Christmas in the UK

Are you contemplating spending winter in the UK? Winters in the UK are a reliably cold affair. Thankfully Christmas is in the middle of winter to cheer things up. Each town gets in on the  Christmas decorating, not just Oxford Street, some as early as November. Christmas trees spring up everywhere and once the Christmas Party season starts, everyone is feeling festive.

Fortunately with all these festivities (and since by the time Christmas actually arrives most people are tired and hungover) Christmas in the UK tends to be quite a low-key affair, mostly about eating and drinking too much with family and friends, rather than actually going anywhere or doing anything. Many families give careful consideration to what the ‘Christmas television program’ includes each year, as with the weather being so cold and a severe lack of public transport in most places (and having overeaten to the point of discomfort) the television becomes what Christmas is about.

This year we spent Christmas in a little village in the Kent countryside where my mother lives. The village comprises of residential houses, a church, a few pubs and lots of fields. It was very, very cold and it snowed. As the snow came down we put layer upon layer on as we went about the daily task of shovelling the drive clear of snow. Eventually though, the snow won and we became marooned up a little country lane. Initially it was fun. Everything looked so pretty. There were snowmen. There were snowball fights. Then we ran out of rum. An emergency mission into the nearby village (which has shops) was quickly assembled. Decked out in ski gear, we walked along the little road that normally takes five minutes to drive, but with snow, ice and slush underfoot took forty minutes to stagger, slip and slide along. We passed a man who told us which one of the shops had milk and then another who advised we get to the bakery quickly as they were down to their last few loaves of bread. Was there a war on? We knew trains to and from London were disrupted (read: mostly cancelled) and that the village lane would be blocked longer than the main roads (as it doesn’t get gritted) but how can the nearby village, on the main road, run out of bread and milk? We didn’t ponder the question long though, we had only come for rum.

With all this snow on the ground our only visitors, mostly friends of Mum’s from the village, came by foot, normally staying for a warming cup of tea by the fire and heading off again before it got dark. The main topic of conversation seemed to be that nobody had seen such a cold winter with so much snow in 30 years. We had certainly rocked up for a special one then. Christmas day came and went. Presents were opened and a lot of turkey was eaten. Our only other excursions were to the village pub and err, back to the pub. We didn’t see the postman in over a week.

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