I knew the game was up when waking one Christmas morning, the pillowcase at the end of my bed did not bulge jubilantly with miss-shapen, hastily wrapped gifts but instead sagged limply, a few small packages nestling forlornly at the bottom.
'Less presents, yes,' my mother said, thoughtfully, 'but more expensive.'
And of course she was right. The garish, colourful craziness of kids' toys were replaced with smaller items comprised of silver and semi-precious stones, heady smelling scents and citrus-enfused potions for bath and body replaced Kerplunk and Mouse Trap. No more the hardback annuals of youth, instead Twiggy by Twiggy and the Vogue Book of Beauty, a chocolate-brown, fringed shoulder bag in softest suede, a starter-pack of mini-Mary Quant lipsticks and a bright-yellow tin emblazoned with the Mary Quant flower logo, full of fat, waxy colouring crayons for eyes, lips and cheeks.... I couldn't have been happier if Mary Quant herself had climbed out of my pillowcase.
I can still remember the bitter taste of loss as the train where I'd left my bag, replete with my Mary Quant booty, pulled out of the station. Feet frozen on the platform, the sense of something-wrong-but-not-sure-what hanging low in the air and then the shattering realisation that my fabulous day out in Brighton with my best friend, had ended in the certain loss of my much prized macquillage....
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and last week, despite the weather outside being frightful, I went to something called a 'Holiday Singalong' at the Purcell Room on the Southbank. Billed as an evening of festive merriment with Harry Shearer (legendary base player with Spinal Tap and the voice of many characters in The Simpsons), his jazz-singing wife, Judith Owen, and .......friends. We were surprised to find the place was packed, cheek by jowl you might say, with gays in chains and uber-hip chicks in strange headgear and vertiginous heels. Who knew this was their fan base? It turned out they were there to see John Waters, appearing in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.... which made more sense. No matter though because we were soon rocking around the Christmas tree. Audience participation is not my first choice for a night out but, fuelled with a pint of wine, I was soon singing from the same hymn sheet as Richard Thopmson and Ruby Wax....it was nothing if not an eclectic cast. We listened to hip-harpist Lucinda Belle and the gorgeous Jacqui Dankworth (who looks and sounds just like mum Cleo Laine) sing a fabulous version of 'Baby It's Cold Outside' to her new husband pianist Charlie Wood.....just like her dad...... and yes, outside it was a winter wonderland.
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