Outside the air is brisk and cold, filled with sounds of people rushing around, getting their last minute preparations taken care of, while music blasts out of the shops that are open today. Long queues stretch out in front of the coffee shops, and the pubs are full of happy people drinking pints with their friends.
A few people are sleeping on the pavement in tattered blankets - not as many homeless people in this part of the city, but still enough to make me feel grateful for having as much as I do.
Pushing through the doors to the grocery store, a blast of heat greets me. Before I could even take notice of the warmth, I realized that the shoppers in this store appear to be trying to buy everything in sight. Yesterday, Jeremy and I got most of our shopping done for the next few days, but needed some ground beef for our spaghetti feast tonight. Since tomorrow we'll be having a traditional roast chicken dinner with all of the fixings (yes I promise there will be pictures of me making this huge dinner in our "kitchen"), we decided to have something that doesn't require much preparation tonight. So spaghetti with Jeremy's special sauce, salads and garlic bread will be our dinner this evening.
Dodging through the crowds, I manage to get myself to the meat aisle, where people are reaching frantically for the few chickens and turkeys left. Thankfully there are lots of packages of ground beef left, so I have to trouble getting what I came for. Quickly picking up a few other things (including a raspberry trifle for dessert tomorrow and some fresh raspberries and blueberries for breakfast), I manage to get myself out of the store after only an hour.
On the way home, I see a flower vendor selling pointsettias for only 1 pound per plant. They weren't looking great, but the vendor assured me that my plant would perk up once it was warm again. This is the first Christmas I've been able to have one of these, because they're highly toxic to cats - so I wouldn't dream of bringing one home when Chase or Jaz were around.
Carrying my purchases down Bayswater road, I notice that there are barely any cars around at all - very unlike the normally busy street I'm used to. My mind starts to wander...
Tonight we'll be going to St. Paul's Cathedral for Midnight Mass. My excitement at this opportunity has been slightly tarnished by the fact that ALL buses and trains stop running at midnight tonight, meaning we're going to have to walk as much of the 4 miles (between the cathedral and our flat) as possible, since cabs are very expensive. So I'll wear my not-so-nice boots because they're easier to walk in, and will make sure to have the number for a mini-cab in my mobile. I can't believe that a city as wealthy as London doesn't accomodate the thousands of people who will be attending Midnight Mass at St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey. When I called to ask the Transport London people about this, I was told that the drivers deserved a holiday too. While I can respect this, I also know that several drivers are not Christian at all, and so they don't care if they're working or not. Also, having the buses run till 1am instead of midnight won't hurt anybody.
I refuse to let this ruin my day, and decide that if Mary and Joseph could walk hundreds of miles all of those years ago that we should be able to handle a few ourselves.
Turning down my street, I check with the owner of the off-license around the corner to see if they really are going to be open tomorrow. He assures me that they'll open in the morning with some fresh bread if we want any. After a smile and a "cheers", I head towards my front door.
Finally the bags have been unpacked and our little fridge is full of goodies, bottles of wine sitting outside the door, waiting to be opened. It's the perfect temperature outside to keep things in the plastic tote without worrying about them getting too warm or freezing. This has come in handy the last couple of days, as we stock up for food for the next couple of days (since many places are closed both on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day).
I'm sitting in this cluttered little flat, smelling the pointsettias and trying to think about where we're going to put everything while I'm cooking tomorrow... should be interesting.
Since most people are now on their way home (or are already there) to visit family, I don't know if anybody is left reading this, but I'll probably post tomorrow anyway, depending on what we decide to do. I know a long walk in the park with a thermos and hot chocolate is part of the plan - and of course The Dinner, but I'm sure I'll find time to jump online for a bit.
Either way - to those of you who are reading this - I hope you are surrounded by people you love tonight.
... and have a very Merry Christmas