Never again! What a week! More gruelling than the Gomorrah golfing holiday, wackier than the whale-watching in Nineveh.
Our plan was to take a quiet break in Judea whilst Joseph sorted out his tax affairs, but for some reason the whole town was absolutely heaving – every hotel was fully booked. We were forced to settle for self-catering – not just any old self-catering but the most basic imaginable. You know me Elizabeth, I’m not one to fuss; I can rough it with the best of them when occasion demands. Remember that Girl Guide camp on the Golem Heights? What a hoot! But this was really grim. There wasn’t even an en suite bathroom!
And that’s when everything got completely out of hand. I suppose it was my fault; I must have got my dates wrong. Anyway it was fine in the end. Thank you for your congratulations. The baby is thriving.
Somehow the whole event became an excuse for a party! It began with a lot of shepherds dropping in. Charming fellows, salt of the earth, but you know, really quite simple people. They brought a few lambs with them – completely un-housetrained of course. Not that it actually made much difference in that place. Our landlady seemed to think that an ox in the bedroom was quite acceptable. And as for donkeys – you couldn’t move for them.
Joseph popped out to Marks and Sparks and picked up some fairly decent finger food (Have you tasted their goat’s testicle crostini with sundried snail’s eggs? Really rather moreish.) Of course fusion cuisine meant nothing to those shepherds. They kept asking for baked apples and wassail and frumenty – all that old fashioned stuff that no one serves at Yuletide nowadays. The youngest one almost choked on a Thai fishcake and later on I noticed him feeding the anchovy bruschetta to the oxen.
Towards midnight, really swish e-type camels drove up and suddenly the place was full of flashy Persian princelings. They brought the most extraordinary gifts. We just didn’t know what to say – I mean, what does one do with a gold bar? And as for frankincense and myrrh – well, I don’t need to remind you about Joseph’s perfume intolerance. Remember that picnic in Galilee, when the spikenard made him swell up and come out in boils? This time was even worse; he became almost spherical and started speaking in tongues. We had to force-feed him buckwheat blinis with caramelised pistachio hearts. The youngest shepherd didn’t really help matters by dousing him with a bucket of sangria.
After that a gang of yobbish youths came flying in. I thought they were Hell’s Angels at first, but luckily they turned out to be a male voice choir. They brought a variety of instruments – harps, sackbuts, lutes, kazoos, all sorts of things. Everyone started dancing. (The shepherds were quite dangerous – clogs can really crush the toes of those of us in flimsier footwear.) As I was spinning round in the arms of a rather dishy prince I remembered your sixteenth birthday – that disco-night in Tel Aviv – what larks! Do you remember the hilarious guy in the psychedelic toga who said you were the spitting image of the Queen of Sheba?
After the knees up, the choir sang a sort of medley called Winter Wonderland – rather tedious. I dozed off on a straw bale – woke up to find a sheep licking my ear. Joseph and the oldest shepherd had become tearful and sentimental with the help of a barrel of Theakston’s Old Peculiar. The choir were demolishing onion bhajis and washing them down with a case of really rather acceptable claret brought by the Persians. I had a thumping headache.
So, after all that, you can see why Joseph and I seized the opportunity to go on a little mini-break to Egypt – just us, the baby, and a couple of donkeys. From my deck chair I can see nothing but sun and sand, with the top of Joseph’s snorkel peeping above the surface of the Red Sea. It is blissfully quiet – no sound except for the distant tinkle of bells on the harness of an ice-cream mule. The baby is gurgling on a sheepskin rug (one of the more practical presents he received). All three of us are feeling really rested and happy.
How are you and Zak doing? Little Johnny must be almost walking now. I’ll never forget how sweet he looked last time I saw him, in that fake fur-fabric romper suit.
Bye for now
ps I enclose some snaps. You can see what I mean about the baby having his father’s nose.