It wasn't a particularly nice day. The sun shone in fits and starts, and I think we got rained on and blown at, but it didn't matter.
It was the first time we'd all been together for more years than we could count, and the weather wasn't going to put us off.
We collected hag-stones along the way, peeking through them at the charcoal grey skies and tumultuous white foam on the sea. They are magical, hag stones, the 'eyes' in them said to be doorways to other worlds, especially if you look through them in moonlight.
A perfect circular eye encompassing your heart's desire.
When I looked through them, I saw all my family together in one place.
They say that you don't find hag stones, they find you.
I have collected them for years. Perhaps one day I will hang them from the bedpost to ward off nightmares, or string them from the ceiling to protect my animals. Who knows.
On Christmas Eve, my loved ones held firmly together in their ring-eyes, I was happy to thread them onto some pretty ribbon as a memory of our first Christmas together in this house for eight years.
A very special time.
It seems unbelievable, but just a few weeks ago I wondered how I'd ever get the house together for Christmas. Much as I longed to see my boys, I dreaded them coming home and feeling that Christmas wasn't what it used to be. I've not been hugely well this year and as a result, the place has looked more and more like an ill-fated jumble sale as the months have gone by - unloved; stuff everywhere, dust settled in drifts.
The worse it gets, the less you feel able fee to deal with it.
The worse you get, the less you care.
I don't really want to think about it. Mercifully the In-Charge and #2 Son helped pull it together - I'd never have managed it without them. We blitzed everything: threw the vacuum cleaner, a load of dusters and buckets of hot water in, locked the doors and fought it out.
I wasn't the last man standing. The effort nearly wiped me out, but it was worth it. By the time #1 Son arrived the night before Christmas Eve, lights were twinkling, the Christmas tree was glowing in the corner and the house was rich with the scent of venison and spices.
|The eve of Christmas Eve|
|Everything is ready|
The stars that #1 Son and I made when he was three were hanging - traditionally - in the hallway, all the most special cards that we've received over the years were brightening the walls on their ribbons, beloved decorations had been taken from their tissue lined boxes and the candles were lit.
We didn't do much. Apart from our walk on the beach, we mostly sat around catching up with each other. We laughed a lot, drank champagne for breakfast, talked about life on the far side of the world and life on the ocean wave. We filled and refilled glasses with red wine, we ate all the delicious treats we associate with Christmas, and couldn't eat some chocolates that were just too beautiful to consume. We opened presents, laughed as Model Dog opened her present and SuperModel's, and flitted in and out of a jigsaw on the table in the corner - another tradition that has lain dormant for years. And then on Boxing Day we welcomed friends for a supper party just as we used to in days gone by.
After so many silent years, the winter song of the house has been renewed.
What a joy.
|We lay around|
|Model Dog opened her present and SuperModel's|
|Chocolates just too beautiful to eat|
|Bollinger for breakfast|
|A suitably themed jigsaw for 2014. The flag was the most difficult bit - maybe we have lived out of the UK too long|
Now they have gone back to their own worlds. #1 Son to Edinburgh and Iceland before heading back to the West Indies to meet his boat. #2 Son happily not to the far side of the world this time, just elsewhere in Ireland, where he's planning to stay for awhile.
Standing in Dublin Airport a few days ago, waving goodbye, I thought of the Hag stones, threaded on their scarlet ribbon.
I'm glad the Hag stones found us on Christmas Eve.
They are locked safely in the eyes of the stones, my darling boys.
Whenever I look through, I will see them, spooling out along the paths of their own lives, yet held fast within a circle of warm light that spells Christmas.
You see, they are magical, Hag stones.
As magical as Christmas itself.
As magical as love.
You can read about another Christmas here
Or even here