crawl...

Then a quick visit back home to eat a delicious homemade fish pie before heading out again into Wycombe for live music and a taxi ride home... (Fish, prawns and potatoes simmered in a cream sauce with spinach and baked under a layer of mashed potatoes... yum! Btw, ever hear of Jamie Oliver?)

Christmas day was really nice, nothing out of the ordinary (except for the snow! Which I heard was quite unusual for this part of England). Woke up to a houseful of Gaspers, followed a by plenty of food and drink- organic pork from Wales plus all kinds of trimmings, roasted vegies, green beans, red cabbage, what else all I don't remember, but what I do remember is the dessert, which was a bunch of fresh berries, raisins, dried cranberries, soaked in amaretto and poured over with heavy cream, then topped by a dollop of clotted cream... and I thought that was it but I didn't realize that later we were going to have yet another meal- this time more characterized by appetizers and crunchy fried things, melted camembert, Welsh beer, and champagne... Then we got into teams and played a quiz game orchestrated by Phil's mom. (My team got second place by 1 and a half points... So much for having the Yank on your team guys!)

The best present was the Horsey Hoppers game, that Zoe got for her brothers. Quite a success, we cleared out the kitchen and took turns racing across the floor- I need to post some photos!

What else... Oh, right! the next day we went beating! In England it's called Boxing Day, from when the servants were given this day off after spending Christmas Day catering for their employers and then were sent off with boxes of leftovers...

So, what is beating you may ask? Well, this is how it goes.

The gamekeeper raises pheasants and fowl to release them into the wild for subsequent hunting. On the day of the hunt the hunters prepare themselves with guns and camoflauge clothing, and position in the field in strategic locations. Today the hunters are young lads who usually work as beaters during the year, and the beaters are an assorted bunch of volunteers, including this American girl!

Ok so, the beaters spread out surrounding an area where the fowl like to hide, usually in the underbrush and trees. We then follow directions from Andy the gamekeeper as we advance, slowly and steadily through the woods, whacking flags made from feed bags and making lots of noise. (We also spend a lot of time waiting around as everyone else gets into position.)

Andy's dogs are advancing with us, most of them well trained and at attention, minus one, by the name of Tucker, whose name we hear constantly- "Tucker!" "Tucker!" because he doesn't stay behind us and keeps going running off... Tucker is actually Zoe's dog, so in his defense, he's not really trained as a hunting dog. As we reach the end and the birds lose their cover, they start to fly up into the air. Then there is lots of shooting and pellets raining down from the sky, and, as well, birds, falling down, from the sky.

The dogs at this point are running around like crazy, and they rush off and grab birds that have fallen and bring them back.

We went out four times, going back to the barn for tea and cookies (and a nip of brandy) halfway through. It was cold and brisk out, snow on the ground and romping up and down the rolling hills of Wycombe, good fun!

I conked out after that, felled by some combination of cold weather and traveling... All in all, a really nice weekend back in England. Looking forward to seeing Avatar in 3D tonight and homemade potato leek soup!

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