Saturday, 14 December 2013

'Tis the Season... part 1

Christmas is supposed to be the season of joyfulness, giving, family, festivities, all round good cheer.

And yet, when I was told that the theme for our December duologues would be 'Christmas', an entirely different feeling was evoked.

For several years now Christmas has brought with it an overarching sense of dread.
It's not that the extended family are horrid and the thought of spending another minute with them is just too much to bear. It's not even the hypocrisy of Christmas that greets you when you enter a shopping centre any day after September 1.
I suppose it's the culmination of

  • writing dozens of christmas cards to people you haven't seen in so long or have seen so recently that there is really nothing to say
  • cleaning the house and garden if we're the ones fortunate enough to host Christmas this year. 
  • making the christmas cake and trying not to eat all of the glace cherries before the cake is made
  • buying meaningful presents that people actually want for every member of the family. 
  • deciding upon something a little different to cook for the Christmas day lunch. 
  • deciding where to go for the Christmas eve picnic. 
  • deciding what nibbles to take for Christmas eve
  • making the innumerable desserts that Christmas wouldn't be complete without. 
  • doing some of Granddad's shopping for him

Have I forgotten anything? 

For the past decade my sister and I have tried to take the weight of some of these preparations off the shoulders of our mother as we had time off after school, after uni, after exams ended to write the necessary cards, start the ridiculous amounts of baking.
Unfortunately all this means is that the dread of Christmas has simply spread. Now it falls on my shoulders in addition to my mother's and is unlikely to shift any time soon.

The two years I lived in London were some of the more enjoyable Festive seasons I can remember; family free, hassle free. Just food, alcohol and the ability to do exactly what you want, when you want (provided you were happy not to go anywhere but enjoy what you had around you)

Writing a 10 minute duologue, this is the direction in which I was inextricably pulled; the unutterable delight in the possibility of a Christmas at home but with no family and none of the usual prelude.

Perhaps it is a wild dream...

Friday, 13 December 2013

Illuminate - Perth Christmas Markets

I'm sure I attended Christmas markets in my youth, but the first I distinctly remember was from the summer the family spent in Genova. Dad was involved in some work at the university there so Mum, my sister and I joined him, spending a month living in the Genovese suburb of Nervi whilst enjoying the strange sights, the sounds and the tastes on offer to us.

In the lead up to Christmas we visited the city's expansive market, getting a taste for the magical atmosphere. Against the biting evening air, long avenues of brightly lit booths stretched out into the winter night, selling an array of glacĂ© fruits, deep fried doughnuts and the most beautifully crafted marzipan fruits. At the time it was sweet-tooth's delight with an unusualness that set it as a benchmark against which to compare all other markets.

Living in London, my love of the winter Christmas markets was reinforced by the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park where cutesy Alpine huts served as stalls selling trinkets and ornaments against a backdrop of German gluhwein, sausages and rides, and the avenue of stalls on the Southbank. On these occasions is the bright lights and cheer at a time of year when the sun sets as early as 10 minutes to four mingled with the cold air and occasional snow. I came to love nothing more than wandering through the festive cheer rugged up in my winter woollies, all the while ignoring the chill that was slowly penetrating though my gloves and felt-lined boots. 

This year I am in Perth while my mother is visiting the Christmas markets in Germany, rubbing it in through the wonders of modern technology. So I decided to visit the markets at the Perth Cultural Centre, dragging the loveable N along for company. In the midst of a run of 35+C days, it was not the time for gloves and winter coats, but instead thin t-shirts and shorts and the omnipresent set of sunnies strategically perched on top of the head, or tucked into the neckline of one's top.

My prime motivation was that I was missing the markets of Europe, but I also suspected that Delish Ice would be there, and after the day's summery weather (read 39C) was craving an icy pole.

Besides, there was still some Christmas/birthday presents that needed to be bought and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

In the centre of the frog pond someone is warbling along to something musical but with no ear for music and a greater focus on food and presents it is perhaps not surprising I can't provide any details. 

Pausing to determine our next move (icy poles consumed) it delighted me to see our Art Gallery gift wrapped, the perfect present for some other city in dire need of a collection of unexciting art. Perhaps that is rude, but I do insist that the best thing in that building is the gift shop. 


Around the side an old fashioned animation creeped N out as we contemplated dinner and present buying - in that order. 

Grabbing a bite to eat, we headed for the Urban Orchard to devour it in peace, in amongst the herbs and fruit trees. Its a rather delightful place to relax and well worth checking out, even if only for the opportunity to forage for strawberries and white mulberries. On this particular night it was packed, a well stocked bar at one end and dozens of children at the other, all interspersed with more shops and food stalls.

I love the little blonde girl looking no doubt to learn how to use chopsticks to eat noodles in the least messy way possible. 

As we gathered together our purchases and headed back to the car, through the rowdy streets of Northbridge, it was nice to see that families were still reclining on the steps, making the most of the cool evening air.

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