Newsletter 43a
Christmas 2003 Allocution

Carissimi Pelicani:

I have never attempted one of these Christmas circulars before. Perhaps I should know better because Simon Hoggart mocked the style of pieces like this in the Guardian last year and the year before. But I have come to dread Christmas cards because I endup writing long dreary messages, different jokes for all the different folks and by the time I'm finished, I promise myself I'll never send another.

Anyway, here goes. If last year was distinguished at all, it was by the renewal of auld acquaintance, lots of them, two of whom stretched back, one to September 1955 and the other to June 1956.

I've got an idea that I might be marking 2003 'Cold Shoulder Year' at the back of my diary but the lady censor says I'm not allowed to give you examples here.

We were over to open Zelda's place in France in April and to close it in October. There's a peacock in the woods behind the house and he did a glorious display for Zee one morning when I didn't have the videocamera. He seems to go frantic as the days warmup, calling out from the trees either for sex or a fight. We tried to buy him a partner one evening (Zelda: "Suppose he doesn't fancy her?:') but with no luck. This was from a local birdman we didn't know existed. We'll have to try again next spring.

The insults the French had to endure when Bush and Blair invaded Iraq! There's a plaque in the local church recording the names of the villagers who died pour la Patrie 1914-18. Over 60 names which represents an absolute massacre. The local cemeteries are full of Italian names. The Italians were brought in to work the fields once the French had gone to war and never come back. No wonder their sons' spirit lacked elan in 1940.

We've made good friends of one of these Italian families, the Dal Bellos from Venice originally but now as French as you like.

France or no France, I can't let a year pass without doing Ireland i.e. Donegal, Cavan and Dublin. In France, the fields were sizzling; in Ulster, the rain was battering the streets. We couldn't get up Errigal or Cuilcagh. Why the Irish north-west does not barrel rainwater and export it, I do not know. We would buy a Guardian, select a pub and set out to get the paper read and do the (quick) crossword.

In one place, I looked up and saw what I thought at first was a funeral, Naples-style, two glorious black horses, the most patient beasts you ever saw, standing outside the church. This was no funeral but a wedding. The horses stood stock still hours on end while the photographs were taken, waiting to take the bride (and bridegroom?) in a shiny black coach on a tour of the parish. A very rich wedding, we were told (but she had more money than he).

There's a pub over there associated with Enya and Clannad and when Zelda and I were in there in 2002, they were refurbishing and at that very moment (in 2002) hanging the walls with discs, gold and platinum.

Nearby, we watched some salmon fishing. If they weren't big enough, the salmon were thrown back in but our hearts were with the biggies to make a run for it and leap their way up to the lake. There was a boy there and his job was to punch the life out of captured fish. He hurt his hand but we felt small sympathy.

We were up in Glasgow for a retirement party in May, then onto Dunblane where my pal Andy from primary school lives.

I had two Old Sweats' reunions in the course of the year, one in Hampshire (leafy and green beyond belief) and one on the Tweed ( ditto). Hampshire at Whitsun was so poorly attended that I did what I've wanted to do for years: I wrote a moanin' git letter and as a result we were bursting at the seams at the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel in September.

Is this okay?

HAPPY CHRISTMAS (beyond belief!)

Eugene and Zelda


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