Monday, December 26, 2005

Another christmas done...

Its 9pm on Boxing Day - does anywhere else in the world have the tradition of "Boxing Day", supposedly created as a holiday on the day after Christmas Day when the servants "in service" at gentlemens houses were given their Christmas presents and part if not all of the day off - no I suppose only the English class system could invent a public holiday for servants.

We don't all have servants now by the way, in fact I don't know any of my friends who have servants, nor do we live in houses with servants quarters in the basement, talk with a plum in our mouths or ride horses out in the coutryside looking for foxes to kill.

Well ok, some english people still live like that and some still hunt foxes even though its been illegal to do so for the past nine months, the hunts now simply follow scents that have been previously laid by the hunt servants, the idea being that the hunting fraternity get to ride their horses across the countryside in the same manner as they have done for the past 700 or so years, the hunt horses (they are specially bred for the hunt) get their exercise and so, importantly do the hunt dogs who are kept just for the purpose of hunting foxes, or since the ban, the dragged scent of a fox (hence the term "drag hunt").

Of course if the dragged scent just happens to dragged through a copse where foxes are known to live (and the hunt masters have always encouraged foxes to live in certain copses), and a fox breaks cover at the same time as the hounds go past, then the hounds by instinct are going to chase and kill the fox instead - everyone is happy at this outcome, the huntsmen get a kill and the police can put it down to an accidental straying of the pack, its another law that is ungovernable.

Anyway, why mention this ?

Its because traditionally Boxing Day was and is the biggest day in the year for fox hunting and hundreds if not thousands of, lets be honest, rather well to do people will have sent down to the stables for the horses to be brought up to the house, dressed in their white breeches and red jackets and rode off across their own countryside following a drag scent in the hope that an errant fox might just be having a bad day and get in their way.

Its been a quiet christmas in the house, the two girls are now of an age where christmas has lost its magic and its just another excuse for several shopping expeditions spread over the whole of October, November and December, Christmas Morning is spent opening presents that we all knew we were getting anyway and so there are none of the shrieks of delight and hopping around on one foot in ecstacy just because they got a particular Barbie or the particular toy that is in vogue this year.

The best reaction to a present that we saw, and captured on video, was when Amanda was 10 years old and we bought her a saxophone, she was already a talented clarinet player and had talked of taking up the sax, but the arrival of the instrument on Christmas day was totally unexpected and I can watch the video of her reaction over and over again, and probably will.

Unfortunately she plays neither instrument any more, like horse riding those interests were pushed aside as she got older and boyfriends and fashion took over, we have to be flexible as parents and cannot enforce our wishes onto our children, we have to give them some freedom and hope that maybe they'll come back to the bits we like in later years, maybe she'll take up the sax again sometime soon.

I cooked dinner yesterday as I always do at Christmas, I made far too much again, we all ate far too much again, and the fridge still has far too much food in it today, not to worry though, we are travelling up to Newcastle tomorrow to visit the wifes mother, brothers and sisters and as always will take a food and beer parcel with us, its not that they are short of food and beer but its a good way to get rid of the food and beer that we cannot get rid of oursleves, it would only go in the bin if we didn't give it to relations.

Today was also the traditional Boxing Day rugby match at Headingley, home of the Leeds Rhinos rugby league team and in true traditional style I met up with some friends in a bar outside of the ground before the game for a pint. The bar was, as always, crowded with supporters but as kickoff time approached they started to make their way into the ground and the bar emptied slightly. With five minutes to we had a vital decision to make, do we stay for another pint or do we go into the ground?

Let me say at this point that the Boxing Day fixture is actually out of season and as such is a "friendly" match with no real meaning other than to extract 15000x£15 admission charges - we chose to have another pint, and then a short while later another pint.

We decided to go into the ground at half time as the gates are usually opened just after half time for free entry, but as it happened we had another pint after that as well and before we knew what was happening everyone was coming back into the bar as the game had finished - so we completely missed the game for the sake of beer, but what better way to spend a morning than with six good friends and beer ?

And we all saved £15 each, apart from one poor soul who had pre-purchased his ticket but still chose to stay int he bar with us - good choice sir.

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