Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Spirit

Sunday was a busier day.

Up earlyish (for a Sunday) for brunch with Brett in the Village and then straight on the train to work to upgrade some switching firmware. (Our London Office network is now reaching a size where it becomes an entity in itself and in need of more care and attention than in the past, and this was the first stage of that.)

Around 2pm I set off for Islington where Jim G was hosting a farewell get-together for his friends before finally leaving the UK to move back to New York next week. The venue was The Green, a long and narrow but bright and comfortable pub. It turned into a bit of a meeting of old friends too, as John Mc, Richard H, Shane C & Joe R were all along too.

By coincidence, the Chorus was also doing a gig there in aid of the Terrence Higgins Trust, so I indulged in some charitable mince pies and listened to their set…

Unfortunately, we don’t often rehearse these ad hoc small groups before gigs like this one and in this case it showed rather; very shouty singing, forgotten words, dodgy tuning and no-one smiling. Most of the audience didn’t seem to mind, although I did wonder what Shane C (a musician and composer by trade), who was sitting less than five feet in front of the group, must have made of it all…

Alas I didn’t get a chance to ask him as, shortly after the first set was completed, I had to move on. The next venue on my list was Southgate in the Northeast of London where I was to meet Brett and his musical company.

It turned out that I got to the station where we were to meet up about half an hour before they did and I spent a while lurking around the ticket hall waiting. It’s a circular building built probably early last century and with quite a few of the original Art Deco features still remaining. Unfortunately it’s very run-down and grubby now and looking at it I was reminded of the scene from the start of the movie Titanic, where the camera is moving along the deck of the sunken liner when suddenly the music picks up and the murky grey decay dissolves into the clean new lines of the same deck back at Southampton docks before the ship sets sail. I wished I could do the same to this station, even for just a few minutes, so that I could see it as the clean and bright Edwardian original that it must once have been.

Anyway Brett and his crew turned up eventually, I was introduced around and we walked the few hundred yards to the home of Jo where dinner was to be served.

The evening was absolutely lovely; I felt rather like Scrooge enjoying Christmas dinner with his nephew’s family and suddenly seeing all the best aspects of the Christmas spirit laid out before me. To start with there was good company; all of the group were easy going and fun to talk to. There was none of the group politicking that tends to go one when two or three Chours members are gathered together! It was all good natured banter and talk. Then there was the food; beyond plentiful, there was turkey and pork with quite literally ALL the traditional trimmings and no less than three varieties of stuffing, the main course was followed by a choice of Christmas pudding (topped with single-, double- or single-with-brandy-cream), two Christmas cakes to different recipes, a table full of chocolate crispies, meringues, mince pies and sweets and a massive cheese board. There was mulled wine and regular wine aplenty with which to wash it all down. Truly a tremendous table.

The meal was then followed with coffee and brandy and singing. The group are rehearsing the Sondheim show Side By Side, so there were a fair number of his tunes played (and Brett does such a gorgeous rendition of Being Alive!) but we also culled the best of Lloyd-Webber, Kander & Ebb, Abba and (ahem!) Barry Manilow, not to mention plenty of Christmassy songs.

By the time we came away I’d had a wonderful evening, really enjoyed the company and was feeling in good spirits. Even another nightbus journey (this time far less crowded) didn’t dampen them.

I think I’m just about ready for Christmas.

Now I’m looking forward into next week; tomorrow I have our team's Christmas lunch at work and later the dress rehearsal for the Chorus’ Barbican gig. Tuesday night is our company Christmas party, where I have to see if I can still fit into my kilt (as I don’t have anything else to wear) and stay relatively sober because Wednesday night is our big Christmas show. Once that’s done we’re off up north for Christmas week and then back to host as many of our friends as are around for New Year. As they say; a packed programme...

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