Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Festive Fun

Bless me dear reader, for I have sinned. It has been far too long since my last posting. But we’re both here now and let me tell you, we have a lot of catching up to do.

I am not very good at telling stories in chronological order, I’ll admit. I start strongly but then I get bogged down in detail and take myself – and my audience – off on some ridiculous tangent that may (or may not) help enrich the original story. See, I’m doing it right now? ARGH.

The point of this particular divergence though is to explain how I’m going to approach our huge and essential catch up. In order to bring you up to speed on my life since we last met, I intend presenting my stories as a series of postings, prepared in the order in which the events happened. It will be a revelation for me, not least a rebellious departure from my usual style, but I reckon it will work. After all, I figure that if I wrote one bumper posting to wrap-up three weeks’ worth of activities, I risk leaving out fun and potentially important details from my anecdotes. As unintentional as those omissions might be, they would certainly irritate me – and nobody likes it when I’m irritated.

So let’s kick off this chronological story-telling exercise with a look back at the silly season; or as I prefer to think of it: Gab's First London Christmas.

In the lead up to Christmas, snow had fallen quite solidly for a couple of days, leaving the city paralysed but beautiful. I battled through the slushy weather; gingerly at first, and with growing confidence as the thaw began. Work itself slowed down as more people started their Christmas holidays. I left a couple of projects on my new year ‘to do’ list and at around 4pm on 23 December, I shut down my computer for the last time in 2010, blissfully aware that I would be on holidays myself until 5 January.

Later that evening and very early the next day, I packed up most of my belongings in the bedroom I was subletting. I was alone in the house during this time; what with one room mate already back in Spain to spend the holidays with her family, and the other scampering about the city somewhere with his mates. The silence was actually helpful, because I was able to concentrate on what I was doing and not leave any stuff forgotten in random drawers or cupboards.

By the afternoon of Christmas Eve I was ready to relax and make the trip up to Marylebone to spend the following couple of days with Gus the Wonderdog and his parents. Laden with food, sleeping bag, and any clothes I would need to get by, I joined the throngs of people trying to criss-cross the city on the trains. Unfortunately I did not read the train station screen particularly well and ended up on a train to Woking instead of Waterloo. To those unfamiliar with English geography, this does not seem so bad – except for the fact that these two stations are in entirely opposite directions, and about 45 minutes apart. As the train left the station – obviously in an unintended direction – I realised my mistake immediately. As the guard read out our list of stops over the loudspeaker, I realised that I had also managed to catch an express train to Woking. Oh joy.

You’d be proud of me though, cause I didn’t cry or stress or anything. I just figured that when the train got to Woking, I’d get off, change platforms, and head back to Waterloo. What else could I do really? I’m becoming terribly practical in my old age, I think. Then of course to compound my embarrassment, the train conductor made his way through the train to check everyone’s ticket. Given that Woking is a regional destination, the ticket I used to get on the train was not actually valid for the journey. I confessed to the conductor – with a self-deprecating eyeball roll - that I had made a gross error and that I’d actually been headed for Waterloo, so I knew that my Oyster card was not good for the fare to Woking. He just shook his head and playfully said, “silly girl” – but he didn’t fine me or anything, presumably because it was Christmas and I was foreign and he was a nice man.

Once at Woking, my ticket card obviously wouldn’t let me back through the gates to the ticket machines. I appealed to the gatekeeper and again the spirit of Christmas prevailed. In no time at all, I had purchased a ticket and was on my way – on an express train no less – to London’s Waterloo station.

Fast forward to Marylebone (my favourite neighbourhood), and I had finally arrived at Gus’s house with no real desire to head out again into the grey and fading day. Fortunately the girls had the same inclination to hibernate and we had some drinks, I roasted a chicken to eat cold the next morning for breakfast, and we all had an early night. Now that I think about it, I reckon we were all hungover actually. The pantomime – or more accurately the sheer amount of red wine we drank before, during and after it – had totally wiped us all out.

Christmas morning was a late one for me. The girls let me sleep in and I felt a bit weird about that. You know what it’s like when you’re a guest at someone’s house and you feel like you should at least get up when they get up, even if realistically you could continue sleeping forever? Well that’s how I felt anyway. When I say I slept in, it was only until about 10am which is not criminal, but on Christmas morning it is a bit weird. When we were growing up, J and I weren’t allowed to get out of bed on Christmas morning until the digital clock on the microwave read “7 dot dot something”. Naturally from about 5am onwards we would take it in turns to creep out of bed to check the time. We would do this in two minute intervals and we’d heartily wish that time would speed up so we could open our presents. At 7 dot dot 01, we would burst into Mum & Dad’s room to wake them up, to share the news that Father Christmas had been and they needed to get up NOW so they could see the bounty for themselves.

This year, Father Christmas didn’t visit me, but Gus’s parents were his agents of generosity and they bestowed upon me the latest Dawn French book, a fantastic striped scarf (to replace the one I shrunk trying to clean up after the great Starbucks spill), and a very cute little coin purse. I was mortified that I hadn’t bought them anything, but I honestly believed that we’d agreed not to do presents. I know I should have ignored that. Ugh I still cringe when I think about that.

The chicken & champagne breakfast that I had organised went down so well and I was really pleased that I’d insisted on having it. The roast chicken was tender and moist (ugh I hate that word), and when sandwiched on the yummy bread with herby cream cheese, it made for a satisfying but light breakfast. Overnight I had chilled some Laurent Perrier brut champagne, which was a dry and delicious accompaniment to the informal chicken sandwiches.

The girls and I were full of bravado about walking to our lunch venue but once we hit the footpath (and face-first into the cold air) we quickly abandoned that option. We hailed a taxi on Oxford Street and within minutes we were in Soho and at the Dean Street Townhouse (check out the link to their Christmas menu), to honour our lunch reservation. I hoisted myself up on the tallest bar stool I think I’ve ever seen and bravely ordered a mint julep, in honour of my trip to Memphis a few years ago with K. What I received was rocket fuel in a glass, much stronger and much less minty than the Peabody Hotel’s version. The girls laughed at me, because I reckon the booze in my small beverage would have been enough to power a Smart car around the block. A couple of times. Yikes!

Taking my half-finished drink to the table with me, we exchanged our giant barstools for a low-slung dining table with large, equally-low plush armchairs. The table setting reminded me very much of the Mad Hatter’s tea party and the candlelight just added to the festive, cosy atmosphere. We enjoyed a set menu for our Christmas dinner. Ironically we all chose the same starter; the mixed mushrooms topped with a fried duck egg, then because I’m not a fan of roast turkey, for my main I chose the roast beef with all the trimmings. It was cooked perfectly and complemented the red wine we had ordered to accompany our meal. The whole menu was really delicious. I could not eat any of the cheese or chocolates that came next, but the peppermint tea I got helped to soothe my full but very satisfied belly.

Walking home from the restaurant was not an attractive option either really, as we were all lapsing into food comas. Once we got home, we all had a little sleep to help us recover from our gastronomic punishment and even though I woke up with a nasty headache (thanks I’m sure to the nasty mint julep & fabulous red wine combination), I headed back to bed around 10pm.

Come Boxing Day morning I was a bit more disciplined in terms of getting out of bed. I was aided in this endeavour by the fact that we were all expected at Putney before lunch time, to meet at my boss’s place and head to a nearby pub for his birthday. As our bus turned left from Baker Street onto Oxford Street, I couldn’t believe the crowds lined up around the block to get into the Boxing Day sale at Selfridge’s. You honestly couldn’t have paid me to go inside the store that day, much less work at it! Ugh it would have been horrendous.

After what I’d shoved into my body on Christmas Day, you’d think that eating would have been the last thing on my mind at the pub. Still I found room for yet more red wine and a pork belly roast (again with all the trimmings). Fortunately for my waistline, it was literally impossible for me to eat all of my meal. I just couldn’t fit it in. Ugh. Fast forward to more post-lunch red wines and then it was back to the bus to head home.

1 comment:

Batreg said...

It sounds delicious! I'm just glad you had Xmas company. I got the Dawn French book too, and I dislike turkey - it's like we're twins x