Middle English Word of the Moment

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Kilpatrick household!

Every family has Christmas traditions, right? Each has something unique that they do that they can be fairly sure no one else is doing right at that moment. For example, two years ago as we hung our newly iced gingerbread men on the christmas tree, we could be fairly sure that no other family in Australia had a gingerbread Lucia di Lammermoor, swaying sensuously in her blood-spattered white nightdress. I think I even managed to make a dagger for her, possibly out of slivered almonds.

This Christmas, gingerbread forms were dictated rather by chance. For example, someone lost his head accidentally. So of course, he had to be consoled by translation into an approprate semi-Christmas figure:


He isn't wearing a dress. The Green Knight is far too manly to wear a dress. It is an embroidered robe. With almond embroidery on the belt.

His flashing red eyes did run a little, though.

Unfortunately, we didn't have any horse-shaped cutters, so his colour-coordinated steed lacks a little grandeur:


But his friend/adversary is very pretty, in appropriately Christmassy colours, and with an almost-pentangle on his shield.

I'm not sure why Gawain has no eyes. Either there was some solemn symbolism about his inability to see truly due to being distracted by earthly beauty, or I had used all the cashous by this time.

In any case, he probably got the better deal:
Poor Grendel is not only missing an arm, and some claws from his remaining hand, but he was strung up to the tree upside down - and as a result, an enterprising beagle has nibbled his head.

In fact, limblessness and missing bits seemed to be a theme this year, right down to the story my younger sister told with some of the old Christmas tree ornaments:



From left to right, Mrs Dobbins (missing her legs, an arm and the loop of string on top of her head due to her enthusiastic habit of rolling down the street), Clive the Headless Rocking Horse (ran afoul of a beer company for criticising its objectification of women, a subject about which he feels very strongly despite the fact that he is neither female or human), various soldiers who lost their bits in battling the evil chicken minions of the Easter Bunny, and another horse who's quite literally gone off his rocker and also has to wear his head slung over the left side of his rump for fear of over-balancing. I don't remember his story, except that he now runs a bicycle shop.

A slightly more serious attempt at decoration (I disapprove of Yule logs that involve feral plants like holly):


... and my two dogs worn out after a long morning beach walk.


Not that Snowy went on the walk. He was worn out by all his quiet sleeping while the rest of the family (including both beagles) was on a morning beach walk. He's seventeen, blind, deaf and doddery, lives with my parents because he'd be far too disoriented if I took him with me to Melbourne, and we've been expected him to die suddenly for about three years.

He quite likes Oliver, though I don't think Oliver really notices him.

I also think it's fair to say that we were the only family in Adelaide or farther playing the dictionary game from the Oxford Latin Dictionary (we found it's easier than the English, because it's much easier to find a word that no one knows), and making up family line-by-line stories involving Chrétien de Troyes, Cleopatra and Amanda Vanstone.

It works like this. Everyone in the circle has a piece of paper. They write a man's name up the top, followed by the word 'met'. They fold the top down to hide the name from the next person, then pass the paper on. On the next paper, they write a woman's name, then fold it down and pass it on. Everyone contributes a sentence to each story, following a consistent pattern to preserve some coherence. In this case, the pattern was:
[man's name] met [woman's name] at [place]. He [said/did something]. She [ditto]. [repeat actions, alternating he/she, a certain number of times agreed in the group]. The upshot was that... [something happened].

For example:

David John Kilpatrick [my father] met
Cleopatra at
Windsor Castle.
She raised one finely plucked golden eyebrow at his choice of garter.
He tickled her tummy.
She rose onto her tiptoes and wiggled her ears conspiratorially.
The consequence was they got married and had lots and lots of babies and two rather scrawny cockatoos.

Or:

Margaret Thatcher met
Kevin Rudd [our Prime Minister] at
the Chelsea Flower Show, where he was judging the cyclads and she was dressed as one.
He remembered that he'd always had a phobia about that kind of female and began to run around in circles, squawking and flapping his arms about.
She replied, "But sir, where do you put your Grumpy Old Mysterious Stranger Who Holds The Information Necessary For The Quest, But Who Talks Only In Cryptic Epigrams?"
He rabbited on a bit longer, but finally shut up when they started playing some of his favourite music.
She raced after him, intending to catch him by train, but then remembered that she'd previously rigged all the points.
The upshot was that he joined the Australian Labour Party and developed a terrible phobia of floral print.

I don't know how we got such an appropriate final line, given whoever wrote it can't have known that the story had previously contained either a Labour PM or flowers.

Merry Christmas and New Year, and may you lose no limbs, or even claws!

2 comments:

Fretful Porpentine said...

OMG, most awesome gingerbread men ever.

Ceirseach said...

Thank you!

They are, of course, completeyl inedible due to superfluous amounts of icing sugar, but that's what all those boringly elegant ones with eyes and buttons of cashous and/or hazelnuts are for.