The soft pink light of morning.
The first week of January and I haven’t cooked very much. This is partly due to annoying tendonitis in my elbow which makes lifting things and chopping things painful. I have decided to call it TenderIsTheNightis, a RSI-type injury caused by lifting too many flutes of champagne. This makes my suffering seem a little more thrilling and glamorous.
In place of cooking, I’ve been sitting by the fire in my mother’s study drinking coffee and reading thrillers, occasionally prodding the dog with my toe to make sure he is still alive. He scarcely moves more than a foot or two from the hearth.
‘The heartbeat at my feet.’
Before the fire is lit each morning, I manage to lure him outside to the Bishop’s Park. On New Year’s Day, the light was soft and pink, the sun low in the sky. We wandered through the Scots pines and the Wellingtonia. I threw a few sticks. Barney brought them back. A lot of my childhood was spent in this park – picnics in summer, whizzing down the terrifying snowy slopes on our blue sledge in winter. Fifteen years ago, Sean and I got married in the chapel here.
St Peter’s Chapel, Auckland Castle
The clock tower at the entrance to the park.
The River Gaunless snakes through the park.
The Deer House, built by Bishop Trevor in the Eighteenth Century.
Golden box, bright as Christmas baubles, over the grey crenelations of the castle walls.
One of my favourite activities in the world, to be indulged whenever the opportunity presents itself, is to visit a country auction. Addisons – a proper country auctioneer and valuer in Barnard Castle – always has an auction on the first Thursday of the new year, which is very considerate of them as I’m usually up here then.
This morning we went to the viewing. The hall was full of the merry bustle of people relieved to be out of the house and back into their old, comforting routines. ‘Too long, too long a break John,’ explained one man to another. A young chap in a khaki jacket with a skull and crossbones appliqued on the back slowly examined a long and ferocious Indian sword. A woman in a neat red coat and careful coiffure trawled through a cardboard box of treen. Two elderly men in leather pastie shoes and Christmas scarves rustled around in cardboard suitcases of model railway bits and pieces, eyeing each other not entirely benignly. ‘Happy New Year to you’ ‘All the best!’ they said, nonetheless.
If you know me at all you know I love a bargain, and auctions outside of London are often much cheaper than my usual city stamping grounds. Apart from anything with a dog, a pig, a horse or a fox on it. Then you can expect to pay top whack.
It’s not all foxes and cows and herd books …
Please don’t bid on any of my lots, there’s a love.