East Sussex (home of the Sussex Carol?) guests said of their stay at Hanover House – ‘Beautiful English home, set in England’s green and pleasant land, matched with home comforts and Charlotte’s personal touch!’
Is this blog title derived from a cricketing term? Are there any other examples of run-ups? Like a fast bowler approaching a stubborn batsman, Christmas is the major event of the year which requires a long and carefully orchestrated run-up! Quite apart from the logistic planning for catering for family gatherings, there often have to be major calendar planning exercises, balancing work-end dates, Christmas functions surrounding the event itself, availability of family members, management of family politics, sharing of precious time with in-laws and immediate family and a plethora of other factors.
In our case, we have to orchestrate the corporate requirements of a large family with our own immediate personal needs and those of Hanover House B&B’s (www.hanoverhouse.org) business. Over the years we have built up a sort of routine concerning buying and writing Christmas cards well in advance of the event (often tied in with conflicting priorities and a slave-driver spouse!), the stocking of the larders with catering consumables, the making of the Christmas Cake and traditional Christmas Puddings to secret recipes, and buying presents for an ever changing age-range of children, siblings and grandchildren – the latter the more discerning as they grow (no old rubbish to be fobbed off on them now!).
In the build up (or run up), the shops are already full of cards, advertising, gifts and decorations, and events are beginning to crowd out our countdown calendar. This month in Cheltenham we have the winter fixtures at the Racecourse, various small festivals such as the Film Festival, then in early December there will be the Christmas Market on the Promenade and the official switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights. In our own personal schedule are the Advent Service in Bath Abbey on Advent Sunday, linked to our tradional Bath Afternoon Tea, usually in the Pump Rooms. Shortly afterwards will come a Messiah (venue not yet decided – preferably Cathedral/Ecclesiastical – possibly at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre or even Cheltenham’s Town Hall) and then City of Oxford’s Christmas Candlelight Concert in Exeter College Chapel, following afternoon tea at The Old Parsonage.
Perhaps we’ve become set in our ways, but we have found a recipe that works, and will stick to it -with some variations depending on circumstances. The focal point however remains Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, where everything comes together and we dine like Kings (& Queens), have open fires, a large Christmas tree in the spacious, high-ceilinged Hanover House, with presents galore and carols playing in the background. A bit sentimental possibly, but probably not a million miles away from the activities of generations of families who have celebrated the season’s festivities within the warm ambience of the old 4 York Terrace (now Hanover House, St George’s Road). I can just picture the young 12-year old Alice Roberts (to become Lady Alice Elgar) sitting at the piano in the drawing room, in front of her fire (in our original fireplace), entertaining her mother, brother and aunts and uncles, with the newly-fashionable Victorian Christmas fir tree in the background….