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…



I got very interested in piercing. Not tattoos or other body modifications, just the piercing. As someone who has never worn jewellery in his life, it was a new adventure for me.

Let’s dispel a few myths.

It’s not an expensive exercise. You can get a septum piercing for £25, maybe more depending on the jewellery you pick.

It can be painful, of course, when it is done as people are sticking needles in your body, but only for a short time.

Piercings need to heal. Some can take months, others days.

If you don’t like it, take it out and it will heal. There may be a scar, but that’s no problem for me at my age.

Yes, you do have to think carefully if your piercing choices might affect your employment. It shouldn’t, but you can see that someone, for example, serving in a posh restaurant may be frowned on if they have a face full of piercings.

Having piercings does not mean you are a bad person, but it does make you more approachable for vagrants on the streets.


I retired at the age of 60 after nearly 40 years as a teacher. I have been offered part time work, but decided that I was really going to retire.

So, doing up my flat (apartment), going to the theatre and concerts and such like have been entertaining me for more than three years now.

My first holiday was to one of my favourite places, maybe my favourite place. Chicago. Lots of other places in the USA followed: Washington, Seattle, New York of course, and Canada, ie Toronto.

I get a reaction from people I know. It’s usually ‘oh boring’, ‘but you have been there before, lots of times, you must have seen everything’ and ‘why not go somewhere more adventurous’. Someone said ‘oh you must hate cities, hire a Winnebago and drive through the wilderness for a couple of weeks’. As I don’t drive, get bored by sea, sand and scenery and love culture, people and activity, it is obvious I will go to a city.

When I am too old to fly long distances, which will be very soon I imagine, I will go to nearer places. Stockholm is on the list, as is Glasgow.

But, I don’t understand why people want to criticise me for my holiday choices, especially to places they have never been to.