22 January 1999

Some people have a natural flair for arranging things so that they look just right, Take my friend Sarah from Cheshire. For example, if she wore an paper sack she would know exactly which belt and scarf to throw on with it and would look stunning. If I wore an paper sack that is exactly what it would look like.

Tims sister-in-law Jiggies is the same. She can throw some material at a window and you would think a designer had decorated it. Mine would drop off. So we have got into the habit of leaving things like decorating the house with greenery until the Greens have arrived; this year even more so.

Christmas came in such a rush this year as I have more work than Ive had before, in more towns, so Im teaching or driving all the time. The girls werent home until the weekend before Christmas so we could only go Christmas shopping that Sunday with fingers crossed that we would get everything. I was also hoping to find some curtains for the "pink" lounge but it proved too difficult having been banned from having "more flowers" by my disgusted offspring.

Consequently, when the family arrived on the Wednesday afternoon, despite having a lovely big tree up, the place looked bare. In less than an hour, clever hands had draped holly and ivy and evergreen branches around the naked curtain poles, suspended fire cones on glittery red fronds, draped branches over the top of the bookshelves with fine garlands of gold stars, laid the table with candles floating among small holly leaves and sprinkled tiny gold stars over the table cloth. An instant party.

As usual, the rest of the clan mucked in to help Tim get done outside as quickly as he could as the cowman was off for the three days over Christmas, and, as always, we had a great time, and, as always, its over so quickly and were back to normal again.

What has caused the sudden interest in learning the English language I cant say. The last two years have been very quiet, but even sleepy Vimoutiers has caught the bug. The Maison de Jeunes, a sort of youth club where all the out-of-school activities take place, telephoned to see if I could do a night class for adults in October. They were starting German too. We hoped to have at least half a dozen enrolments, but I think most of Guerquersalles is coming. There are 20 in the class, including our landlady and her daughter-in-law, neighbours and friends of all ages. Several ladies do "B&B" and need a basic vocabulary, but I also find myself teaching the two first primary school teachers who taught our girls when we first moved to France. Theyre lovely, tut-tutting if someone hasnt done their homework, and checking everyone has put their name at the top of the page!

Apart from some flak about Britain and euros, I think this all bodes well for a positive attitude for the New Year towards Europe. Lets hope it is extended towards us farmers.