London during the holidays is everything one might expect and hope for, transforming magically into a Dickens Village. Greenery outlined the city while chestnuts roasted at nearly every tube stop filling the air, mixing with the exhaust fumes of city buses and cabs.
Buskers were replaced by carolers.
It was a warm, traditional Christmas lacking in the Americanized opulence of lights and plastic Santas.
Though I was having a hard time adjusting to Happy Christmas over Merry Christmas.
For as good as we Americans have been at dumbing down the English language to it’s most simple terms, you’d think it would have been the other way around. Merry has such a nice, proper sounding ring to it.
I guess that meant ours wasn’t merry.
Our pub’s fireplace was lit first thing every morning, as fresh coal was delivered by soot covered Brits resembling the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins. Due to air pollution, wood was against the law.
But fire is fire, and our’s was warm—crackling and popping a friendly invitation to sit next to it, pint in hand.
“We should do something. It’s Christmas,” Stan said one dreary mid-December twilight. It was the dead part of the shift. Three of us were working, and we outnumbered the customers.
In front of me sat a row of glass pitchers, each filled with a special spiced, mulled wine, handmade by the Pub’s cook, Scotty. He was an aspiring film maker from Wisconsin.
He had been working there longer than anyone, but always as a cook. He wanted to be a bartender or cellarman like the rest of us, but he was just too good at what he did.
“We could go to that cabin in Bristol with the rest of the staff,” I said, pouring myself a mug of wine and sticking it under the espresso machine’s steam wand, turning it on with a hiss.
“We see them everyday,” Stan responded, handing me another glass. “We see them when we’re at work, we see them when we’re off work…this is our first Christmas away from home. We need to do something.”
The last time Stan said we needed to do something, I ended up on a plane with little more than a passport and a backpack, fleeing the country.
“What do you suggest, old pal?” I asked, as the steam wand sputtered out.
Stan took a drink and looked at the front window, the dark of the night transforming it into a mirror.