Advent song for December 3: She Won’t Be Home (Lonely Christmas)

Sometimes I think Erasure might be my favourite band of all, even though I’d never heard this song until I started looking for 1980s Christmas songs. This was the fourth track on the 1988 EP that you will mostly remember for Stop!, which is one of the best pop songs ever ever ever. This doesn’t quite live up to that billing, but it’s still awesome.

Have you ever seen Erasure live? I never have, which seems like a terrible oversight. Next time they’re playing, let’s all go.

Advent song for December 2: Christmas Was A Friend Of Mine

Not a seasonal edition of the Killers classic, but something even better: a 1981 single from Dutch singer and composer Fay Lovsky, who is as cool in real life as she looks in this video, having written music for various films and shorts, played all the most interesting festivals and worked with Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, Jona Lewie and Sven Radzke, among others. She also plays the musical saw, the ukulele and the theramin.

This is a better clue than yesterday’s song was to this year’s theme, which is Christmas Songs Of The Nineteen Eighties. Some you will know, some you won’t, all are excellent. Was the eighties the best decade for Christmas songs? Almost certainly, with acknowledgments and apologies to glam rockers of yore.

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: