Oddly, there is no Thanksgiving here. Instead, they start decorating for Christmas immediately after Halloween. As one of Phil's students put it, "They don't have a bridge holiday! They jump right into Christmas!" The holiday lights do shine prettily in the rain. But there was no way we were going to give up the opportunity to stuff friends and family with far more food than they could comfortably eat.
We had a little infusion of family with Ben's arrival on Wednesday. He conquered jet lag with a twelve-hour sleep (ah, youth!) while we cooked up a storm upstairs. When he finally arose, we took him to the Soane Museum, the house of Sir John Soane, a nineteenth-century architect and collector of -- well, of everything.
We were missing our usual holiday infusion of dozens of Sickers and the Chatham Zahlers, but we invited our adopted British family to take their place. Klauser and Sue, Sue's father John, and our new friend Cynthia kindly agreed to eat themselves into oblivion, obeying the Phil rule of Thanksgiving: ingest.
We'd ordered a turkey from the Smithfield butcher shop, and though it was by far the most expensive turkey we've ever had, it may also have been the tastiest. We made corn pudding. We made cranberry-orange relish, with lots of brandy. We made stuffing with chestnuts, pancetta, and raisins. We made yam-squash casserole with carmelized onions (and brandy). We made green beans with pine nuts just so we could say there was something green on the table. And to help our British guests feel at home, I made sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce -- and the rest of the brandy. Sue brought a delicious cheese-raisin Yorkshire tart, and Cynthia made Palmier biscuits, which were divine. We ate excessively, and John regaled us with fascinating tales of his travels all over the world.
There was more prosecco and wine consumed than I am comfortable reporting. Everyone was slightly nauseous by the end of the evening, which to us indicates a successful celebration, and Klauser was overheard saying, "They'd better go back to America soon or we shall have to order all new clothes in a larger size."
To that end, the following day Klauser came by to take Ben shopping for shirts at his Italian tailor's. (We were horrified to discover that Britain has joined in the nightmare of Black Friday, including the required fisticuffs over huge flat-screen TVs, without even the excesses of Thanksgiving Thursday to excuse it. But exclusive tailors don't take part.) We stayed home to recover, but we understand that it was quite an expedition. Ben, it turns out, is a perfect Italian size 15, and the tailor was thrilled to be able to fit him so well. Attractive Italian actors wandered in, we were told, and they also were pleased with the fashion show. And the results are fabulous.
Phil met the gentlemen at the National Portrait Gallery, where they found a portrait painted on wood of our local benefactor, Sir Christopher Hatton. Then Sue and I joined them at a Soho moviehouse to watch Todd Haynes' moving and gorgeously filmed Carol. Look for it on the Oscar lists. And thence to Chinatown, where we had wonderful Chinese food, though liver was involved.
Ben and Phil took off for the British Library and in search of Scotch eggs in the early afternoon on Saturday, and when they returned we walked to St. Paul's to see the Advent carol service. It included a poem, "Advent," by the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, that struck all three of us with its beauty. The ceremony, focusing on the metaphor of motion from west to east in the cathedral, from darkness to light, from death to life, was a remarkable way to end the week.
Our pubs :
|I didn't go -- Phil met an ex-colleague |
and his daughter there
|like the one in Stockbridge, but old|