They've turned the garden of the Woodman pub into a Christmas tree shop. It's like a winter wonderland in there, full of families walking between the trees, trying to decide which one is going to accompany them through the Yuletide period. It made me feel very Christmassy.
I was a little less thrilled to turn the corner and find they were chopping trees down in the copse behind the tube station. This rather unremarkable little corner of London has long been a haven for wildlife, and on many occasions I've stared out of my sitting room window, watching the squirrels and magpies hopping from branch to branch. I didn't stop to ask the tree surgeons what the plan was; why they were chopping trees down, and how many had been condemned. There's nothing I can do about, just as I was helpless to protect the trees they chopped down behind our house five or so years ago.
It was Raily's birthday today, so a gang of us descended on the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch. I took the tube to Old Street which is looks entirely different every time I visit. The roundabout is now surrounded by gleaming modern mini-skyscrapers, some of which are incredibly bold in design. I actually lost my bearings for about a minute, because most of the landmarks I usually navigate by had vanished! This must be how old ladies feel when they return to their city of birth after seventy years of being away.
Shoreditch is one of those ghastly places where cash machines all charge £1.88 for withdrawals. I think we need to start getting tough with these sorts of rip-offs. I read somewhere that there's a correlation between the poor areas in the country and a lack of ATMs providing residents with free money withdrawals. This is plainly bordering on criminal. Talk about unnecessary taxes on the poor. I don't think anyone would mind a ten pence charge, simply for the upkeep of a privately owned facility, but £1.88 is ludicrous.
On that note, I hope they hurry up and repair our local post office's ATM. Two weeks ago a group of thieves blew it up and took half of the front of the building with it. Silly buggers. I'm told the enterprise failed spectacularly and they ran off empty-handed.
The Geffrye Museum focusses on interior design through the ages. You enter at one end and wander through a series of rooms which have been decked out to resemble different homes through the ages, starting in the days of Pepys, which I think is when the museum buildings were built (as alms houses.)
The highlight of the entire experience was undoubtedly stumbling upon a mini carol service which was taking place within one of the rooms. It was being led by a lass with big brown eyes and a chap at a piano. They handed out song sheets with all the words written on them, and we sang for at least forty minutes. Carols, Christmas songs... I think we were all agreed that the most magical moment was singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." It's always been one of my favourite songs, but I think all of us; Meriel, Sam, Raily and me, had a rather emotional moment whilst singing the words, "through the years we all will be together if the fates allow." I've known Sam since I was fifteen, and Meriel, Raily and Hils from the age of eighteen. That's a lot of silly seasons to nurse each other through. And one day, one of us won't be there any more...
I was very taken by one of the paintings on the wall in the museum entitled "The Arrival of the Jarrow Marchers." It depicts a middle class pair of Londoners, rather passively watching those heroic men and women marching down a London street. The man in the room has his back to the window and is smoking a cigar whilst blowing smoke rings. It's a bold statement which demonstrates middle class London's lack of interest in the plight of Northern working class folk. Sadly, it's an attitude which prevails today. We owe such an astonishing debt to the Jarrow Marchers and their East End counterparts, the Cable Street Rioters, and yet, I've no doubt that most of these brave people died in relative poverty and remained unrecognised for their bravery. Every single one of them should have been knighted in my view.
We went from the Geffrye Museum to a really lovely restaurant-cafe in the De Beauvoir area of London. The restaurant sits on the canal, and the only access is via the towpath, which was pitch black and wonderfully spooky. The brightly lit windows from warehouse conversions were reflected in the indigo water.
On our way back, we happened upon a little choir singing Something Inside So Strong; busking for charity. I think they called themselves the Housewife's Choir. Christmas really does seem to bring the best out in people.
I came home and worked until 1am with Strictly Come Dancing on in the background. It may well be time for bed!