As the sun was setting on Christmas Day, Bunty and I took the long drive through the hills to his mother’s cottage. It is always a beautiful journey, and this was no exception. The twilight allowed us to still see the darkening mountains and forests, but enhanced the fairy lights on the eaves and trees of houses that we passed.
There was no snow, but it had been raining solidly, and what had once been fields were now lochs. A stream had broken free of its bank and plunged across the long winding lane that was the last leg of our journey, and we forded it with difficulty. A deer watched us from the woods, its eyes glowing in the headlights.
The cottage windows were all lit up, a beacon in the wilderness. We could hear Pipkin the haggis hound barking her welcome as we got out of the car. The combination of smooth grass over a sheet of rainwater had created a skating rink effect, and as I slammed my door shut I careened forward across the lawn then fell backward into a pool. My lovely Christmas clothes were drenched.
I had to peel off several layers, and hang them up to dry. Bunty’s mother handed me an old pair of tracksuit bottoms to cover my legs, and sat us by the fire with mince pies and hot mugs of tea. Pipkin and her cat Mewla immediately cosied up to me, because they know I am a soft touch. Pipkin is normally as terrified of the fire as she is of sheep, but she overcame it for the sake of my company; this flattered me.
Flambeau is not scared of the fire at all. He spent the evening sprawled in front of it.
He made sure the flames heated him evenly all over, holding his various poses for five or six minutes at a time.
Mewla was not so tolerant of the heat, and after a while she retired to her favourite shelf to cool down.
After the exchanging of gifts, the pulling of crackers and wearing of paper crowns over a roast dinner, and drinks, and warm conversation with Bunty’s mother and brother, my Christmas clothes were dry. But not before all of the photos of me had been taken, in the wrong trousers.