Advent windows of Greenwich, part 3

My final set of photos includes a particularly bad snap of window number 17 at 32 Hyde Vale, which was one of my favourites but those houses are so grand and their front gardens so expansive that I couldn’t get close enough for a good shot. You might just have time to get along there yourself before the end of the day, but if not you’ll have to take my word for its being one of the best of all. (You could, of course, also go and look at the official photos on adventwindows.com.)

I don’t have time to go for a walk today because we have to squeeze in all the Christmas TV we haven’t caught up on yet, and finish all the Christmas food. Tomorrow, though, in a belated “new year, new you” bid, I am going for a swim at Charlton lido. Wish me luck.

Advent windows of Greenwich, part 2

I have a cast-iron excuse not to go for a walk today, because I am awaiting the arrival of a dog (only for the afternoon; in this case a dog is just for Christmas, not for life). In the meantime I am vaguely contemplating taking the tree down before it gives up the ghost completely and all the ornaments fall off, but I think I can eke it out until Monday, which is the day before I go back to work and therefore the proper day to take the decorations down and fill the house instead with early spring flowers – a tip I got from Richard Madeley, of course.

So today I think I’ll use up the Christmas cheeses on a Hawksmoor-recipe macaroni cheese (I have experimented with various recipes and this one is the best, although I will be using different cheeses from theirs and a mix of semi-skimmed milk and double cream rather than full-fat milk, because I have some of both to use up and it’s Christmas so everything should have double cream in it) and catch up on the TV Christmas Specials I have missed. If you don’t have anything more pressing, I suggest you do the same, but either way it’ll take you mere moments to enjoy advent windows 9-16, with apologies for the peculiar angle of day 10, which I couldn’t get closer to because an angry man was parked in front of it.

Advent windows of Greenwich, part 1

I was planning a new year’s day walk, but it’s just started to rain and there’s something on ITV called “Britain’s Favourite Walks” so I have decided that watching that, while writing this, also counts. I walked a lot in December; partly to try to regain some basic fitness after Covid left me unable to walk up a flight of stairs without getting breathless, and partly because every year St Alfege Church in Greenwich organises a series of advent windows, where a combination of residents, schools and businesses around the parish each decorate an outdoor window on their premises, with a new one “opening” each day from December 1 to 24, and I’ve meant to go every Christmas that we’ve lived in Greenwich and never gotten around to it until now.

My photos don’t do justice to all of the entries, but you’ll get the idea – and during a Christmas when we couldn’t meet up with other people or go to carol services or gather in the market with mulled wine and mince pies, it was a good way to feel a part of something communal, especially when I arrived at a window at the same time as someone else and we’d do the social-distancing dance.

If you are local you still just about have time to do the trail yourself, because the decorations will stay up until Sunday 3rd, but if like me you’re happy to stay warm and indoors and look at the evidence of someone else’s walk, here are days 1-8 of the windows, with the rest to follow in two more parts (probably over the weekend, but I don’t like to over-promise).

Advent activity #24

There is no instruction behind door number 24 on Edie’s advent calendar: it simply says IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE!, which is true. You probably have either much too much to get done today or nearly nothing to do at all, and in either case you can accompany the doing of it with a Christmas Eve playlist which I have made just for you. It’s a bit wistful in tone, which seems right for Christmas 2020, and it features four acoustic guitar tracks by Will Moore, who is also Edie’s dad (and my brother), which means we’re still sticking approximately to the theme.

The rest of the songs are ones you know (well, you’ll know them all, just not necessarily these versions) and we begin with the John Denver/Muppets version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, which is GUARANTEED to make you smile. The video is lovely and below, but listen on Spotify too because the sound quality is much better and the piano is beautiful . (I always said Rowlf was the most talented Muppet.)

Merry Christmas to you, and remember – one day soon we all will be together, if the fates allow; until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

Advent activity #23

Today is our last BREAK day, which is good timing because everyone needs a break from time to time and I definitely needed one today, although I woke up feeling bright-eyed and cheerful for reasons I can’t necessarily explain but am not going to interrogate too deeply. Take it where you find it, that’s what I say.

And where we find it today is with everybody’s other favourite band: the wonderful Erasure, who have never done anything that wasn’t brilliant and perfect, and this rendition of Gaudete, a track previously featured on these pages in a better-known version by Steeleye Span, is no exception. Even better, it’s taken from a 2013 Christmas album, Snow Globe, which I can’t really believe I didn’t know about, but I also don’t think I did, and now I’m going to listen to the whole thing for the rest of the day. Rejoice!

Advent activity #22

In sharp – and if you are a believer in a supreme being, clearly intentional – contrast to yesterday, I had a horrible day today. But about halfway though it a wise friend reminded me that, as Tom Hanks advises us, this too shall pass. And it has, or at least the feeling-rubbish has passed, even though the situation that prompted it (which is very boring and money-related) is not yet entirely resolved.

I think I may have left it too late to MAKE CHRISTMAS CARDS FOR MUM AND DAD but I did post them one. I’m never sure whether the sending and receiving of Christmas cards is a thing that us Generation X-ers are supposed to be over, what with us all having multiple ways to talk to each other already and the obvious waste of paper, but it’s still magical to get something through the post that is hand-addressed to you and that isn’t boring, and so I am still doing it. If I didn’t send you a Christmas card this year it’s either because we don’t know each other or I don’t have your address, and in either case if you send it me I will gladly add you to my list for next year.

Anyway, at least we can have an on-point song here from formerly-biggest-star-in-the-world Jim Reeves. It even has bonus crackling vinyl noises, for additional old-timey pointage.

Advent activity #21

I was struggling a bit this morning, what with the relentlessly doomy tone of the news and the feeling that while it’s OK to feel blue in general, the last week before Christmas has always been my happiest time, even when I was generally doing badly, and feeling blue this particular week was NOT FAIR.

And as I was sitting feeling sorry for myself the doorbell rang and it was a neighbour whom I last saw when he was in the middle of a combined mental health and housing crisis and I almost didn’t recognise him, not just because he’d had a shave and a haircut for the first time since I’ve known him but because I’ve never seen him outside his front door before, his agoraphobia having prevented it for just over six years. I got to know him during lockdown #1 because I started shopping for him, so he had come round not just to drop off a Christmas card and a bunch of flowers, but to ask me whether I needed anything from the shops, which he was so pleased to be able to do that I conjured up a need for lemons just to be able to join in. (I always need lemons, more or less.)

So now I am feeling buoyed and every time I look at the flowers I smile, which is excellent timing because today’s task is to MAKE PRESENTS FOR MUM AND DAD, which I am going to suggest you interpret as an instruction to give something – a cup of tea, a phonecall, the gift of having hung out the laundry before they remember to do it – to someone important, because it might make them smile like D’s visit has me.

And if you need a smile yourself, here’s Doris Day:

Advent activity #20

Today’s activity is one we had coincidentally already planned to do anyway, and it is WATCH CHRISTMASSY FILMS. We are saving Daiteiden no yoru ni and It’s A Wonderful Life for the 24th because that is when they are both set, so today we will be choosing between Last Christmas, which was fairly universally panned last year but which seems likely to hit about the right sort of note for 2020; Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey which you will find on Netflix and two Agatha Christies, because Agatha Christies are always Christmassy: the never-bettered 1980 Angela Lansbury/Elizabeth Taylor version of The Mirror Crack’d (look at that cast!) and the 1945 adaptation of And Then There Were None which I have never seen but which will certainly be the spookiest of all, and so should be saved for last.

We might also watch Bernard and the Genie, which is what happens when Richard Curtis makes a good Christmas film instead of a godawful one. It’s hard to find, but some thoughtful soul has posted the whole thing on YouTube.

We won’t be watching Hamilton because along with Spike Lee/David Byrne’s American Utopia we’ve already watched it too many times during lockdown, but I will watch, and so should you, this video of Leslie Odom Jr, aka Aaron Burr, and his gorgeous version of O Holy Night.

Advent activity #19

This is late because I accidentally spent most of the day asleep – which is what happens when you are still post-viral but pretending not to be during the working week in order to seem competent (this is just my latest trick in this line). This means that as I write this Boris Johnson has already cancelled Christmas, making it a slightly harder ask to bring comfort and joy, but Edie comes to the rescue here because today’s task is to EAT MINCE PIES, and if there’s one thing we can all agree helps, it’s edible Christmas treats. I don’t have mince pies because I’m fussily making them myself even though there’s only the two of us here, but I have just eaten half a bag of chocolate coins, which I think counts, and for supper we are having roast chicken with pigs in blankets, and I suggest you do the same, or whatever version of it perks you up the soonest.

It also gives me an excuse to include the lyrics as well as the video for today’s song, because they are perfect for today:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were near to us
Will be dear to us once more

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Advent activity #18

Some of us may have already started on today’s job, but in case you haven’t, this is your official dispensation to EAT LOTS OF CANDY, which also means I finally get to share with you the advent calendar that my dad has made for my mum this year, using the set of drawers that for the other eleven months of the year is employed as a storage space for screws, categorised by size and type. (Everyone’s dad has or had one of those, right?)

I am not keen enough on chocolate to need or want a chocolate advent calendar, but I have been enjoying my daily piece of cheese; never more than yesterday, when I had a piece of Mexican cheese studded with jalapeño pieces that made my eyes water in a good way. I should like to update you on today’s species of cheese, but I haven’t opened it yet and Alciona the cleaner is downstairs which means I am banned from going down. Sorry.

Instead you’ll have to make do with Perry Como, who if you listen carefully is singing here about candy canes, which makes him the perfect accompaniment to today’s gastronomic-indulgence-of-your-choice.