Monday, 29 December 2014

A very London Christmas - Part I

Was it only I who went into this festive season feeling that it had somewhat lost the lustre of previous Yuletide experiences? Gone, it seemed, were the butterflies that assembled in the stomach and the electricity that seemed to shiver down the spine as the first few bars of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ echoed around department stores and malls across the country. 

I felt somewhat indifferent, in the past I was either euphoric with joy (sugar induced perhaps?) or down in the doldrums of self pity, licking wounds... and probably drinking too much (although I think that's a theme of countless Christmases since I turned 16). This year I felt as if I went through the motions, some fantastic Christmas parties were offset with some boozy evenings with friends at some boozer or another. 

I literally tore up the town through a mist of Estrella lager and Johnny Walker on the rocks. The days were filled with sickly treats and the repetitious jingle-jangling of ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ and ‘I believe in Father Christmas’; the nights were full of oaken bars, the roar of the office party and Cafe Creme cigars punctuated by the flickering of strobe lights and the sound of clicking knees, precariously trying to negotiate the dance floors of Central London. Yes, this was probably the least highly-anticipated Christmas I have every had but, you know what, it was the best one I have ever had. 

The clock struck 12:00pm on 24th December, heralding the culmination of business (officially) at my office for 2014. With a great sense of relief the five remaining staff in the office traipsed across the road to a perennial favourite, The Queens Arms. A very agreeable lunch of roasted leg of lamb with forestiere potatoes (fine green beans and chanterelle mushrooms) and lamb sauce was seen of with a very well appointed pint of Truman’s Bold as Brass, a delicious end to a fab first six months with the company! Ahead of the trip back to Wimbledon, where I would be based throughout the holidays, I dipped into the ever wonderful Rippon Cheese, one of the best fromageries that I have ever stepped into. At this emporium, I decided that I would opt for a little tour of Northern France, purchasing: a petite Munster, a Maroilles, a Morbier and a young Mimolette.  

Partway through the painfully slow journey back from Victoria to Wimbledon Park on the District Line, I became slightly confused as to why the carriage was starting to clear around me, baffled why commuters were parting to the very corners of the carriages like the red sea and Moses. I then cast my nose downwards and was met with the rather pungent aroma of Munster and Maroilles sweating away under the heat of the train’s efficient central heating. One fellow passenger was blunt in their criticism: ‘I think someone has farted’, casting an evil glare in my direction. Desperately I tried to distance myself from this new found, if rather delicious, albatross around my neck, but to no avail. For the rest of the journey, I had to endure all manner of filthy looks cast-aside faces all in the name of gastronomy. 

I finally made it back to Wimbledon, where the cheese was quickly zip-locked into a cold bag and stored in the garage overnight. We were expecting guests that evening and after pouring myself a generous gin and tonic I set to helping my mother cutting cocktail sausages, shaping smoked salmon sandwiches and apportioning asparagus rolls. Just when we thought we had got everything ready, with Champagne in the freezer, Christmas jumpers donned and the first batch of snags in the oven we were greeted by some constructive criticism by the house’s self-appointed Nicky Haslam... my brother. 
“You cannot have a bottle of Bells on display behind the decanters, people will think that terribly naff. I think we should hide that.” I think I emitted a resounding sigh. Thankfully, the waterford spirit decanter was close to hand, and into this worthy fellow the malt liquor was decanted, a style crisis was avoided (although I am sure one reader will find a spirit decanter very retro). 

Guests arrived, guests bantered, hoovered the food, quaffed the chilled Champers and took their leave. It had been a pleasant start to the vacation and soon my brother and I were hunkered down to a few stiff G&Ts, a plate of cocktail sausages and a very unimpressive round of Scrabble, in which neither one of us did any justification to the furtherment of English language. I sadly lost in a battle to the bitter end, yet the family wordsmith manage to trump me with a tactically brilliant but totally banal piece of play! ;-) 

the wearying tides of sleep beckoned as I drifted off on the sofa, it had been a good, balance start to the season and I couldn’t wait to see what Christmas Day had in store. 

Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for more on Christmas chez Henry Rubinstein...