I did some last minute shopping in Muswell Hill today and it felt a little as though I'd walked into a soap opera. As Christmas approaches, so people become more panicky. I walked into the middle of seven or eight awful rows; "you always think you know best, don't you?" "If you buy that crap, it'll be on your head..." "What's the point in buying your brother anything? He's got everything he needs. He'll only re-gift it to your bloody Mother next year!" "We really don't make a good shopping team do we?"
...And then it struck me how ridiculous Christmas can be. The only equivalent I can think of is a wedding. People go to such an enormous fuss to make everything perfect and yet the truth is that it'll be just what it is, regardless of how big the turkey is or how expensive the presents are. People will eat too much, drink too much, someone's aunt will make a tit of herself and then, in the blink of an eye, it'll all be over and you'll be left with an enormous credit card bill!
I switched the telly on this afternoon to find three of the four main channels broadcasting cookery shows. I have never seen so many clips as I have this year about stuffing Christmas birds. I'm a vegetarian, I've never stuffed a turkey, but I reckon I'm a degree-level expert from watching so many shows. I know all the little tips to keep the breast from cooking faster than the legs, and that too much sage tastes soapy (although God knows why anyone would accuse sage of being soapy when there's coriander in the world!)
In any other circumstance, TV execs would say "oh I think we've gone a bit over-kill with the Christmas dinner hints", but no, their view is plainly that we are a nation of cooking imbeciles. What makes me laugh is that making a roast dinner is the ONE thing that most people think they can do WITHOUT the advice of experts! Everyone I've ever met reckons they hold the secret to the best roast potatoes on the planet!
I went into central London to see the NYMT's Christmas Carol service this evening, but got stuck in a horrible jam at Covent Garden tube in the process. That's a nasty place to be on the last Saturday before Christmas, when the bloke next to you smells of sulphur!
The concert itself was wonderful, and on a much bigger scale than I'd assumed. There was a full orchestra and a very varied selection of music from the traditional hymns, which Tina, my companion for the evening, and I sang with proper gusto, to a movement from a trumpet concerto adeptly played by a member of the orchestra - although it was with this piece that the strings came a little unstuck!
There was a lovely Rutter carol and something by Dougal Irvine, who wrote last year's new commission, which the 70-ish voice NYMT choir sang spectacularly well.
All in all, a wonderful Christmassy evening, and Brass got a marvellous plug at the start from the founder of NYMT who urged everyone to go online and watch my Symphony for Yorkshire which he described as extraordinary.
People will soon start describing me as a Yorkshire-based composer!
We came home via Waterloo and stared for some time at an enormous three quarters-sized moon, which at one point seemed to be balanced on the top of the Shard of Glass like some kind of giant luminous pom-pom on the top of a witch's hat!