Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas in Devon

This is the first time ever that I’m spending Christmas at mum-in-law’s house.

I was really looking forward to a 'restful' time as recent poor-ish health has made me irritable and quite depressed at one point.

It was nice that we could look out of the window and see sheep wandering on the Devon hill-side. When we did go out, it was not unusual to see tractors (real ones, not Chelsea versions) holding up long lines of traffic.

There was no internet service. Ah....

There was also a lot of food.

We had brought with us a lot of fruit from our weekly organic fruit bag, not wanting it to go to waste. My ‘job’ on Boxing Day was to make a fruit salad.

With all that rich food, ultra-sweet Christmas puddings and all that, husband and I thought a refreshing and detox-ing fruit salad might be a good idea.

So it was a bit strange, as far as I am concerned, that mum-in-law kept asking whether she needed to make a (sugar) syrup for the fruit salad.

No, I said. And thought, 'Syrup on fresh fruit? How odd?'

Even when I was cutting up the fruit, I was asked, ‘Do you put it in water?’

No, I said.

She muttered something about the apple turning brown. There was sufficient acid in the satsuma, kiwi fruit, etc, to keep the apples from turning brown, I reckon.

When we came to actually eating it, I nearly died from shock when mum-in-law’s partner put a huge dollop of clotted cream (with crust) on the fruit salad. Mum-in-law ate hers with a chunk of ice- cream.

It reminded me of the countless times I had sat across from nice slim young girls at the refectory in a London university watching them eat a healthy green salad (while I pigged out on chips -- especially when I was pregnant -- I wanted to eat deep-fried chips, A LOT).

First they added one sachet of salt and then they added a second sachet of salt.

These slim young things might not suffer from obesity, but their salt intake could not be very good for their heart, I thought.

So I was thinking: Why bother with fruit salad when you must eat it with clotted cream or ice-cream?

I decided it is a generation thing. Mum-in-law often served us the sweetest possible desserts. I, being Chinese, usually only have some fruit after a meal and my husband has learned to do the same.

We knew a really wonderful old lady from church who had the sweetest tooth ever. She had been through two wars when sugar was scarce. She always had a huge glass jar full of sweets.

The other thing in Devon was husband and I were put in the ‘basement’. We had a ‘put-me-up’, a sofa that converts into a double-bed.

It was brand-new -- the mattress was still in its plastic wrapper -- and something about it was giving me headache. I was in the room for ten minutes and I was getting this headache.

I think I was suffering the effects of ‘outgassing’ from the new mattress and the rest of the sofa-bed. The headaches cleared when I left the airless basement room, but recurred soon after we returned to the room to settle for the night. The mattress also gave me a backache as it is too soft.

Then on the day we were due to return. Husband fell ill and we were delayed in coming home.

He spent most of the day in the upstairs bed that our son was using. He decided that we should use that bed instead. I was reluctant to let our young son use the basement room where I was sure the new mattress was still 'outgassing'.

So we made up a 'bed' for him instead out of cushions and a duvet on the floor and son seemed to have enjoyed it just as much. It was different.

The good thing about us being delayed in coming home was we got to meet my husband's brother's family.

They were three of the 200-odd passengers whose plane from Florida was diverted to Newfoundland, Canada, over Christmas (which explained the near unintelligible phone message from someone telling us he was stuck in Canada). They had finally made it back to British soil and dropped in on us. (Incidentally they say the newspaper report is a load of rubbish. They probably interviewed people who wanted to get lots of compensation from their 'misery'.)

Son enjoyed the time with his 'big cousin'. Husband recovered after a day in bed. We got home today.

We enjoyed our Christmas. Hope you did, too.

Back to Organic-Ally.

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