• Christmas in Londinium

    by  •  • London

    Chatting with a Saffa at work, we hit on the complicated relationship Antipodeans have with Northern Hemisphere Christmases.

    You see, Christmas belongs here. Traditional Yuletide fare is essentially Western European survival foods: goose, preserved fruits, Christmas pudding (which lasts for years), etc.

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    I mentioned this before but, back home, I always found it slightly odd that my mother would light our dessert on fire and serve it in a heavily air conditioned room while the temperature outside topped forty. It’s incongruous -like strapping two cats into a baby bouncer. It doesn’t seem quite right.

    The lead-up to Christmas is also so wonderful in the Northern Hemisphere… Especially London. The city is lit up like some kind of time-traveling hooker from the future. She still stinks and is crawling with god-knows-what but if you drink enough mulled wine and squint… Well… She’s so pretty!

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    So that’s the problem. The actual day belongs here and the lead-up belongs here but if that time-traveling hooker brought back some kind of wish-granting machine I would also like to spend the Christmas break back in the warmth.

    The thing is… All the best bits about Christmas are the most Pagan; gorging yourself on food with members of your bloodline, garlanding trees with lights and colours, alcoholic drinks served with breakfast… It’s all Pagan and it’s all good. The shit bits belong to the interloping Christians: staying sober-ish so you don’t vomit on all the old people you have to sit next to on uncomfortable church pews in the middle of the night, actually going to church in the middle of the night, being bored fuckless hearing about the story of the ‘real’ St Nick. (Sorry, he’s still based on two Northen European Pagan gods. Who cares if there was some pedophile bishop in the fourth century?)

    So, basically I just want all the Pagan bits of Christmas. And what could be more Pagan than basking in the rays of the sun and putting ocean-going animals in fire for two whole weeks while wearing as little as possible?

    This is the Christmas break I find myself yearning for. Nothing beats it. The trade-off is painful.

    Oh well, I shall have to make do with ornament shopping in the best Christmas store in the world:

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    Christmas really plays to Harrod’s strengths; OTT, camp tat. Figuring it would be crowded, we got there before it opened to loiter like pensioners in front of a closed department store. At least two thousand people had the same idea as us -including these fur protesters who appeared out of nowhere the second the doors opened. The looks of confusion and bewilderment on the faces of the European tourists as they had pamphlets forced into their hands were priceless -a true Christmas miracle.

    After shoving past the protesters and old people we made a beeline for the ornament section (helpfully found online by James using nothing but an iPhone and twenty minutes spare time).

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    We got maybe seven minutes browsing before the hordes worked out where the ornaments were and descended. Now, usually crowds send me into a vile rage that only seven beers consumed alone in the dark can alleviate.

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    But today I didn’t mind. Here’s why I think that is:

    To get to the ornament section, you have to head up two floors from the side entrance and then wade through three rooms of extremely over-priced whiteware. You know the kinds of things; five hundred pound coffee machines, a juicer that speaks French, a sandwich toaster made of unicorn hooves. Nothing in these rooms -if purchased- will be used more than once and not in any essential capacity. You won’t see any of these things in the first permanent colonies mankind builds in space. Because they’re crap that only Russian new money buys to put in holiday houses they never visit.

    These rooms were practically empty.

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    The ornament section, by contrast, was a middle class mosh pit.

    And I thought to myself… Good. Good!

    Perhaps we are coming out of this recession a little wiser? Sure, we are still spending (one of our boxes of ornaments cost forty pounds) but we -or at least my middle class moshers- weren’t buying shit. We are all spending on something that is way better than a French-speaking sushi warmer that also connects to the iTunes store.

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    For what are Christmas ornaments if not the backdrop to two whole days spent in the company of your nearest and dearest? In my eyes they are the visible representation of an idea. The idea that the company you keep is the most valuable thing in your life… That the people you choose to spend your days with are worth celebrating… They are literally worth making your entire house look like a drag queen’s shoe collection.

    So spend, my middle class horde… Spend!

    There is nothing better than eating and drinking with good company in front of sparkly, shiny things.

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    And in that spirit I would just like to say… Wish you all were here.

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