Kate enjoys a festive getaway… to the beach!
I don’t really ‘do’ Christmas. In fact, I will go as far to confess that is it is my least favourite time of year. It is wasteful, stressful and horribly expensive. It is a time of year dominated by truly awful songs on the radio, tat in the shops and the buying and stockpiling of food as if a war were imminent. Before we moved to Wales, Ludo, my husband, and I would go away, shouldering our rucksacks and heading off before the huge hike in airline prices, only returning when the fairy lights were jammed back in a hopeless tangle in their boxes and everyone had started their new year detox.
Our smallholding and the responsibilities that go with it mean that fleeing the country in early December is no longer an option. Our sheep, pigs and poultry don’t know or care about Christmas stockings or eggnog. They have – enviably – never had to listen to a song by Slade. December 25 is, for them, the same as any other day and our duty of care to them also remains the same. Of course, once they’ve all been checked and fed and watered, I could go back to the house and start the marathon preparation that is Christmas lunch, but – and here’s another confession – what a waste of a day! When there are only a few precious hours of daylight anyway, why spend them cooking half a ton of food that no one will eat because they are already full of chocolate orange and cheesey footballs? Not only that, but the effect of the first glass of festive fizz is beginning to wear off and the decision has to be made whether to get through the day sober but grumpy or go hell for leather and be insensible before the turkey has been heaved out of the oven.
Our Christmas lunch for the past few years has been sausage sandwiches, eaten in blustery, sand-blasted bliss in the dunes of the Gower peninsula. We pack up the camper van with our three dogs and anyone else who can’t quite stand another re-run of Only Fools and Horses and has an aversion to Christmas pudding and head for the beach. A winter’s day, even a chilly, drizzly one, has a special charm. Woodland in winter is beautiful – the trees relieved of their leaves reveal themselves to be as aesthetically exciting as any piece of sculpture and, if there is a hard frost, there is no Christmas tree in the land that can be more gloriously decorated. A hearty climb in the hills has its rewards too, particularly on a clear day, when the low sun and soft light can make you believe you are walking through a particularly fine watercolour. But, for me, the ultimate Christmas treat is to be at the beach, racing the dogs through a wild, empty expanse of sand, sea and sky, braving a chilly, barefoot paddle before finding a sheltered hollow amongst the wiry marram grass and indulging in the finest of Christmas lunches – steamy soup in plastic mugs and our own sausages in squishy rolls with lashings of mustard. We walk on to build up an appetite for the next course, climbing up and away from the beach on to the moor, under the watchful eyes of the moorland ponies, choughs performing death-defying aerobatics overhead. Finally, pink-cheeked and panting we reach the trig point and celebrate with our preferred sort of Christmas pudding: chocolate biscuit cake.
However you chose to spend your Christmas – in Gortex and a woolly hat, or in a reindeer jumper and a paper hat, I hope you have a very happy one.
Kate’s book about her smallholding life, Humble by Nature, is published by Headline. It is priced £8.99 in paperback and £16.99 in hardback.
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