Happy New Year! Slightly tardy on the greetings front - you may draw your own conclusions from my use of Luis Paret y Alcazar's Muchacha Durmiendo, above. In fact, I'm just about to use a postcard of this detail from his painting to write my thanks to friends for their excellent hospitality on New Year's Eve. I knew the perfect occasion would present to use it - which is why I picked up about ten of them from the Prado Museum when I was in Madrid last year.
It wasn't so much that the dinner was an outrage of excess - although John and Liz did produce some truly excellent white Burgundy and 1985 Rioja (and then some 1991) to which we all did due justice. The comedy fireworks in the garden afterwards may have owed something to their depth and strength. (I know, in the cold light of day, no laughing matter, but it wasn't that bad - just a little surprising how many went off at once.)
More friends arrived, with their dinner guests, and more toasts were drunk. It is a wonderful thing to live in a village where we can all walk between houses. Then it was back to our house, firstly to check it wasn't on fire, and then to inspect the inevitable damage wreaked by Maddy and her old school mates who were having another party chez nous. It was a night of wassail and festivity, including a wedding in the village and a Soul Train 1970s disco in the pub, which it would have been rude to ignore. So it was that we wassailed some more, along with Maddy and her friends. The music was a bit light on Le Freak, C'est Chic and Boogie Wonderland for my taste, but perhaps the DJ looked at the 19 to 20 year olds who hit the dance floor in a wave from our house and decided to ignore his authentic vintage market. Anyway, it was a lot of fun.
I went home at 2.30am, leaving them all there with wedding guests in black tie who were still up for more revelry and had wandered over. At our house the sitting room looked like Everest base camp. Sleeping bags and pillows had been abandoned in piles for the final assault on the year. I went downstairs and stood aghast at the kitchen door. An explosive incident involving popcorn, beer and a vodka distillery had apparently occurred. The floor was pooled with stickiness, and there was an inexplicable purple stain on the ceiling.
So I found myself doing what any woman in evening clothes on New Year's Morning would do in the circumstances: I cleared everything away, picked up the bottles for recycling and mopped the floor. Still in my high heels, I was teetering back to the utility room with the bucket when the party arrived back. Within five minutes - and let me assure you that no one even noticed the restoration of the venue to its former glory - the party had restarted and I crept away from the vodka cocktails and pizza going into the oven.
At about five o'clock, about a dozen party survivors blundered around the house looking for somewhere to roll out their sleeping bags. I slept until 8.30am, then went downstairs and restored order to the kitchen for second time before having a cup of tea. From around 10am onwards, the boys came round from their slumbers, as perky and bright-eyed as when they arrived the night before, needing only glasses of water to snap back to life. Then the girls surfaced and the smell of bacon frying rose, and they all sat around chatting for hours. They've all gone off to universities across the country, but this was a chance to spend time together again. It was just lovely.
All in all, I was a bit tired yesterday, and writing a blog post didn't have quite the urgency of restoring myself, like the kitchen, to full function. The purple stain on the ceiling, incidentally, was caused by the launching of a red cabbage. No, me neither. But I gather it was a tribute to the Flying Pineapple of 2014, which was eventually discovered, like a strange fossil, in our neighbours' garden.
Wishing you all the best for 2016.