The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th December 2021, Omicron Christmas

Today has had all the grey tones of a wartime film. Brief Encounter perhaps. We have just over twenty four hours to go before the days creepingly get longer again. In the meantime I would welcome some blue skies, even if it means colder weather. I have candles and fairy lights in self-defence. Or maybe that should be protection. Those cards I send are all written and posted, the ones delivered by hand all pushed through letterboxes; a rare few parcels to addresses beyond walking or meeting distance went weeks ago, and the others have been wrapped, all with MasterB’s help – unroll wrapping paper and he sits on it – and passed into others’ hands. All except the one for my six-year-old neighbour who I shall see on Christmas Day morning. The flat has suddenly started to look festive. The sideboard is covered with cards and gifts. It’s weird how one moment it seems too early to be thinking about Christmas, the next a mad dash to get everything done.

Omicron has slimmed down the actual festivities. Drinks and nibbles are off again for the second Christmas running. I did a jigsaw at the weekend instead. I expect to do another, maybe a third. I bought a Radio Times, but the Christmas television schedules fail to inspire so far. We have lots of channels now, some of which I can access, but lots of channels seems to mean lots of dross. Why people want to sit and watch a bunch of celebs doing everything from building snowmen to buying antiques mystifies me. There must be the odd nugget in there somewhere, indeed I know there is as I have started watching Outlaws which is streamed on BBC i-player, but I am hardly spoiled for choice.

Last night was live music. Octavia and I went to St Bart the Great’s for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols which was sublime. Again I wished I had belief. The Christmas story is heartbreaking in its simplicity, in its promise of a better world, of redemption, a world saved by the innocence of a baby born in a stable. Peace on earth and goodwill to all people.

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Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife

Night fell a couple of hours ago. The shops are closing. Celia and Charlie have left for Brighton. Octavia is in Yorkshire. In the block of flats where I live, only a handful of residents are at home, and in the section where my flat is, only my lovely neighbours opposite and I are here for Christmas. We’ve decorated our shared landing and exchanged gifts.
Inside, I have candles and fairy lights, tinsel that has so far survived MasterB’s interest, clean sheets, and parcels piled up on the table. Nanci Griffith’s voice fills the air from an old cassette tape.
I am feeling Christmassy, but not Christmassy enough to play CDS of carols. Anyway, I have managed to miswire the CD player of the stereo and sorting it out is beyond me right now. Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened After the Carol Service

I have TBM to thank for my recent spate of posts about London.
You see, shortly after I started following her blog, she announced she was moving to London with her partner, dog and cat.
Being a bit of a Londonoholic, I was hoping she would celebrate the capital in words and photos as she had Boston, her former domicile, and the many other places in the world she has visited.
The pride of London was at stake. It’s a big place and can be, as I know all too well, overwhelming. I was keen to share some of the wondrous secrets it has to offer.
I asked where she was going to spend Christmas, and learning it was London, launched into a range of churches where Christmas music is sublime, and out of the way places like St Peter-ad-Vincula in the Tower of London where anyone can go to celebrate midnight communion.
For myself, the Nine Lessons and Carols at St Bartholomew-the-Great is the way I usually really get into the Christmas mood. It has become a tradition over the years, and I generally attend with a group of friends. I have written about it before here:
I know many people spend Christmas Eve listening to the Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast from Kings College Cambridge. If home, I do myself. It is beautiful, and theirs is a professional choir of the highest quality, but the setting of St Barts the Great is so wonderfully atmospheric, the choir is semi-professional, that I should happily recommend it to anyone and be confident of their enjoyment. Continue reading

Christmas Cheer

Christmas started officially chez IsobelandCat on Sunday.

More for the Isobel part than the Cat bit.

Each year, on the Sunday before Christmas, I attend the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Bartholomew the Great, in the City of London.
For those of you who don’t know it, it’s the church where Hugh Grant didn’t get married in Four Weddings etc. As a venue, it’s dramatic, beautiful and atmospheric. The choir is semi-professional. Sometimes a group of us meet up in The Rising Sun close by and swap cards and gifts before we go and sing our hearts out. Our numbers vary; I’ve gone alone, and as part of a group of twelve. Continue reading