Christmas in the Country

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"Gosh, when I told people I was going to stay in a French chateau for Christmas, they were all so envious," said our daughter-in-law. "But they imagined that it would be so luxurious. It’s very nice, but it is not exactly luxurious. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many children working so hard. "

"Ha!" said Jules. "Are you kidding? It’s pure misery. I wanted to stay in Paris. Out here, it’s nothing but work. We get up in the morning and have to make fires in the fireplaces. Then, Dad puts us to work — either building stone walls or painting something. I worked all day yesterday on that library… and there’s still a lot to do. And then we had to go out and find a Christmas tree, cut it down and drag it all the way to the house… "

"Yes, and you seem to have dragged it through the mud," said his mother.

"Oh, stop complaining. Work, work, work… that’s all we do around here. And now we have to decorate the house… and we have to work all day for the party you’re having this evening. And we don’t have a TV… and there’s nothing to do. And the place is always cold and dark. It’s no wonder we always get sick when we come out here… "

• We went to choir rehearsal last night. It is not a very serious choir — just a group of eight or nine aficionados who warm up once or twice a year in order to belly-out a good tune. The amazing thing is that people always seem to find something to argue about — no matter how trivial the stakes.

"I used the microphone last year," said a soprano, "and people complained that I sang too loud. I’m not doing that again."

"But you have to use the microphone," said a tenor, "or people won’t be able to hear you." "Oh no, it will be a cold day in Hell before I use a microphone."

"You are so selfish!" said an alto.

"Aren’t we rehearsing for Christmas?" asked a basso profundo.

Bill Bonner [send him mail] is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century.

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