Chris Mass Eve
Today ended up being about getting ready for Christmas, and the evening was spent much as it was three years previous, basking in the company and talents of Chris Mear. Thankfully we didn’t try to recreate that night’s drinking!
The morning’s first task was to find someplace to buy all the things needed to make the trifle for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner with Ann and Jack. Using the GPS in the iPhone and the general directions given to use the night before by Sophie, we decided to head to Victoria and see what any of the markets had to offer, before continuing toward the Belgravia Waitrose.
Along the way we entertained ourselves by counting the number of Mercedes and Jaguars we saw parked as we walked along the sidewalks of the neighbourhood embassies. The market was small but surprisingly had a large selection of everything from wine to produce. The staff did their best to make the bins look full, but the customers deftly moved around them to fill their carts as fast as they could restock. There were plenty of staff to help customers find items on their lists, and we were on our merry way within an hour. Our four reusable bags borrowed from the flat filled as full as we could manage for the long walk back.
We were rather hungry by the time we got back and unpacked the groceries, so we headed back out to see if anything was still open for lunch. We pushed on a few more blocks between Pimlico and Victoria, eventually locating a nice Mediterranean place named Kazan, which we chose mostly by the fact it had the most people inside it for a mid-afternoon, and then by the enticing menu posted in the window.
The staff were attentive and the food was delicious. We ate slowly savoring the wonderful spices, sipping from the red wines we selected. I was pleased with the Turkish wine, Yakut Rouge, I chose to go with my fire grill meat platter. The Turkish Delights delivered with the check may have been Sarah’s favourite though, and she asked a staff member for the name of the product. The guy returned with a piece of the cardboard box in which the double-roasted pistachio Güllüoglu brand candies were delivered.
We were told they were a popular brand, but we stopped by a half dozen newsagents on the way back and none appeared to have head of it. Once we got back to the flat I did some more research and it looked like we would be able to find Güllüoglu in the states, but knew we could just beg friends to ship them if the need arose.
After showering and freshening up we walked to Victoria Station to start our journey to Snaresbrook to meet up with Chris. The tube was packed with people getting in some last-minute shopping or making their way home for tomorrow’s holiday, when all transportation is closed. We stood for most of the trip, shuffling to one side or the other depending on which side’s doors were opening next, and taking in all the people. Some quietly staring ahead with their earbuds falling into a pocket or hand, others talking to their mates, many people laughing and smiling. The two teenage girls sharing a set of earbuds and singing along to a favourite pop song was hillarious.
We arrived at the Snaresbrook station about 5 minutes later than we were expected, but there was Chris Mear waiting with a car and that famous grin. We decided to try and find a pub serving food and walked to a few pubs near St. Mary’s Church, but they were all packed. The one that was marginally less packed, the Nag’s Head, is were we stopped for pints to assess the dinner situation. After reacquainting over beers, we returned to the car to drive to a tried-and-true favourite of Chris’ named Loon Yee.
We were seated by the window next to a group of 6 people having a good time. We ordered drinks and tea and tried to look at the menu while wanting to talk. We each picked a few appetizers and entrees, closed our menus and resumed catching up. The food came quickly and we tucked in. At one point a pair of young drunk guys came down the side walk singing and Sarah cheered them on through the window, only to be greeted with one of the fellas stopping and giving his willy some fresh air. Everyone turned away and thankfully the guy wasn’t persistent and his mate wanted to keep walking, so they left and we laughed. Such Christmas enthusiasm.
The more welcome Christmas spirit came a few minutes later when the staff walked into the room with a fondant pig cake with lit sparklers sticking out, and we all sang happy birthday to one of the women in the group next to us. When we finished I leaned over and said hello and the birthday girl introduced herself. Born on Christmas Eve, and named Carol!
We finished up our dinner, and drove back to the same spot we had parked before to get to St. Mary’s for midnight mass. We enter the church and Chris settled in to the organist position and we took our spot in the front row directly in front of him, but our view blocked by the size of the instrument. Still the best seat in the house in our opinion and we’re there for moral support. If we could see him we might heckle him and we don’t want to make him mess up. Not that we’d do something like that.
The music filled the small, old church and service was very nice. I always enjoy shaking hands with the welcoming strangers and taking a blessing during communion. The karaoke-like screens for the hymns are welcome to these trespassers, but still look out of place in this very old building of worship.
After mass, we thanked the vicar and made our way back to the car. Chris fired up his iPhone’s Tom Tom app to navigate his way through the practically deserted streets of London; only going the wrong way once, and rewarding us for his mistake by driving us over Tower Bridge for the first time. We didn’t remember the actual address of the flat, so Chris dropped us off at a corner in the general area, where our day of looking for lunch helped us navigate back to the flat.
Once home, we got ready for bed, and off to sleep without any sign of Father Christmas having broken in. I thought we had been good this year, myself.