Derbyshire 53 - Chesterfield /Hardwick Hall with its Christmas finery/jacket potatoes and cheese/missing paperwork/and air suspension


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December 7th 2018
Published: December 8th 2018
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It's getting to feel a lot like Christmas - everywhere you go. That song is going round and round my head. Everywhere I look there are decorations sprouting up in gardens and all over houses. I see Christmas Trees inside all lit up like Blackpool Illuminations. I feel fed up being bombarded with adverts still trying to sell me furniture which will be delivered by Christmas or supermarkets trying to sell me the juiciest turkey or the best Christmas pudding. I don't feel very Christmassy and wish it was all over. Bah humbug and Scrooge come to mind.

Christmas starts too early. I don't want to hear that I need to buy the best vegetables from the best supermarket when it it is still November. My mind is full of other things like the final readings and completion on Glenns mums house, on trying to find a house for to live in. Who needs two weeks of nothing happening - that lull between Christmas and New Year? I want normality and I don't feel I am getting any. Like the Apprentice and Alan Sugars search for his next business partner we still search for the perfect house. We know we will never find it . It does not exist . We appreciate it is all about compromise . The first house we saw was in need of a complete overhaul. The owners had made such a mess without building regulations being applied . It smelt of dogs. The second sold before we even sold ours. The third we liked but thought it needed too much work to make it our own. The fourth again sold before ours was sold. We sold ours and the fifth went within minutes of hitting the market . The sixth was not where we wanted to live but we were getting desperate. The owner knew we were travelling miles to see it but couldn't be bothered to take time off to let us in. She offered the next day then decided we could view at 9 which would have meant getting up at 4 am. We went back to number three and pronounced it was Ok but we still felt it was not quite us. The seventh was a heap. Cheap but smelt of damp. A kitchen from the 80's and a bathroom to match. Too close to the local school , on a main road, overlooked from behind . We kept coming up with objections. We began to despair and went back to number three and put an offer in . Refused at first but then after a few days our offer was accepted . At last we have a home . Well that is what we thought at the time but buying and selling properties is a minefield and we were just about to tread in ours . Eventually the contract for our home turned up. Full of lawyers terms, conditions and prices for their work. We signed it. We filled in the fixtures and fittings lists and the money laundering forms and waited. How difficult can it be to sell a home. The buyers are looking to exchange some time in January . Will that be early January, middle or late ? We wait to see what comes back .

We threw ourselves into Christmas and started to think about presents . Who wouldn't ? We needed something to cheer us up. We talked about putting the tree up. That can wait another week or so. I wrote the Christmas cards. Sion won the competition his friend Woolly had set . He answered the question on his friends favourite Roman - Hadrian. What a way to start the festive season. He has not stopped smiling and cannot wait to read Woollys tale of a trip through the Balkans.

I wish Christmas was like it was in the past . None of the hype we see and hear these days. Christmas didn't start until a few days before the event . None of this weeks before going on and on. Everything felt simple. Mum started baking the Christmas cake months before . The cake sat in a box maturing over time ready for marzipan to put on top nearer to Christmas. Icing was spread on thickly . She was never good at being tidy with her icing but it never tasted less than perfect. We started it at Christmas tea and ate it until there was nothing left of it bar the crumbs. We never put decorations up . They were reserved for school where we made multi-coloured paper chains. She made her own wreaths for the graves. She collected holly and ivy and berries from the garden . She went on Christmas Eve to cut a holly branch for a tree. An old Welsh Christmas tree tradition I believe . We walked to the quarry to fill buckets with sand which would hold the tree. At night I helped decorate it with old glass baubles. Once over Christmas she lit the candles . It was truly magical . Dad woke me late on Christmas day . My presents , always practical were at the bottom of the bed in a bolster case. He brought me a cup of tea laced with whisky. We ate breakfast bread dipped in dripping tasting of the bacon fried in it. Dad cooked the dinner whilst mum listened to the Archers on the radio. Dad cut cabbage finely and cooked it in butter, he scraped carrots , he made the stuffing and cooked the chicken. Chicken was a treat. Only eaten on high days and holidays . Beef, lamb and pork were the everyday meat in our house. Chicken the expensive treat . How things have turned around and now chicken is an everyday meat and beef the treat . We watched the Queen , I watched the kids outside on their new bikes, playing with their new toys. All too soon it was time for bed and Christmas was over for another year.

As we drove up to Hardwick those thoughts were whirling round my head. We built Santas in the garden in the snow . We counted the Snow men that were made out of wood and decorated with scarves and hats that lined the drive up to Hardwick Hall. We stopped at the gates and showed our tickets. Hundreds of people had got the same idea as us and come up to see the hall decorated for Christmas. The entrance was decorated with garlands of ivy and holly . We were glad to get into the hall which felt wonderfully warm with a blazing fire. It was freezing outside . Inside was heaving - not an inch of space . Christmas decorations hung from the landings and a choir from the local junior school were singing carols. All the tables were full of flowers and decorations especially made for the season. It was lovely inside and very welcoming. We pushed our way through the crowds . Each room was decorated . One fireplace was full of letters which cascaded down the chimney. Garlands decorated tables, walls and pictures . A whole display of paper houses and a paper model of the hall was set out in the dining room. Ok many of the rooms were closed but each staircase was full of advent calendars and Christmas trees . What a lovely way to spend a Friday - miles away from worrying about Christmas and our house sale .

Did we finish off with food? We did . The restaurant was heaving just like the house . We thought there was no room downstairs but the staff seeing an opportunity opened up the upstairs dining area. We squeezed in , noted the table number and I went to order our warming espresso and cappacino . Two large jacket potatoes heaving with cheese followed . We loved it . It turned out an excellent morning spent in what must one of our favourite National Trust houses. I wonder if this will be our last visit .

News on Gabby. She has spanking new blue springs on her front suspension and a new air suspension system on the back. The idea to lift her up and to make the ride smoother and more comfortable . Fitted locally at Doncaster - not cheap but hopefully it will help with our grounding. A brilliant company and a great addition to Gabbys gadgets . No more crunching on uneven ground as hopefully her steps will be 4" further off the ground . We just need now to test our girl out .

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