Katherine May wrote in her sublime book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times that ” winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible”. It is a comforting thought as the grounds change colour and even texture, and the air now has those first overtones of frost. Beneath the surface, the plants renew, while in the main building, the upkeep work continues. The Chateau hosts guests all year round, and it is indeed pleasant to think of lights in the windows and sounds from the kitchen in November.

At this time of the year, many people in the UK will be anticipating St Andrew’s Day. Meanwhile, in France, the young and the formerly young eagerly await the night of the 5th of December. I have previously written about Le Père Fouettard, aka ‘The Whipping Father’, and this article from The Guardian encapsulates the national approach to the coming season:

Since 1962, there has been a law that any French child posting a letter addressed simply to “Le Père Noël” must receive a postcard in return. Adults who break the spell are shunned. On the other hand, the French have found a way to make the Christmas magic work for parents, too: they have provided Le Père Noël with an evil sidekick. The terrifying Père Fouettard – literally “whipping father” – rides on the tailgate of the sleigh, delivering beatings to naughty children as Father Christmas delivers presents to the good. When you’re trying to get children to sleep on Christmas Eve, the Anglo-American song exhorting children to “be good for goodness sake” is not nearly so effective as “be good or Le Père Fouettard will come down that chimney and thrash you”. You have to hand it to the French.

Le Père Fouettard is also known to dispense lumps of coal to children he deemed ill-behaved. All this writer wishes to say at this point is that he may or may not contact the nearest merchant for an extra order of Nutty Slack in the immediate future. Any step-offspring forcing him to watch Strictly Come Dancing could well receive carbon-based fuel, as opposed to a tube of Smarties, in their clogs…