The festive season – good bye for another year

Despite three months of campaigning by every retail outlet in the western hemisphere, Christmas is finally over. Michele has gone to the States to see her family leaving me here alone with nothing but a collection of videos of christmas telly, two bottles of irish whiskey and ADSL…actually now I come to think of it that doesn’t sound too bad really. It’s just not as fun without Michele.

Ours was a most english christmas. Too much to eat, too much to drink, sprout-avoidance, christmas telly, feigned good spirit, elderly relatives who are reluctantly playing the part of “the ball” in an extended-family tennis match. Well, I enjoyed it anyway. Pity my sister wasn’t there but she was up from Plymouth the week before so we did a pre-christmas christmas…sort of thing.

Christmas in England is very TV heavy. At least it is in my house and seemingly for most other people in the country. Of course there are many instances of self-righteous middle-classism where people deliberately don’t allow themselves to watch the telly and then spend the rest of the year going on about how much purer and healthier their lives are as a result…well bollocks to that I say. Only fools and horses, Chicken Run, Steptoe and Son, Carry on Cleo and the Eastenders Christmas special is what counts. Oh and Eastenders really did us proud. In previous years we’ve had deaths, weddings and pregnancy scandals so I couldn’t imagine how the BBC would be able to top it. The answer was to combine all of the previous years stories into one giant traumafest. Not only did a central character die, but there was a wedding, the eviction of a pregnant woman by her husband (because of getting up the duff by another man) and more Slater family strife than you can shake a stick at…at the same time.
Love death and misery – thats what we want on Christmas day please.

Even DFS did its bit for christmas telly. It was looking like financial success was going to ruin their advertising campaigns by making the commercials all professional and polished. But their latest campaign has shown us doubting thomases how wrong we were to
think they would betray their northern nouveau-riche roots: hundreds of people doing the conga to an Ibiza dance anthem through a suburban industrial estate down to DFS. There they can party all night long around a load of overpriced, poorly-constructed sofas, a complementary glass of sweet fizzy wine in one hand and a 1 year interest free credit application form in the other. Sheer brilliance.

OK it isn’t a patch on the motorised poofs ad from their heyday, but how are you going to top that one eh ?

Even my bastard cold didn’t get a chance to spoil things. Hah! Well in fact it did: I felt so rough on christmas eve that I couldn’t make the,now traditional, south-east london drink with Toby Jenkins et al.
Instead Tony and Zap came to ours and we polished of the entire christmas red wine supply I had dragged back from eltham that day through the sweating fever of my cold.

Ah Eltham. Why does this bloody place keep cropping up so frequently in my life when I hate it so much ? Its almost like ambivalence. Apart from the fact that my mum and dad live there, every visit will produce some sort of nostalgic twinge in my soul. Fuck knows why. Millions of little memories spring to mind every time I see the church, the post-office or the White Hart Pub. Weird. It’s not like they’re places of joy or anything. In fact today I had the most intense nostalgia experience of my recent life… oddly it was as if was deliberate. I went to the “Eltham Grill”. Now to be known as Eltham’s only redeeming feature.

A digression:

My parents used to own a rather groovy record shop in the 1960s, imaginatively entitled “Chris Wellards”; this name would be just as good for a record shop these days but for totally different reasons. It was a very popular shop as far as I can tell and there are several reasons for this which I can inferr:

  • It was near Goldsmiths College
  • It had my mum and dad in it
  • They sold records that no-one else would touch at the time

Not wishing to sound like a namedropping namedropper, but all kinds of famous people used to shop there at the time, including…Prince Buster… It was only last year I found out about that – Chris obviously didn’t think it was worth mentionning before….Prince bloody buster buying records off my dad….damn…
Anyway in the 1970s they opened a second branch in Eltham. This was nowhere near as successful and led to the demise of the business and the near demise of my dad… The best thing about the Eltham shop was it was next door to the Eltham Grill and when I was a wee wee chavvy my mum would take me up the high street to meet my dad their. I’m pretty sure we went there a lot, and I vaguely remember going there with my nan and grandad too. Regardless, my memory of the place is very strong and full of nice feelings. It always seems warm, friendly and cosy there.

Visiting it again, 30 years later, it seems that nothing at all had changed. The same, huge illuminated pictures on the wall. The same red carpet, the same 70s wood panelling on the walls and the same friendly turkish staff. Little vivid flashes of memory kept coming back and it was like regressing. The staff were as friendly to the next generation of toddlers and kids in there as they were to me at that age.

Anyway, don’t know why I felt the need to write all that. Go there, it’s good and the food is nice.


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