30th December 2021.
Christmas week trots drearily towards new year. In my earbuds Jethro Tull: ‘Solstice Bells’. Segue to Sting: ‘Hounds of Winter’. Apart from the inexorable stairs leading up to the missus and my St Peter Port flat the only flights are those of fancy. Ironic when the sky’s hatched by plane trails headed every other blooming which way.
As if choreographed, and wearing matching pale grey dressing gowns, the ladies of the first three houses in the terrace below us slouch at their back doors and drag meditatively on fags.
Across the Channel’s briny filled chasm are daft, family games of Ibble-Dibble whose end necessitates a wet sponge to wipe away blackened bottle cork smudges on forehead, cheek and chin, and multiple shot glasses meeting the dishwasher. But that’s there.
Here, the manure heaps have been dumped. Awaiting their spread over next year’s corn cob field. Cuttlefish shells, pretty ellipticals and white as snow, decorate the foreshore. The winds blow hoolies. And it goes without saying the drizzle urges a grasp of the bumbershoot. I mean, brolly.
I’d also found nuts. Of a sort.
“I’m really quite harmless,” I said, slip-sliding aside. The moss-on-rock banked path passing by the holey turtle head stone, narrow and muddy. Dampening my bum on rain-cups of penny wort, I allowed clear passage for the Barbour coated duo restraining a growling, grizzled-muzzled, fat lab.
“So’s he,” the leash tugger riposted. Sniffily.
Perhaps it was the pistachios shoved in my pocket getting up the mutt’s nose. ‘Cos damned if I could find the hazelnuts in the kitchen cupboard. Or had it sussed the badger I’d deftly popped in my bag? Yep, a badger.
Albert Der Dachs Bagger (‘the badger digger’ in German), Albert for short, is my Somerset thriving grandson’s joker from afar. Albert had been ‘a-gnawing’. On a rotten log. Me doing revolting munching noises. Loudly off camera. Awkward when the Barbours must’ve witnessed the ad lib.
How, I pray, without stumbling over multiples of ‘um’ or ‘er’ could I explain away, to complete strangers, a soft-furred hand-puppet, on a pretend diet like its master, enjoying roughage? My acting nonchalant was a fail. I became, instead, a clarty creature worthy of suspicion.
But hey, the longest, darkest night is behind us. Has been for a week now. Means an accruing two minutes extra daily daylight. A trend set to continue till spring. Already, out in the boonies, thistles flower purple at La Grande Lande. Where a defunct, unfinished, German wartime tunnel hewn in despair by Polish and Russian slaves – that Albert shamefully claims as his mansion-sett – lies beneath St Saviour’s church. All of which is vaguely fab.
Lesser fab: consistency of an Ashes nature out in Oz. Namely the steady trudge of England’s bamboozled pavilion bound batmen – Zum’s Jack Leach, morose behind his specs, et al – at the raise of a finger. Dispatched mercilessly as if pheasants or mallard. Be it Brisbane, Adelaide or Melbourne, the ‘baggy green’ capped slips hoovered up the snicked, keen as gun dogs. Over a mere twelve days of Christmassy cricket never was there a partridge in sight.
However, this island’s ducks, pro tem, hassle young and all for breadcrumbs that escaped the traditional chestnut stuffing. And can prove quite a headache. Although not nearly as harsh a one dismissively put down, by some, to over imbibing on the island’s Bluebottle gin.
Worryingly, and with a spike straighter than a super hedgehog’s, there’re more cases of the Omicron variant on this sea rock than the Poms have collective runs.
Appearing hollowed, the weight of our little world the heavier for it on his back, our Chief Minister has his stoic pooch tow him gently up Le Vauquiedor’s hill, which abuts the hectic hospital, for the benefit of his constitution.
But believe me there are antidotes to the mubble-fubbles. Leek and potato soup with a slop of cream and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley, a dram of Macallan as nestling reassurance, is a cuddle for the tum.
Plus, one can now see the extra light. At its harbour-side St Peter Port dazzles. Rooted bullseye in the big roundabout, the iconic 100-foot erection if you will, based on an eighteenth century mizzenmast, has morphed into our Tree of Joy. Sparkies bearing screwdrivers and fuses have busied themselves. The thirty-odd strings of lights that form the arboreal shape – reduced to nowt but sketchy guy wires thanks to pesky Storms Arwen and Barra – wowza-wow anew. So hurrah-harroo!
However, skittish leaves simply cannot stop their street-dance. Across the way, the inflated snowman, despite sand heavy in its shoes, tugs at its moorings, itching to do the full Raymond Briggs. To Oulu. Which is in Lapland. As good a guess as any for a possible destination.
For the me and the missus both, almost into our third year marooned by fate, we’d happily achieve a lesser goal: to draw deep breaths of Somerset air. And report in person to a young child why, in a non-exotic Guernsey winter wood, Albert had pistachios at his scrote. Better that than the finer points of Ibble-Dibble.
Fingers and toes crossed maybe, just maybe, 2022 will be kind. Until then Albert Der Dachs Bagger will undoubtedly assume an attitude.
Anyway, the errant packet of hazel nuts finally found behind two tins of sardines in chilli sauce, the missus concludes: “We’re leading a weird life.”
Sláinte to that. Whilst best avoiding any grizzle-muzzled hound.
Illustration & text © 2021 Zum Beamer/Charles Wood.