A Victorian Christmas

HMS Victory, Portsmouth Naval Dockyard

HMS Victory, Portsmouth Naval Dockyard (Photo credit: EEPaul)

I have a certain reputation for being Mr “bah humbug” when it comes to Christmas, and yet my wife and I spent last weekend down in Portsmouth specifically to visit the Victorian Christmas fair in the historic Naval Dockyards. It is a magnificent setting combining an old Naval base, some magnificent old ships and all the Victorian trimmings of Christmas.

Trawling through a busy marketplace is not normally my idea of fun and yet the Christmas stalls at the fair were varied enough to be interesting, and I tucked into mulled wine like the best of them. As we walked around, there were loads of people dressed up in Victorian costume. From the bawdy wenches who gave me a hard time as I walked past to the guards and their convicts in manacles who marched around the place shouting “make way for innocent men.”

We paid a visit to Fagin’s tavern where various old-time music acts played. We were treated to Brian, the charming but slightly crap piano player taking us through his repertoire of Christmas tunes. After Brian, on came a Bavarian oompah band, who wanted far too much audience participation for our comfort, especially seeing as we were sat in the front row.

Everywhere we went, someone was either bursting into song or dancing or both. A bunch of orphans with their thumbs tucked into their armpits gave a he artful rendition of “Consider yourself” as artificial snow cascaded down on their heads. There was an excellent band of pipers marching up and down belting out some cracking tunes whilst everyone tried desperately to dive out of their way.

There was an antique shop on site which was packed to the rafters with amazing stuff. They had a magnificent array of weaponry including a surface to air missile and an AK47. There was a German MG34 dating from Word War 2 with my name on it, but my wife didn’t agree. I suppose it was a tad expensive at the best part of £7,000.

She did buy me my Christmas present though. A truly magnificent, atmospheric three-part painting by Rob Huxley which will look awesome in my newly decorated games room.

All in all, it was over far too quickly, and I might have felt the first stirrings of Christmas welling up inside me. I’ll have to learn more self-control.



It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find Christmas is a bit like dragging a brick across a table by a bit of elastic. Nothing happens for a long time and then bang! It all hits you at once. Christmas always seems like it’s ages away then suddenly, it’s upon us like a rabid tiger. I try and fend it off with my inner “bah humbug!” but it’s no use – it’s inevitable.

Even though it’s still November (admittedly only just), time seems to be creeping away. I keep seeing updates on Facebook from people who have already put their Christmas decorations up. Down in Cornwall, the old people’s home opposite even had them up two weeks ago.

I don’t mind the inevitable Christmas dinners. I usually have three or four – there’s the office one, the London office one, the partner one and oh yes – there’s Christmas day too. Opening presents is fun too and I enjoy seeing kids faces when they open presents from us.

The bit I find really challenging is choosing presents for everyone. My wife says – what shall we get your Mum this year?  What about your Dad – and my mind goes blank. Not a good sign when they are usually the first two she asks about and that’s before I’ve chosen something for my wife. Of course we eventually get there every year, but it’s a lot of mental anguish in between all those Christmas parties!

christmas tree

christmas tree (Photo credit: peminumkopi)

I have a pathological hatred of wrapping presents – so much so that I bribe one of Julie’s friends to wrap mine for me every year. The princely sum of a bottle of wine usually secures her services and she wraps them with gusto!

Then there’s the question of what we do after Christmas – shall we go away or shall we stay here? Will we have a party? Who are we going to invite. With the kitchen one floor, several worktops, tiles and many doors short, I find it hard to imagine it all being ready in time.

Like everyone, I suspect I enjoyed Christmas a hell of a lot more as a child. Not that I ever believed all that Santa Claus nonsense – I quickly worked out that it was mathematically impossible for him to get to every house in the UK overnight, let alone the rest of the world. We’ve never lived in a house with a chimney and Dad’s assertion that Santa squeezed down the central heating flue sounded very unlikely seeing as every effigy of Santa looked so fat that you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d eaten a reindeer.

Still – ’tis the season and all that – Ho bloody ho!