Monday before Christmas, outside the Royal Exchange facing the Southern wall of the Bank of England, an artistic installation had appeared. The child-sized papier mache merry-go-round ponies were plastered with newsprint bearing the year’s financial panics. Printed UK currency decorated the carousel poles, which were fixed to nothing. As I passed that evening the ponies bore a covering of snow. The following morning the snow had melted, dampening the ponies. The ink of the currency denominations had run. One of the ponies had slid down its wooden pole and was lying on its front on the flagstones, legs splayed, broken at the shoulder and hip.
Tuesday before Christmas and the seasonal ice-rink near Finsbury Circus continued the impression the City gives me of going nowhere. It was actually cold enough not to need artificial chilling but I think the prospective skaters were on Oxford Street, buying. Europop was blaring (it was this which lured me up the steps to see) but there was virtually nobody there.
Wednesday before Christmas, observe the piss-up close to work prior to going to see Stewart Lee at the Leicester Square Theatre.
Stewart Lee was extremely funny – he just gets better and better. Everything he ripped into was stuff I wanted to see ripped into – Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, prosperous UK emigrants and people who move to the country for “quality of life”, and that utter shit Frankie Boyle. Oh, it was very, very, very, very good. Then we went to Gaby’s where I ordered pickles and they came like a Union Jack. Could this be a coincidence, like when Jesus appears on pieces of toast?
Essex, Christmas lunch. My nan-in-sin, waiting for her grub, enjoying the Coldstream Guards’ band playing the theme from The Great Escape.
I don’t celebrate Christmas, I just go along with it*. Last week as John Lewis parted me from a large wodge of loot, I remarked to the woman behind the counter that Christmas was too costly** and I was thinking of changing my religion. She (Chinese if I had to guess) let out a peal of laughter and told me that everybody celebrates Christmas. “You’re Muslim aren’t you?” she said, turning to her fellow till operator, “and you celebrate Christmas”. “Oh yes”, he replied, “Everybody celebrates Christmas”.
I celebrate my dad’s birthday, which is tomorrow. Everybody is coming to Matt’s and mine, including my oldest friend, her mum, her bloke, their little girl, our next-door-but-one neighbour, who was also Matt’s grandad’s good friend, our mums and dads, Matt’s nan, my brother. It’s going to be good – we have many different kinds of vegan sausages, chestnuts, an open fire, and I made (veganised) a chocolate and chestnut terrine which contains 375g of marg and half a kilo of chocolate.
The heart-attack terrine, with a garnish which isn’t as funny as I hoped:
And the alternative, nectarine and marzipan slice, easy and extremely delicious:
My mum made one of her excellent rich fruit cakes (I don’t indulge any more because of the egg) for my dad’s birthday, and my dear friend Peggy, knowing that puff pastry is my favourite food, brought sausage rolls and a mincemeat strudel, but I haven’t captured them here.
* In fact, “it’s all for them” is a little game I play on myself where I say Christmas is nothing to do with me. While outwardly it looks like I celebrate Christmas in fact I’m discreetly doing the winter solstice. Yeah right.
** It’s not true these days that I find Christmas too costly – I just said it to shock at the till.