Alex James: Middle of nowhere: the best place to be

Rural Notebook

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Somehow there was never a cosier place to be at Christmas than the middle of nowhere and I once overheard our neighbourhood described as such by someone attempting to leave, talking loudly into a mobile phone. Already it seems very still and quiet here as if the whole place were just about to set like a jelly. Yes, it's definitely quieter than normal, although it's hard to say what's missing. Right across the valley, apart from the odd sheep coughing, birds are making the only sounds. It is grey and damp and beautiful, absolutely my favourite time of year.

All present and correct

Well, Christmas is a doddle for the cheesemaker, very easy to deal with. There are few people who are disappointed to receive cheese, present-wise. I once gave a whole gold medal-winning truckle that I'd pinched from the British Cheese Awards to an American lady, who thanked me very much but confided that "this stuff gives me mucus", although generally one sees faces light up as the goods change hands.

In old-fashioned Russia...

I used to have lots of friends. Now I have lots of children. One midnight raid on Toys R Us took care of most of the other presents and for everything else it's been Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Daylesford all the way. Although Claire just went and said there were people actually having fights over the last loaf of plaited spelt in there, like in old-fashioned Russia.

I feel safe with my Cheddar

I have an extra large wedge of Montgomery Cheddar (I bought enough to warrant it being delivered) and a cauldron full of well reduced freshly made chicken stock and I feel very safe, invincible: ready for all eventualities. I don't think we will need anything else. Soon I will light a fire and attempt to spend an entire week in front of it in my underpants. Impossible, but one can dream.

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