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On the table sits an immaculate white page, no words, no marks not even a scribble to test the black pen. The house is silent, the telly on mute, silently shows a beautiful chef happily demonstrating how to prepare a traditional Italian Christmas dinner.

There is no point in being terrified by it. It had to be done. Pick up the pen and make a list. With a sigh her hands form the words; brown bread, milk, crackers, clementine’s. The next hour is spent envisioning the perfect dinner. Sixty-four black words, with spidery legs and giraffe-necked upsweeps, fill the perfect white page.

Jayne Waters had dreamed of hosting Christmas dinner since she was too little to see over the work-top. She had trailed around after her mother as she busied herself with slicing onions, laying rashers over the plucked flesh of a massive bird and peeked through the oven window, watching the tanning of that prized meat.

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L’horreur

When we said that we would holiday with friends in the Drôme region of France, I was excited, but must have had selective amnesia about the mountainous and inclined aspect of the region. The Drôme Valley is bordered by the soaring Alps and the Cevennes and nestled between them is a town called Crest.

In the balmy afternoon sun, we ascend the steep crumbling stairway, heading for the most striking man-made landmark for miles around. The heavy lunch of beef and red wine, although glorious while being enjoyed, is wholly regretted as I trudge up the 52 m Tour de Crest, The Keep. Friends swear that the view from the top is worth the effort – I doubt this with each knee numbing step.

Crest is a traditional market town with an imposing skyward bound structure. The Tour de Crest was once attached to the Crest Castle, but it is now the only remainder of this once massive fortification. The Tour de Crest, known locally as The Keep was used to house prisoners. What makes this goal so interesting is not the history or the architecture, but the walls of the cells.

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