I'm in the King's Head pub in the little village of Upper
Beeding, just outside of Small Dole. Upper Beeding is a traditional old village, the kind with narrow streets, narrower sidewalks and where the doors to the flint and brick houses open directly onto the pavement.
It also has a traditional, quirky name, made more so by the fact that Upper Beeding is below Lower
The pub, I am happy to say, is traditional as well; a 15th century structure of stone walls and low beamed ceilings decked with horse brasses and pewter tankards. There's a proper fireplace, as well, where a real log fire is burning. The bar is full of locals, all chatting and laughing together and, even though no one is talking to me, the conviviality is comforting.
In places like Upper Beeding, pub life remains a civilized and enriching tradition. In cities and larger towns, "going out for the evening" has become a euphemism for getting as
pissed as you possibly can, starting a fight, breaking some windows and throwing up on the sidewalk. But village pubs continue to serve as community centers, and stopping by for a pint after tea is looked upon as an opportunity to converse with your neighbors and catch up on local gossip, not a prelude to random violence.
The pub is crowded tonight, as it appears to be simultaneously hosting several Christmas parties. (As a matter of fact, that's why I'm here. My wife and her work-mates are off at a corner table drinking white wine
crackers and wearing funny hats. It's my job to stay sober and drive us home after all is said, done, eaten and drunk.) Even so, aside from a few festively decked-out young ladies and the odd holly sprig, you'd be hard pressed to detect it was Christmas by looking around the room. And that's just fine with me. Gaudy garlands and flashing lights would only detract from the atmosphere. Overdone decorations are not something the British do.
Having said that, a guy wearing a flashing Santa hat just walked in. But that's what it's like here in general; you can drive for miles and see nary a twinkling light, then come upon a display that could be spotted from low-orbiting spacecraft. And these displays always seem to come in clusters, as if some American-borne virus has infiltrated the local water supply, causing everyone on an entire street to engage in a bizarre contest to see who can generate the largest electricity bill.
Another quirk of the Christmas season in Britain is that every scene depicting Yule Tide activities--be it in greeting cards, holiday displays or on the
a factor, even though snow, for the people born and bred here, is little more than a distant memory. But that's how I like my snow, in pictures and in the past. Occasionally, we'll get a frost, and that's close enough for me.
But the overall best thing about a British Christmas, in my view, is the fact that we can still wish each other a happy one. It's not that we don't have our own legion of PC Police here--far from it--it's merely that, thus far on this issue, we been giving them the attention they deserve. So, while I am still legally allowed, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all Happy Christmas and blessings in the New Year.
Belated wishes for a festive Diwali season
And, of course, thanks for reading.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I think someone needs a ride home.
British Christmas decorations--tasteful and eschewing ostentation.
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