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OK, last meme entry. And again, although Boxing Day was awful, thankfully Christmas Day itself was all right, so I can describe it fairly normally.

I actually began Christmas Day at my sister's house in Warwick, because she had invited me and her old sixth-form friend Duncan over for the evening to keep up our old tradition of toasting in Christmas together at midnight. We had a lovely evening of canapés, drinks and chat, and did our little toast together at midnight (me with raspbery and cranberry juice), even though we were all yawning by that stage. Then Duncan and I bid them goodnight and headed off in my car, under a bright starry sky and taking care to avoid the (very few) other cars and people whom we saw pursuing their own rather drunken-looking paths home. I crept quietly into my parents' house with the benefit of much practice acquired during my teenage clubbing years, and sank into bed.

The next morning, we all got up, had breakfast, got ready and headed back over again to my sister's house in Warwick for Christmas Day itself. We arrived around 11am, and sat down with a round of coffee while we showered Eloise with presents. She is one and a half now, and has very definitely become a little girl rather than a baby:


She also genuinely manages to get even cuter every time I see her. The picture doesn't begin to capture that, because so much of it is about her lovely smiling animated face and her increasingly eloquent chatter, and nor does it even really show off the growing mass of blonde curls hiding at the back of her head. But I hope it gives some idea at least.

In the picture, she is shown with a train set which my parents gave her, and which she absolutely loved. She already loves bridges, apparently, enjoying pushing toys underneath the piano stool in her playroom, or underneath her parents' bent legs, and saying either 'bridge!' or 'pont!' (she is being brought up bilingual, and knows both words) as she does so. So she was thrilled to have her very own bridge as part of the play-set, and spent at least half an hour studiously pushing trains over or under it in the middle of the floor. She also got an easel, because she is beginning to really love drawing and colouring, a gift-set with The Snowman on DVD and some little baby books to go along with it, some dominoes and a fire engine (also visible in the picture above).

Myself, I gave her two Mr. Men / Little Miss books (which she is a little young for at the mo, but will grow into), a cardigan, T-shirt and woolly hat, two play-sets from IKEA consisting of soft stuffed fruit and vegetables, and a cuddly donkey. And I am pleased to say that she really loved the donkey in particular, picking it up with a big grin, giving it kisses and cuddles and exclaiming 'âne!' a lot (which is of course the French word for 'donkey'). I know these things are the luck of the draw really, with children as little as her, but it was nice to have scored a hit there. :-)

Around 12ish, it was time for Eloise to have her lunch and then a nap - which meant our opportunity to sit down for grown-up Christmas dinner. This was amazing! Charlotte and Nicolas are both quite into cooking, so they had planned and prepared a very lovely dinner together, including sensibly doing as much as they could the previous day so that it would all be pretty easy on the day itself. For starters we had fried scallops, and for dessert a Tesco's finest Christmas pudding - which I did my usual job of setting fire to. For the record, I adopted danieldwilliam's suggestion of creating a dip in the top of the pudding as part of this process this year, but otherwise followed my usual routine of heating up the brandy in the microwave before pouring it over the pudding and lighting it.

The highlight of the meal, though, was the main dish - a Beef Wellington which Nicolas had made with an incredibly soft and delicious joint of beef:

The Beef Wellington My plate of Beef Wellington

This was every bit as good as it looks in the pictures, and easily as good as anything you could dream of ordering in a restaurant. It was also set off by a bottle of wine of a quality which I don't ever expect to experience again in my life-time - a Chateau Margaux 1988:

Chateau Margaux My glass of Chateau Margaux General view of my plate and glass

This had come from the French side of the family as well, being a present from Nicolas' father to our father last Christmas, out of his personal wine cellar. Presumably, he bought it for a reasonable price around the time when it was produced and has been quietly storing it ever since, but when Dad received it last year and looked it up on the internet he found that if you wanted to buy a bottle of it on the open market now, you would be looking at a price tag of around £2-300. So shared between the five adult members of the Christmas Day party that meant our individual glasses of it were worth about £50-60. I'm not a huge red wine fan to be honest, so it was probably a bit wasted on me, but I did find that although each sip presented the same acidy tang that usually puts me off red wine when it first hit my mouth, nonetheless somehow it went down incredibly easily, and didn't seem to stay very long in my glass. :-)

After lunch, Eloise woke from her nap and came down to the lounge to carry on playing with her new toys, while the adults handed out and opened our presents to one another around her. We teased Nicolas, who comes from a household where presents are torn open in a frenzy, with our established family routine of going round opening one each in turn, which sounded to him like a cruel and unusual form of torture - but actually he seemed to find that it was quite a nice way to do it in the end. My main present was the new edition of The Oxford Classical Dictionary, which makes the third that I have owned now, while I also got various other bits and bobs like chocolates, some new slippers and an amaryllis.

By the time we'd finished all that, it was time for Doctor Who, which I hadn't expected to be able to watch on Christmas Day itself, because I thought we would probably be travelling home by then - but it turned out that Charlotte was expecting us to stay for tea as well, and was perfectly happy for me to watch it. I'll rewatch that and review it properly soon, as obviously there were people playing with things, moving around, making comments etc while I was watching it. But it was nice to have it as part of the experience of the day itself, even if I didn't catch every word of the dialogue, and it certainly seemed a lot better than last year's offering.

Finally, we ate a light tea together while Eloise fed herself messily from a bowl of left-over potato gratin and ham, and played with a bracelet which Charlotte had received earlier that day in her Christmas cracker. She knows her colours already (which I certainly didn't at the age of one and a half!), and spent about ten minutes happily absorbed in the task of moving the coloured beads along the band around Charlotte's wrist and naming each colour as she did so - "Blue, green, pink, yellow, black" (the last of which was actually not a bead but the clasp holding the bracelet together). I just can't believe how much she has learnt since I last saw her four months ago, or how much she now knows or can do in total! Only a year ago she could still barely sit up by herself.

We then drove back to Birmingham, and Mum and I sat down with nice hot drinks in front of the Downton Abbey Christmas special. This isn't something I watch particularly systematically, but it seemed a nice idea to round off the day with some pleasant brain candy which we could both enjoy together, and it didn't disappoint - although really, the ending was pretty silly even by Downton standards.

A decent day all told - and a jolly good thing too, given what followed. :-/

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2012 12:54 am (UTC)
That sounds like a lovely cosy Christmas, and I do enjoy hearing how Eloise is getting along. It sounds like the bilingualism isn't slowing her language development at all (I understand it usually does, though it is good for the child in the long run).

She's certainly doing better than my daughter with her colours. This seems like a good time to tell you that my daughter knows and says one colour: purple!
Dec. 31st, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, she started saying proper recognisable words which matched the context she was using them in just before her first birthday, which as far as I understand is pretty much bang on typical. And from that point onwards she has made incredibly quick progress, so that she now has a very impressive vocabulary for her age in both languages. She's not really saying complex sentences yet - mainly just single-word explanations, or maybe a couple of words together at most. But she clearly understands what people are saying to her pretty effectively.

Charlotte and Nicolas have what I think is a very good policy of establishing either an English-speaking environment for her, or a French-speaking one, and not mixing the two. So when it is just the three of them at home, they speak French with her, but when English-speaking visitors come round they use an English-speaking environment. I noticed at one point on Christmas day when I spoke a short, simple sentence in French to her that I got a pretty puzzled stare for my troubles, so I think she is already developing a sense of which language is 'right' for what context - enough to be a bit surprised when someone whom she doesn't expect to speak French suddenly does so.

As for your daughter, you are clearly doing an excellent job as a parent, because you have taught her the only colour she needs to know! Seriously, though, that's quite a surprising one for her to pick up first, given that it is two syllables, an unusual sound anyway (with no other common words that rhyme with it), and not a very common colour in e.g. nature. She must really like it to have fixated on it in spite of all that. :-)
Jan. 1st, 2013 05:13 am (UTC)
I think that sounds about on track for speech yeah. Mine were both delayed, though Sproglet not as much as Sprog. I think Charlotte's and Nicolas' bilingual policy sounds most sensible!

Colour-wise, I'm not sure how much she really knows, because she won't cooperate in any demonstration. I can say "Where's blue?" all I like, but she'll point to whatever colour she wants to hear *me* say. However, there have been a few different occasions when she has eagerly grabbed something purple and said: "Bubble!" I don't think I've ever heard her say another colour's name, so purple is clearly something special to her!
Dec. 31st, 2012 09:19 am (UTC)
Oh that does sound like a nice day, Eloise is just lovely!

I hope you are ok now x
Jan. 6th, 2013 03:31 pm (UTC)
Having a child around really does change Christmas again and add a little bit of magic. She looks like a lovely little girl and it's fascinating reading about her developments in bilingualism.

I'm glad that you had an enjoyable Christmas day especially after what followed.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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