31st December 2018
It is the last day of December, just before 9am. The sky is coming alive with light. A chill mist cloaks the village and fields. The thinnest sliver of a thumbnail moon is still alight, and one brave little bird sings from the oak trees in our garden. The Robin has not sat chittering on the garden wall yet. He is late this morning. Our little red car is iced with crystals of the same frost that has stiffened the fallen leaves from our walnut tree, turning them from brown porridge into shiny curled shapes that made the dog hop when he went out to pee, steamy in the chilly air.
I fetched wood from the shed while still in my pajamas and lit the wood-burners in both the kitchen and lounge-room. The stones of this old house hold onto the warmth from the night’s fires, but soon relinquish it.
Our first Christmas in Galicia is over. New friends came, and shared a meal of Indian food with us – something strange and spicy that we all craved as an antidote to the quite plain local food we have been enjoying. I prepared a chicken jalfrezi, a potato and cauliflower biryani, chapatis and an onion chutney; such exotic spices, to infuse our local seasonal meat and vegetables. In a way it symbolized us, I think; how our village friends might see us: are we “strange and spicy” to them? I hope that, like our cooking, we are a welcome change from the usual fare, enhancing what is already here without altering or replacing it too boldly.
It’s New Year’s Eve. Back in Sydney, we would have watched the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on tv, then the Sydney fireworks, as we ate a meat pie and drank a glass of champagne. Tonight, we will eat 12 grapes – one at each stroke of midnight, and we will make a wish on each. We will drink Galician beer, cider or cava, and enjoy tapas in our local café, where a party starts at 1am. Nobody will sing Auld Lang Syne, but old acquaintances will not be forgot.
It’s 7pm in Sydney. Soon we will ring and text-message all our friends and family, who have spent their summer’s day swimming in the warm sea and basking in the sun. A long, cold, day of wood-stacking and gathering of kindling awaits us. Perhaps a walk. Later, I will prepare some cheese and potato pasties for us, and anyone who drops by for a drink. We will sweep the floors of 2018, leaving them clean for 2019 to enter and step upon.
We will look back, and forward. We will meet the challenges and changes of this new year, as it knocks upon our new front door, in our new house, in our new country.