Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sweet and Savoury (and a Little Bubbly)

We started a week of celebrations by heading up to Hampstead for the Christmas Fair. It turned
out to be so incredibly crowded that we couldn't actually see the stands to buy anything. We did manage to eat sausages (savoury), which we can do under even the most difficult circumstances, and catch some musical acts, including carolers, dancing musicians playing folk tunes, and a Talking Heads cover band. Seasonally inappropriate, but entertaining.

On Tuesday we hosted the last student tea. Eighteen hungry students, two administrators, and a vast quantity of scones (sweet) made for a lively afternoon. Sabina and Sophia gave us a Christmas wreath, pictured, and Ben did an admirable job pouring tea.

Biggie and Gary arrived Wednesday, jetlagged but thrilled to try out the bunkbed. Biggie was so completely at home in the upper bunk that I believe they're considering buying one for their own house. They staggered out with Phil to Borough Market, returning with meat pies (savory) for dinner.

While they took an early night, we headed out to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden to meet Klauser, Sue, Cynthia, and two of their friends for Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. We had box seats, which were the utmost in elegance if a bit lacking in sight lines, and Klauser had arranged champagne (bubbly) for the intermission. The Juliet was exquisite (the Romeo somewhat less so), and she was showered so heavily in roses at the end -- this being the final performance of the 50th anniversary of the MacMillan choreography -- that we feared she'd be knocked unconscious.

The next morning, Phil and Gary went to the Old Bailey, where trials are open to visitors. They were admitted into the gallery for a terrorism trial and watched as a forensic specialist went through the idiotic errors the accused made with his laptop while tracking down instructions for making bombs. He did not erase his cookies (not sweet). Both were delighted to see that all the lawyers and judge wore elaborate wigs, even the women. Just like in the movies! No photos, as cameras, cell phones, and even purses are not allowed.

 Klauser's birthday fell on Friday, and we rode up on the bus, carrying still more scones (sweet). K's charming brother Matthew was there, as was Cynthia, and Sue had made a birthday cake (sweet) and a delicious cherry trifle soaked with sherry (very sweet).We ate sugar and drank prosecco (bubbly) and laughed until we were nearly comatose.

 Biggie, Gary, Phil and I set out then for Harrods to see the legendary food halls (best approached when not hungry) and ended up buying quite a bit, including a plum pudding and hard sauce (sweet) and the Harrods version of cronuts (obscenely sweet). These, it turns out, are pretty much just rolls of sugar and butter formed into the shape of a croissant. I recommend them highly, but not if you want to live past 60.

Our final celebratory event was a trip to Bath to see Handel's Messiah at Bath Abbey. We went in two groups, one earlier to see the sights, one later. Bath too was having a Christmas Fair; this one eclipsed Hampstead's in size and variety. It took over the entire center of town and was completely jam-packed. The sightseers still got to visit the third-century Roman baths, dedicated to the goddess Minerva, which are impressively laid out. Bath is so photogenic, even with a zillion extra people, that I've put extra photos at the end.

We had an excellent dinner at a gastropub (savory) and then headed through the throngs to the Abbey. Going to The Messiah has been our holiday tradition nearly every year for thirty years or more, and for me at least, this was the most beautiful, moving version we've ever heard. All four of the soloists were exceptional -- there was a bass rather than a baritone, and a contralto rather than a mezzo soprano, so the sound was unique. Add to that the Abbey organ, with the sound of the chorus rising to the gothic heights of the fourteenth-century cathedral, and the result was -- in the literal sense of the word -- awesome. This was Klauser, Gary, and Biggie's first Messiah, and I think they were suitably impressed.

We made an early train back, squished in with the thousands of Christmas Fair revelers, and returned to the apartment by 12:30 -- whereupon we realized that because we live in a city, we could order pizza for delivery at one in the morning. So we did.

 (Very savory indeed.)

More Bath pix:

And our pubs of the week:

in Bath; excellent venison and cider

our second Old Red pub (see
Old Red Lion, November 28)

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