A Family Christmas

Members of my close family go out for their Xmas dinner, either to a pub or a hotel. In fact, a lot of people do. I am sure they have good reasons, and it’s always nice to get someone else to cook food for you so you can drink and socialise. As a single person, I stay at home.

I often ask my family, did you have a nice dinner. The answer is always some variation of:

  • food was ok but not up to home standards
  • atmosphere was a bit cold/off/odd
  • they wanted us out as soon as possible

in other words, not great.

I am sure the places they go to produce a decent meal, though the prices can be high. I am sure some actually roast turkey, but I can believe that many others simply buy in ready prepared food. After all, it’s cheaper, easier and more likely to give consistent results.

Unless the place you are visiting is local, someone has to drive, and therefore not drink, or you need to book a taxi at a high price.

And of course they want you out promptly. Yes, they are taking in plenty of money, but if you’re sitting round chatting and not spending, they will want you out, either to let their staff go or for their own family dinner.

After a lot of years, you would think that people who like to eat out at Xmas would know what to expect.

Christmas in London

It is Christmas in London. Yawn.

If you are coming to London for an Xmas holiday, here are a few facts to help you:

  • we rarely get snow, but it can be cold and windy, and rainy. Transport can be affected badly, so, if you are planning expeditions and have a timetable, allow extra time, just in case. There are plenty of apps and websites that keep you up-to-date with travel disruptions. Christmas is a time for major rail works too. Taxis and other alternatives can be more expensive on Christmas Day
  • most shops are open the day after Xmas Day, that is Boxing Day. Travel will be mostly working, but with an infrequent service
  • theatres tend to be quiet over the holiday period, so look for bargains, but make sure the main cast are appearing
  • sales start immediately after Christmas Day in many big stores
  • there will be places open for eating food on Christmas Day, if you need them, but make sure you book to avoid disappointment, and hunger
  • the begging fraternity seem to be out in force at this time
  • be extra careful of your possessions and beware of thieves, especially at tourist traps like Covent Garden
  • if you are staying in a hotel and staff are working on Christmas Day, give them a tip. If you visit someone’s house, a small gift is appropriate
  • avoid Trafalgar Square and the river at New Year’s Eve, unless you really like crowds
  • ’tis the season to be jolly, but Christmas tv is poor compared to the good old days…

 

Christmas is here

Actually, it seems like Xmas has been here since Easter. Certainly, pubs and restaurants were taking last minute Christmas bookings in July, some people I know had decorations up in October, I wrote my (few) cards weeks ago. The food delivery services were saying get your last minute booking in September.

When I was little, Xmas was a big thing for several reasons. The country came to a halt basically from Christmas Eve until after the new year. Shops were rarely open, people didn’t go out. It was dismal. All you could do was stay home, watch tv, eat and argue.

But now there are plenty of places open on Xmas Day even. OK, public transport does not run, except certain services, and taxis charge a fortune, but pubs and restaurants are open and busy, and many shops. By Boxing Day, it’s back to normal (the USA don’t have Boxing Day) in the UK. Some, not many but some, people work. The sales are on, everyone literally does DIY.

The need to buy a 15 tonne turkey to get a family of 4 through 3 weeks seems to have gone. Whatever made Xmas special, and that does not mean good, is no more. Here in the UK, we are becoming even more American.

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, then the next day it’s sales. After Xmas day, USA shops are open for people to return gifts for something they actually want. We don’t do that here – you can’t really return stuff unless it is faulty. We’ve mostly forgotten the so-called religious significance, thank goodness, and it’s a time for shops to count their profits. Don’t make expected sales at Xmas and you are doomed for the year.