Monday, 8 December 2014

A festive repost: 'Christmas formal' with the girls

*** This weekend, we bid farewell to some much loved friends, who are leaving cold, grey London for the sunshine of Sydney. It was emotional to say the least. There were tears, silly Christmas jumpers, turkey (obvs), mulled cider, and a round of the After Eight game that the Grafton in Kentish Town probably won't forget in a hurry.

And so, if you'll permit me, here is a little festive repost. This is how my pals and I do our London-y, pretending-we're-all-still-at-university Christmas. Next year, there will be a conspicuously empty seat round our noisy table...

"To paint a picture, once upon a time, in a land far away in the North East, 8 girls lived in a large former B&B/hotel together. They had many friends who would visit for tea, vodka and chocolate biscuits, some of whom spent so much time in their house everyone forgot they didn't actually live there. When these girlies were done being students they packed up their house and headed off to different places all over the country to start being proper working folk. But missing each other they met up frequently and, in manner of a dysfunctional, sort of non-related family, decided they would have their own Christmas each year; given that most of these girls lived in London by the time the festive season rolled round the first time, the great British capital would be the annual venue.

Arriving by train, or car, or bus or on stout-booted foot, us girlies from all over the country rendezvous on an always soggy December Saturday at Hyde Park, at the gluhwein bar nearest the tube station. After much hugging and shrieking, and catching up, our merry band of chums wanders about the muddy spectacle of Hyde Park's "Winter Wonderland". And this year [originally posted in 2009] it's bigger than ever before. My, but it was busy. I stood, attempting to locate the other girls, in a sea of people in coloured anoraks, all hurtling over my feet, feeling much as Moses might have done if the whole sea-parting thing had come unstuck; it was biblically panic-inducing. After my first styrofoam mug of hot vino however I was more charitably disposed towards my fellow Wonderland wanderers. (Not towards the ones with the buggies, with children flailing welly-booted feet at ankle-level though. They should be banned - the buggies and the children.)

We strolled (moving any faster would've been a challenge through the sea of bobble-hats, woollen scarves, and faces pink from cold and over-excitement), we drank more gluhwein, we munched the odd bratwurst. We marvelled (well, laughed in a superior we've-been-here-before-and-know-you're-being-ripped-off manner) at those stupid enough to pay a small fortune to ride on tilting, twirling rides, waving huge metal, flashing legs in the air, like giant tarantulas who'd got tangled in fairy lights. After a merry but chilly few hours, with all out-of-town girls arrived, we headed off to West Hampstead for a full turkey dinner, awful, yet unfortunately mandatory, Christmas music, and presents. Seven off us negotiated the Jubilee line without serious problems, collected two who'd got stuck in traffic then gone to the pub to get stuck into the gin, and a final tenth arrived in time to chop parsnips.

Armed with more wine, we chopped and peeled like Santa's elves on secondment to Delia Smith's kitchen. Finally, dressed for the occasion, we were all sat round a groaning table, on an interesting assembly of chairs, stools and stacked furniture. A toast was raised to Christmas and friends, the crackers snapped apart, the dreadful jokes shared and we all tucked in. Our head-chef did us proud - it was a fine feast! Two courses down, plus Christmas cake and mince pies, and the table was strewn with empty plates, torn wrapping paper, and, somewhat unwisely, winking tea-lights. (Only two blazing napkins were rushed to be extinguished in the sink however, so no serious calamities.) Silly games were played to the accompaniment of the kind of banter of people who know far too much about each other, and are rather well alcoholically lubricated. Just like a traditional family Christmas, except no enforced time with people you would otherwise never choose to see. In an age where one's familial nearest may not necessarily be one's dearest, the friend-family may well be the way forward!

Mariah Carey might only want you for Christmas, but we want our families AND our friends (and brandy butter and roast turkey and little sausages wrapped in bacon), and as long as one of our number has a house to comandeer in London, Christmas will likely continue to come twice a year for us lucky girls!

(P.S. - a disclaimer to all Accidental Family - no disparaging remarks about familial nearest apply to you. Obviously you're all fabulous - ignore the poetic licence and the overdose of gluhwein!)"

*** For Sarah 'always Jones to us', who we are already missing like crazy.


  1. Some of us are doing one of those type of get togethers. Ours has the pragmatic difference that people are already scattered and so we usually schedule it very close to actual Christmas, when more will be back in country visiting relatives - this year from (e.g.) China, Spain and Oz.

    And ooh - useful silly game this year is the excellent App Heads Up!, which I'll probably post about nearer the time, but would probably go well with the After Eights/orange matchmakers etc.

    1. Whoah! There's an app for that...amazing! Hope you and your friends had/have a great reunion too this Christmas.

  2. days are precious! And those that we can keep for friends after we continue on different paths are even more precious. Thank you for a heartwarming post...brought back some memories of my own. Have a lovely weekend!
    May x
    PS: Running a Christmas Giveaway on my blog....for someone in London to win one 'Block of 6 Open Class Pass' (worth £40) with The Cat Pose (Zen Yoga). To enter the Giveaway (please spread the word):

    1. University is indeed a great time, and the friends you make there seem to stay for the long-term! Have a lovely weekend too, May

  3. Lovely piece of writing Flora - I remember reading about these reunions when I first discovered your blog and I think it is such a great idea. Life gets so busy and it's impossible to maintain close contact with everyone week in and week out, so it is great to have occasions to look forward to together. Big hugs, I'm sure Sarah is missing you all just as much X

    1. Ah, thank you, my dear! It's lovely to have it to look forward to as Christmas gets closer; one of our friends says it's her start of Christmas, and she never puts her decorations up til after our Christmas meal. Sarah will have a weirdly hot and sunny Christmas this year...!


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