Christmas Day by the Lea (or Lee)

It’s our family custom on Christmas Day to go for a walk down by the River Lea (usually shown on maps with the addition “or Lee”, as both spellings have been used historically). Often it’s been cold and dreich and we’ve seen almost no-one. Two days ago it was a gorgeous sunny day, and there were hundreds of people out.

And some boats were moving:

Boat on the Lea 1 Christmas 2019

While others were just parked:

Boat on the Lea 2 Christmas 2019

And this is us; Frances, me, and our two young adults, who don’t normally like to be photographed, and who have never appeared here before:

Family Christmas 2019

Eyes Full of Tinsel and Fire

Christmas is the time of year when the devil doesn’t have all the best tunes. The other side gets some of them too.

I love Christmas songs. Not all of them. of course, but many. And that includes some of the Christmas carols. A full choir singing ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ or ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’? I’m there.

The best Christmas songs, though, do belong to the — let’s say — secular side of things. I have a hierarchy of my personal favourites. Things move around a bit, and very occasionally new ones arrive; and you won’t be surprised to learn that ‘Fairytale of New York’ remains unassailable in the top spot.

One of my other favourites is Greg Lake’s 1975 hit, ‘I Believe in Father Christmas.’ Now, if you haven’t listened to the words too closely — written, I’m surprised to discover, by Peter Sinfield, of whom I had barely heard before researching this — you might think it’s a simple celebration of Christmas, set to a jaunty tune, much like Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody,’ from a couple of years earlier (and every year since). It’s not, though. It’s much darker and more interesting than that:

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
They told me a fairy story
Till I believed in the Israelite

And that closing couplet:

Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

Lake and Sinfield have argued that it’s not anti-religious or atheistic. Well, you can have your interpretation, guys. I know what I think.

I mainly wrote this because I’ve wanted to use the line I’ve stolen as a title for years. And I’ll leave you with the wishes the song provides:

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year

I think we’re all going to need some hope and some bravery in 2020.

You Gev It Away

I got Whammed1 in the bakery this afternoon. Walked in, took my earphones out, and, Wham! there it was. George Michael geving his heart to someone. Ever noticed that? He doesn’t say “gave,” he says “gev.” My daughter pointed this out a couple of years back, and now I can’t unhear it.

Oh well, there was never a chance of not hearing it, and to be honest, I don’t hate it like I used to. Remember back when we thought that bands like Wham! or Duran Duran were somehow “the enemy”? Those were stupid ideas. Music is music, and people have different tastes. Let’s let everyone enjoy what they like without judging them.

The most amusing part was that I heard a little girl in the queue behind me saying to her mum, “I just got Whammed.”

Also it’s odd that I haven’t heard ‘Fairytale of New York’ yet this year, except as a weird brass band version that was on the telly advertising some programme.


  1. Sense 2 at the time of writing. There doesn’t seem to be a way to link to a specific definition, which is surprising. 

Nutters, “Emigration, Death, Regret and Substance Abuse”

I see that Tony Blair has become a catholic. No surprise there. But as an ex-catholic atheist myself, I’m feeling down with Nick Clegg.

In other catholic-related news, there’s a fine analysis of ‘Fairytale of New York on the BBC website, after the Radio 1 farrago. And I hadn’t realised that Shane McGowan’s birthday is Christmas Day. So as well as Newtonmas, we can also celebrate McGowanmas on Tuesday.

Rationalism and excess: what a fine seasonal combination.

Portable gaming/Santa question

A quick question for anyone who may know: what’s the best of the handheld game systems for an eight- — nearly nine- — year old boy?

For values of “best” that include robustness, flexibility and the ability to stop playing it when you’re told.

I realise the last requirement may not have been implemented on any platform yet.

Oh, and preferably in a sub-stratospheric price bracket, too.