For silly reasons, our team ended up being called I'm Looking at Dom. It confused our Maze Master too.

Winter Rush

It’s December, and the windows of our (hard-won) Percy Pig advent calendars which stand between us and Christmas are falling open with alarming speed. Last weekend we selected this year’s Christmas tree from the tree sellers in Brockwell Park, carried it home and adorned it with coloured lights… photos to follow once we finally get around to adding the baubles, assuming we don’t miss the deadline.

Everyone is certainly busy enough without needing a ridiculous December election thrown in. But since we do, and since I’ve been deeply undecided about who to vote for, I thought I’d do the responsibly civic thing this week by attending the Herne Hill Hustings with Randi to hear from the candidates themselves. As the Lib Dems are standing aside here as part of the ‘Remain Alliance’ with the Greens – and both the Brexit Party and UKIP candidates failed to show – we had four people on the panel: the incumbent Labour MP, Helen Hayes, plus the Greens, Tories and Christian People’s Alliance. Helen Hayes won over 69% of the vote in 2017, so the result is a bit of a foregone conclusion, but nonetheless I was impressed by her performance and – thanks to a generally-reasonable debate – left feeling just a smidgen better about the state of democracy. We live in a bubble of near-absurd proportions, though; the vote to Remain in 2016 in Lambeth was almost 79%.

In comparison to the townhall I attended in Chicago, two things really stood out. The first was that – in the name of the environment – the leading candidate was willing to take a brave position against wood-burning stoves. And secondly, the straw poll at the end was conducted by meringue, as the organisers had prepared a bunch in each party’s colours in advance before inviting us to pick our winners through the power of eating. This is a truly excellent innovation and something that I think could be extended much further.

Candidates at the hustings
Candidates at the hustings

For more traditionally festive cheer, look no further than the sixth Secret Vegetarian Festive Dinner which Abbi and Paul hosted last Saturday night. (Well, I say it’s the sixth. Strictly speaking I don’t know how many they might have sneaked in without me while I was away, but at the very least it was my sixth one.) As you might remember from many years ago, this was once the annual pre-Christmas party for my group of London friends, and while the attendees have changed over the years (we’ve never had a three year old before) the tradition of tasty vegetarian food, lots of wine and stealable Secret Santa presents continues. The real innovation was that Randi, Josh, Anna and I all stayed the night rather than taking a series of night buses right across London. I’m not sure why we didn’t think of that before, but it was a great idea 😀

Although I keep inviting myself over to Katie’s to watch classic Doctor Who stories (honestly, The Tenth Planet was incredible – the original Cybermen were so much better than anything from the 80s, and the two of us were mimicking them for hours) Randi hadn’t actually seen Katie and Kim’s flat yet, so on Friday we forwent Doctor Who in favour of a more communal raclette dinner. We also admired their very, very fat Christmas tree and failed to help Katie and Kim progress in their stressful video game about making soup. And as we left, to continue the European theme, we discovered that St. Nicholas had visited on his appointed day and stuffed our shoes with chocolates. Thanks, St. Nicholas!

Not pictured: a large quantity of melted cheese
Not pictured: a large quantity of melted cheese

Yesterday was Simon’s stag do: a packed day of enjoyable/exhausting activities which began with The Crystal Maze Live Experience. I have to admit that the most I’d ever seen of the Crystal Maze was the 15 minutes which Katie had hurriedly prepped me on the night before, but that was enough to get the general idea, and the live experience is so well done that – whether by nostalgia or otherwise – you quickly get sucked in. While I wasn’t stunningly helpful to the team with my individual challenges, overall we won a big victory over our rivals and I was very much a fan of all of the excited running/crawling/climbing from zone to zone with the show’s catchy theme tune playing in the background.

For silly reasons, our team ended up being called I'm Looking at Dom. It confused our Maze Master too.
For silly reasons, our team ended up being called I’m Looking at Dom. It confused our Maze Master too.
The Aztec zone!
The Aztec zone!

From there we moved on to lunch at Simon’s beloved Wong Kei and several hours of Archery Tag, which I wasn’t very good at (I don’t think shooting arrows is really my thing) but I did appreciate the lack of any actual pain, unlike paintball. Finally, in the evening we gathered together for drinks and pizza and one very extensive multimedia quiz about Simon, which my team won thanks to (a) our amazing insight into Simon, (b) the decent amount of material which I had contributed thanks to my tendency to archive everything for future use. (It has to pay off sometime!) Aside from winning, it was just generally lovely to spend time with so many faces old and new. Plus, it’s always handy to be able to bend the ear of the guy who manages your local Tube station…

Lunch at Wong Kei
Lunch at Wong Kei
Look closely and you will see the haunted expression of one whose fellow teammates have all been shot already
Look closely and you will see the haunted expression of one whose fellow teammates have all been shot already

Finally, today we celebrated my great uncle Leonard’s 80th birthday with the family. Many happy returns!

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