Tuesday 11 December 2012

Festive London

Marmitey ChristmasChristmas is nearly here. The halls are decked with Holly and the streets lit up with festive cheer and electric lights.

Finding myself in London two days in succession and being too stingy careful with my money to buy a ticket that would see me on a train home before quarter to seven in the evening, I've had the chance to see for myself exactly what it is the capital does to mark the season.

Last time I visited, the place was full of Olympics, would this continue? Could I expect to see a giant, illuminated Jessica Ennis or Mo Farra?

No I can't.

Oxford Street rejoices to the joy of Marmite. I'm pretty certain that this isn't the staple food of a Brownlee brother although it certainly helps me get going in the morning if I feel a bit dopey. I know that stringing lights costs money but I'm not sure about advertising displays masquerading as decoration. Fortunately they seem few and far between and pretty boxes, stars and umbrellas are the norm. Not sure what is festive about a brolly but that's my problem I suppose.

Around the corner, Hyde Park has been turned into a winter wonderland. Just like every major city in the country (well, Birmingham at least), the place is full of open fronted wooden sheds selling stuff. Festive stuff mostly but to be honest, the sort of stuff that you give other people as presents. Stuff that they then stuff into a cupboard and forget about. Nice, but let's be honest, you could live without it.

The thing is, walking around, I couldn't argue that it was Chrismassy. Crimbo is the time to give presents and since very few people need anything useful, they get stuff that they wouldn't ever think to buy for themselves. Mostly, because they have cupboards full of stuff like that already and if they really wanted it, they would buy it themselves. Never mind. It's the thought that counts. And the fun of buying things.

WIce Maidenhat sets Winter Wonderland apart from other markets is the funfair. Huge rides such as a chair-o-plane that flies a couple of hundred feet up in the air. Ideal for those who fancy whirling around the London sky attached to a machine by a couple of lengths of chain.

The "fun house" type rides looked more entertaining. You walk through the building over rolling pathways, through mirror mazes and other entertainments suitable for wimps like me. I've not seen one of these in the UK before and there were at least 4 here.

I even found a little railway. Quite how it worked, I wasn't sure as the track was covered over to allow entrance to Santa's Kingdom but I'm sure there was a plan. No one seemed to wish to take the train while I was there which is a pity. If I'd been a kid, I'd have been straight on. I recall making may circuits of the toy railway in a local park and that was in the summer. Imagine the delight of doing this in the beautifully lit nighttime?

So, did you go on any rides? I hear you ask. No I didn't. Not because I am a wuss, although that would have kept me off the zip-wire, falling ride thing and roller coasters, but because I wasn't spending that sort of money. No cash is taken on the rises but tokens cost a pound each and several rides wanted 6 of these for entry.

How much?!

Yes, basically, if you took a family for the evening and the kids wanted to go any anything, recon on spending more than the national debt of Brazil. Despite this, plenty seemed up for a go. Maybe they were all city traders flaunting the money we bailed them out with a few years ago.

None of this matters of course. I spent a happy hour wandering and didn't spend a bean. There were huge and not so huge tableau to enjoy. Lights and the smell of outdoor food. It seems that Christmas equals Bavaria so there is a big bar serving German beer, even though the proper British stuff is much nicer.

Earlier in the day, my route had taken me through Covent Garden. It's home to biggest baubles ever seen (although the glitter ball in the Solihull Wetherspoons runs them pretty close) a giant reindeer, Christmas trees (of course) and best of all, a Lego advent calendar. Each day another door is opened to show a new brick-built model.

How much does it cost to enjoy all of this? Well, apart from the train ticket, nothing. A happy day wandering around just looking at nice things. In this age of austerity, can you ask for more than that?

Merry Christmas.

Covent Garden Baubles