By the “Photographer’s Assistant”
“Happy Winter Solstice,” a friend said, brandishing some rather lovely branches of greenery. We were in the organic cafe, having coffee and over indulgent cakes. The Artist, The Photographer, and The Photographer’s Assistant were discussing the meaning of the regrettable departure of Nelson Mandela. The friend was a counterpoint and we were silent, staring at her, she was very bouncy and full of winter spirit. It was our final official meeting with the Artist before he packed up his gear and headed off away from the Moor to enjoy the season elsewhere. Hopefully, he would once more be able to sit in a beautiful garden and listen to church bells echoing agelessly across wonderful countryside.
It is a poignant time of year. Amidst all the wonderful preparations, you are sometimes standing at the sink or doing some other domestic chore and that friend or relative, who died some years ago, wonders aimlessly into your mind. Suddenly, you are thinking of home made paper chains, the strips bought by your cash strapped mum in Woolies, which were fun and took hours to assemble around the kitchen table. There is that wonderful chicken, the only one of the year, sitting all brown on the table amidst the trimmings and Woolies crackers. Often there are comic thoughts as I think of my daughters, one of them being extra small, clashing, outside a real poulterers with a large turkey its head bleeding daintily into a large white carrier bag in direct line of the toddlers head. She has always refused any bird with feathers ever since!
It’s an extraordinary time of year for both The Solstice celebrant and those of us who are Christians, and those who just want to sit down and stop. There is so much to do in order to celebrate, or stop. You have to get some food in and the logs must be ordered. You have to be warm. You are subject to advertisements for stuff you’ve never even thought of. This gets to the heart of living on the Moor, the do it yourself element. Somehow, the Moor with all its peace and rural atmosphere will tell you that you have a chance for an old fashioned Christmas, full of warmth and orange glowing fires, friendly get togethers and big country walks to the nearest pub. You have the chance for all of that where others don’t. You have to do the traditional Christmas and, somehow it becomes great fun.
The Photographer has decorated the home made Christmas cake. It is traditional. It has marzipan and icing and is unique. There isn’t another one like it, except for the bought Santa, which the Assistant couldn’t resist buying when his back was turned, the consequence being that the cake no longer fits in its tin and has had a special cover made for it. The Assistant, having failed at mince pies for several years now, is having one last go to please the Photographer, who swears that even those who don’t like them will eat the home made ones. Her nerves are in shreds as a three pronged recipe is used. The three books nestle into one another on the table trying to be helpful, which they are now and then. The Assistant wishes her older daughter, the pastry maker of the family were here. Pastry is mixed in quantity and The Photographer has to help to roll the pastry out, in order to prevent it leaving the work surface and spreading across several other areas. The Assistant is not really tall enough to get a proper purchase on the large mound and is grateful. The Photographer gives one of those deep meaningful sighs and the Assistant knows that yet again she has achieved small pet status in his eyes.
The Photographer has problems of his own. He has for some weeks now been almost single handed in turning out the loft. He can never understand where the Assistant has got to. He knows that she is not capable of much, but she might have been of some help when deciding which Cindy doll frocks should be kept, should all the Cindy’s look like his youngest daughter? The Assistant has found urgent weeding to do, or is changing the bed for hours. He has, as a final touch, to please the youngest and eldest daughter, in the hope that they might ever be released from their work, and come and stay, installed a new light in the big bedroom. The Assistant has arrived just in time to inform him that the lampshade is on a slant. She retreats as several cushions hit the door.
Whatever your plans, wherever you are, celebrating winter, attending communion, watching every single episode of Downton Abbey, (The Assistant has a secret stash of Endeavors about the young Inspector Morse), if you plan to lie in bed until it’s all over, ENJOY AND REMEMBER IT IS ONLY ONE DAY. On Boxing Day you can go to the beach, take piles of food and drink beer! It will all be over and you can, like The Photographer and the Assistant think of spring and planting seeds now that the light has once more begun to appear.
Go to the Maes Howe webcam, and watch the days lengthen once more if you have any doubts that Spring is on its way.
Follow the link to: http://www.maeshowe.co.uk/