Friday, December 29, 2017

A Country Christmas--George Eliot

 Returning to Elizabeth David's Christmas, she reprints a passage from George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (1860) called "A Country Christmas."

"There was the smell of hot toast and ale from the kitchen, at the breakfast hour; the favorite anthem, the green boughs, and the short sermon, gave the appropriate festal character to the church-going; and aunt and uncle Moss, with all of their seven children were looking like so many reflectors of the bright parlour fire, when the church-goers came back, stamping the snow from their feet. 

The plum-pudding was of the same handsome roundness as ever, and came in with the symbolic blue flames around it, as if it had been heroically snatched from the nether fires into which it had been thrown by dispeptic puritans; the dessert was as splendid as ever, with its golden oranges, brown nuts, and the chrystalline light and dark of apple jelly and damson cheese: in all these things Christmas was as it had always been since Tom could remember; it was only distinguished if by anything, by superior sliding and snowballs."

 The Mill on the Floss, 1860, George Eliot

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas at Sea

Last month I spent time reading Elizabeth David's Christmas book.  It was a mixture of memories, recipes and quotes from other authors about Christmas in their distant pasts, or while at war, as this Graham Greene passage is, part of his printed diaries from World War II.

"Christmas Day started at 11 in the morning with a bottle of champagne to cure the hangover.  Round-the-Empire broadcast and the King's rather lugubrious speech at lunch.  Dinner with a huge menu.  Hors d'oeuvre, soup, fried whiting, tinned asparagus, roast turkey and chipolatas, plum pudding, grapefruit ice.  It was like peace.  Toasts to the King, Churchill, Roosevelt (for W.) Sikorski (for the Pole), etc.  Then the captain, mate and the chief came to the smoking-room.  A shy R.N.V.R. officer tried to play hymns (the only tunes he knew), but the atmosphere by that time  was not propitious.  Played Sing, Say or Pay.  Broke up traditionally at midnight with Auld Lang Syne, and afterward I settled down to chess with the Pole. One was less homesick than one had expected.  Presumably that was the drink.  Woke up at about 5 in the morning with an explosion; I thought that one of the convoy had caught it, but it must have been the clap of the wind as we changed course."

From the author's diary of a convoy to West Africa, December 1941, Graham Greene "In Search of a Character", The Bodley Head, 1961.

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