Kage Baker loved quiet Sunday evenings. She most especially loved winter evenings; when the sun set in the West into the Pacific in a nest of red tinsel clouds, and the sky was a deep cold violet all the way to the dreaming East.
For the last several years of her life, Kage only got to enjoy those warm, slow evenings on the weeknights – on Saturdays and Sundays, she tended to be at Dickens Fair, in the Green Man Inn, in London as built in the Cow Palace in San Francisco … she always tried to duck outside at sunset, to salute the blue silk sky over the peak of the Cow Palace’s roof, and the brave little Christmas tree that glowed there in the cold winds off the Bay.
Besides, out there was where the chemical toilets were. And it was always a good idea to visit them just before the last couple of hours of the Fair. That was the time when the major gigs were done; when Mrs. Drum could actually sit down in the Parlour. When she could indulge in a pint of ale, or a shot of whiskey, or a glass of absinthe. Or maybe all 3, in sequence.
Most of all, though, it was when the staff and family of the Green Man would take over the main table, the one reserved for the gentry. ALL the sweeties would come out to the table, the yummy leftovers and the even- more-delectable goodies we saved especially for the family…
Pound cake with homemade rum sauce (devotees like Kage were known the drink the stuff straight). Homemade lemon curd on tea biscuits, or scones, or simply from a spoon. Fudges, divinities, window and thumb cookies; mince pies, ginger bread shaped like castles and roses, shortbread petticoat tails. Hand-dipped chocolates (for which the Parlour maids traded cucumber sandwiches and pitchers of ale).
And then, we would put on our shawls and gloves and bonnets, and process to Fezziwig’s party to watch the dancing. Our dancing days were long past, Kage and I, but we sat at the sides and held coats and hats and fans and reticules and sword sticks and toddlers for youngsters. It was grand.
I’m not at Dickens this year, but I am warm and content in my own living room. The gas fire is a lovely orange glow, and the trimmed tree looks like a newborn nebula – thank you, Michael! I have a red glass full of Cranberry Sprite, which tastes like a Shirley Temple cocktail – or, if you were of the small boy persuasion, a Roy Rogers.
And if I lift my glass, and view the sparkling tree through the facets in it, the whole room becomes a Christmas kaleidoscope. And, yes, I am content.