Christmas has been really relaxing. I've spent the last few days back in rural Oxfordshire putting my thoughts about the trip to Cantabria in some kind of order. Appleford has many things in common with Bielva - it's about the same size and demographic and coming back here straight after Spain makes me realise how attached to my own sense Eden I am.
When I was growing up the village came together once a year for the fete, which I remember as always taking place on a hot and sunny Saturday in June. It was always a mixture of things - part car boot sale, part Aunt Sally competition and part cakes and traction engines... but it was always magic and everybody seemed to join in with contributions to the tombola, by swapping junk or baking something. One year Dad won half a pig in the nine pin bowling, which we couldn't fit into the fridge so it had to be donated to our trunk freezer owning neighbours. These kind of events quickly gather mythical status.
This year Helen, our fun filled vicar, who amongst other radical initiatives hands out Rolos during her sermons, organised the Appleford nativity - which I missed - but seems to have been another successfully organised community gathering. Chocolate the donkey was hired from a sanctuary for the day and the village elders gathered on the green in dressing gowns and tea towels to walk up Church Street knocking on three doors where pre rehearsed exchanges took place with unfriendly inn keepers. One was too busy watching Strictly Come Dancing, another had lots of relatives over and a third was worried about Chocolate defecating on the rhododendrons. Eventually everybody arrived at the church where not only was a warm nativity crib found, but also a pile of mince pies and mulled wine for every one.