This Christmas season at Chateau Foy we have been honoured, once again, by a visit from la Duchesse Veuve Culdechat, the cherished mother of my dear wife, the Contesse.
As ever, it has been a joy to have the company of the old lady and – as ever – it has been a welcome opportunity to receive some timely reminders of the areas in which our hospitality and the comfort of our humble abode fall short of what might be expected in more esteemed circles.
A bed-chamber in the Guest Wing at Chateau Foy - too chilly for comfort
La Veuve is very partial to unattainable levels of heat in the home, for example, and is deeply suspicious of any food which is unfamiliar, or which might possibly reflect some undesirably foreign influence. She has unusually extreme views on a wide range of topics, any of which she is prepared to share at any time, regardless of the context or occasion (somehow it is never too much trouble – a selfless habit acquired during a lifetime of endless giving and suffering in the interests of others, bless her). These views are remarkably uniform in being based mainly on articles in certain right-wing newspapers which she has failed to understand fully – possibly as a result of the time pressures inherent in caring for so many others, and also as a sad consequence of the short attention span with which Nature – sometimes so callous – has blighted her. In truth, one or two of these pearls may come from a friend of a woman she met at the bus stop, but we value them all.
This morning her carriage was summoned as early as possible, and she went on her regal way, with all our staff lined up in the drive and waving, dabbing their eyes. She left us sad that she could not have stayed longer, yet quietly grateful that we had her company for the limited time possible, and relieved that we got through the holiday period without inflicting serious injury upon her.
Once again we are left with the need to examine carefully our values and our priorities. We may be slow learners, but I believe we are now agreed that there is a need to distinguish between the seasonal traditions which might be appropriate to (for example) theoretical families in story books and those which are appropriate to us. Whilst I have to treasure these most recent, brief moments of insight and lofty disdain, I also have to accept that I am not worthy, and would prefer not to repeat the experience very often.
Next year, I believe we may pack up our plate, our hampers and our bottles of cordial early, and travel with our household to spend the Festive Season in the mountains, or near the lakes, or anywhere, really – with no forwarding address.
Well said, young man