Merry Christmas! We’re past the winter solstice now. I barely saw sunlight on Wednesday, my first full day off of the Christmas break. Maybe my paying more attention to photography and gardening and aiming to be outside more means I am, by implication, paying more attention to the seasons. But I genuinely cannot remember being this glad for the coming longer days. It doesn’t seem, alas, like the bevy of strikes in rail, the postal service, the NHS, or teaching, will be ending any time soon—but we can thank our intransigent and miserly government for that, for clinging to quack economics and living so far detached from people’s reality that they genuinely think they’re the good guys.
On Tuesday afternoon I took a walk on Hampstead Heath at lunch, and (rather foolishly) made an attempt to swim in the men’s pond. I lasted for two minutes at 3.1ºC. Then I walked in glorious sunshine to Archway, and felt significantly warmer at the end of it, particularly after gobbling down some spinach börek whilst sat on the pedestrianised area outside the tube at sundown.
The day afterwards, I came down with a cold. I wonder if it was the swim in the men’s pond that did it, or the swim I did in the evening in a heated pool—or simply my immune system deciding to go on strike for Christmas. I barely saw the sun on the day of the actual Solstice.
I have seen four separate adaptations of A CHRISTMAS CAROL within 24 hours. The definitive version remains THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL, with the 1999 Patrick Stewart TV movie shortly behind. Mark Gatiss’s stage version from Ally Pally starring Nicholas Farrell was cute, with some nice spins on it (particularly at the very end) but clearly suffered from being a filmed stage play—Bob Cratchit weeping over Tiny Tim’s body doesn’t have the same effect when Tiny Tim is (a) not all that tiny (b) clearly still breathing. The weakest was easily CHRISTMAS CAROLE (styled CHRISTMAS CAROL£) on Sky, an adaptation that seemed morally-confused and to largely miss the point of the source text, all the while being a bit too self-aware to be anything approaching the sun of its parts. (Nothing outright horrible like the inexplicable 2019 grimdark TV series, at least.)
I can’t tell if serial TV in general is on the decline, or I'm just noticing the moving wallpaper and dodgy joins and cracks in the scenery more than I used to. THE GREAT POTTERY THROW DOWN is transparently the same show as Bake Off, right down to the mock fête to announce the winners. ANT AND DEC’S LIMITLESS WIN is a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-a-like with added virtual reality nonsense and a personal pet peeve of mine—quiz show hosts not knowing the answer, or rather, saying “let’s see if that’s right” and letting lighting and the sound effects tell the story for them. I saw the end of the final episode of DOC MARTIN, a show I had never seen before—it is very much a product of the early 2000s when the show started and TV drama standards were very different, at least in the UK. (I wasn’t a fan.) TV film editors don't even seem especially competent at cutting movies—an especially satisfying shot with BMX wheels screeching to a halt in E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL was left hanging by an ITV2 break bumper (followed by an advert for the Harry Potter studio tours, because there truly is no escaping those bloody films.) I guess a captive TV audience on Christmas Day won't care too much.
At least my cold’s clearing up.