Christmas in London is one of my favourite times of year. When I moved here to start a family, it was around this time of year that, even as the temperatures plummeted, I truly fell in love with the place. People’s spirits lift and the city discovers a new kind of beauty in its blueish-grey hues. This year, above all, Christmas could not have come sooner.
For my children, in particular, London takes on a magical quality as Christmas appears on the horizon. Piles of Autumn leaves collect on street pavements and every walk becomes an adventure in a sea of oranges, reds and browns. December arrives and breath condenses on the crisp winter air, making the little ones feel like ice-breathing dragons. Lights and decorations spring up all over town, accompanied by the cheesy melodies of old Christmas favourites and – in my household at least – the kids’ energy levels seem to grow day-by-day in anticipation of the arrival of Father Christmas.
This year, unsurprisingly, feels different. Even as London emerged from its lockdown slumber, the Christmas cheer was muted. Now around town, as ‘Tier 4’ descends, the lights are up but most of us are staying home. Christmas markets, usually filled with festive smells of gingerbread, roasted nuts and mulled wine, have fallen silent. For many people who had been looking forward to seeing close family members after a painful year, this will be a lonely and immensely difficult time.
For children, the magic of this time of year is harder to recreate and all of us parents have to make more of an effort to make this time of year feel special for the kids. It means needing to be more creative to keep them entertained. We are making Christmas decorations at home, spending more time playing family games. Food, of course, is a great way to keep kids interested. Building gingerbread houses, baking cakes and spending long Sundays cooking a hearty meal.
As a result, in many ways this Christmas feels more manic than before. With the Good Plot having recently opened, it will be by far the busiest since my eldest was born. I am so proud of my team at the Good Plot, whose first thought was to keep supporting the community with nourishing, delicious meals, coffees and deli items throughout this new period of restrictions. Together, this week, we announced our first charity partnership with West London Action for Children, so that our customers can support the wider community when they buy our Christmas Hampers.
And that’s even before I get to the logistical nightmare of arranging for Santa to deliver the unusual gift of a cow and a chicken (called ‘Poppy’ and ‘Rosie’, if you’re listening Santa!) down the chimney. That one might have to wait another few months until the farm at Ewhurst is up and running!
Yet, despite all the stresses and abnormalities this year has brought, I will be giving extra thanks for those closest to me. I won’t be alone in squeezing my children a little closer and keeping far-away family and loved ones in my thoughts more than ever.
Wishing you and your families all a happy and healthy Christmas. Here’s to a brighter New Year.