Saturday, December 29, 2007

The elements of a very good Christmas Day

A smooth wraparound from Christmas Eve
(Staying out till after midnight, staying up chatting even later than that....)

Making it out of bed early - but not too early - on Christmas morning
(Always a bit of a challenge if Christmas Eve has been too heavy!)

Setting the mood with some appropriate music
(I don't have any classic Christmassy songs - either traditional carols or pop songs [well, apart from Lennon's 'Happy Christmas (War is Over)'; but I've been hearing that a little bit too much in the Pool Bar this past week] - and I'm not at all religious, but.... I am a bit soppy about Christmas, and I am prepared to suspend my usual virulent religious intolerance for a while. The only thing in my vast and varied CD collection that really seemed to hit the spot was a collection of 12th Century plainsong by Hildegard of Bingen - a very mellow way to start the day.... and the gentlest of gentle wake-up calls for an obstinately comatose Chairman in the guest bedroom....)

A very good Christmas lunch
(Thanks to Frank Siegel at the Sequoia Cafe for laying on an excellent spread!)

A delayed start to lunch - allowing for extended drinking
(This isn't quite how I would have planned it - honestly! - since I was absolutely ravenous, after skipping breakfast; but one guest getting the rendezvous time wrong, another not being able to find the venue, and then some patchy service meant that we didn't actually start tucking in until nearly two hours after we'd arrived. Beer and wine make everything fine.)

Some good friends to share it with
(Many of my closest friends - even more than usual, I think - have gone home this year. And a few still here who had been intending to join us, dropped out for one reason or another. Both of The Chairman's brothers cried off. So, it was a small group this year - but nevertheless a good one.)

The continuance of a seasonal Beijing 'tradition'
The Chairman is my oldest friend in Beijing, and I think I have spent Christmas with him almost every year we've been here. And in our first few years, the favoured venue for our Christmas lunch [along with Big Frank, the third 'Amigo'] was always the old John Bull pub - now, alas, defunct; but the Sequoia is its direct successor, under the same management, occupying the same premises, and with most of the same virtues in its food.)

A good pudding at the end to induce food coma
(We were given a bread pudding, with just a drizzle of sweet custard. Delicious! Not exactly traditional, but appropriately stodgy.)

A bracing afternoon walk to recover
(A stroll through nearby Ritan Park - a brief pilgrimage to my favourite 'melancholy spot' in the city, 'The Dead Kite Tree' - and then a little shopping expedition with The Chairman was just what we needed to help the food settle, to work off the calories, and to deter us from just snoozing away most of the rest of the day.)

A proper session of pool
(The Chairman and I then returned to the pool hall we'd discovered the previous evening. We found it much less packed this time, and were able to get in a good 90-minute session. This place is quite a find: cheap and cheerful, with excellent, brand-new equipment. The only major [major!] negative point is the excruciatingly awful Mando-pop that they play almost continuously there - I may have to invest in some ear-plugs. I recovered the confidence and exuberance in my game that have been rather smothered of late by the bothersome eccentricities of the Pool Bar's table. I played some of the best damn pool I've produced in the last 2 or 3 years. It felt great! The Chairman wasn't quite on his game - but he still somehow managed to beat me 5-4. Oh, well....)

A 'Christmas Cocktail'
(After the pool, we looked in at the brand-new 'African' bar we'd recently discovered, and had a nice chat with the boss. He comped us a special Christmas drink of his own devising. I had guessed, unenthusiastically, that it would probably be a layered drink, and indeed it was - mostly red, but yellow on the bottom, with something more indistinct in the middle. And it had cream on top, which was gradually curdling and sinking to produce a 'snowstorm' effect. It was served in a tall, conical, knickerbockerglory glass; it was fruity and very, very sweet, and had almost no discernible alcohol content. Not at all my usual type of drink; and I found the curdling cream distinctly off-putting [I'm with The British Cowboy on that one!]; but we felt obliged to give it a try out of politeness. And actually, it wasn't half bad. Well, not disgusting, anyway - although it did take us rather a long time to drink. As The Chairman noted, it tasted like "a liquid trifle" - a remarkable achievement of drink construction! A second pudding for us!!)

A White Russian bar crawl
(Well, not so much of a bar crawl, really: we sidled past Jianghu, but didn't dare to go in for fear that the new siren of our dreams, The Stylish Girl, might be there again; we peered through the window at Salud, but found it closed for the holidays [lazy-arse bloody French!]; then we dropped in at The Yacht Club [which we hadn't been able to get through the door of the previous evening, but was deserted 24 hours later] for two or three of their beguilingly cheap and extremely mellowing White Russians; and finally, of course, we hit the Pool Bar, again.)

A little music to round the evening off
(OK, it was actually fairly terrible music, and I was disappointed that the billed Xiao He [my No. 1 'musical hero' in Beijing] failed to appear - but it was still rather fun, somehow. Maybe it was just all those White Russians making us giggly....)

A sensibly early night
(The Chairman and I both heading home around midnight - I don't think I can remember the last time that happened!)

A Christmas present to unwrap at home
(I only got one present this year - a DVD from The Chairman. And I had to wrap it for myself. But it was very cheering to have something to unwrap when I came home.)

A feel-good film to wind up the day
(The Chairman's gift was the cheesy but really rather good rom-com 'Music & Lyrics'; and nope, I couldn't resist watching it straight away. Damn good fun!)

Catching up with a few old friends back home in a spell of very drunken, late-night e-mailing
(What other way is there to end the day in these, our modern times?)

A LONG lie-in the next day to recover....


The British Cowboy said...

I had Xmas dinner with E&S, which was very good of them seeing as they had adopted me for Thanksgiving too...

Anyway, it was cooked my S's mother, who is off the boat from Galway. So it was genuine. Turkey, roast taters, proper stuffing... And then, once belts were bursting, a real Christmas pud served with brandy butter and custard.

I almost cried. Though that could have been the large amounts of Macallan consumed with S's father...

Froog said...

Good one, Cowboy - I'm envious. I look forward to catching up with E & S the next time I come over. They are fine people.

It could be sooner than you think. I'm in deep shit on the visa front, having been prematurely terminated by the company that was guaranteeing my status - and it's becoming increasingly difficult to pick up dodgy ones locally as everyone becomes paranoid about the Olympics (both the schools that have fixed it for me in the past on dummy teaching contracts are saying it's "too difficult" this year). Unless I can get something sorted out in the next week or two, I'm going to get deported!

Well, I'll probably just have to do the famous "visa run" down to Hong Kong, where apparently they still don't ask too many questions....

The one thing we were really missing was roast tatties. I had been thinking of putting in a special request with the boss, since I've known him for 5 years now.... but I didn't want to put him to too much bother on a busy day, and I was embarrassed about the uncertainty over the numbers in my party (it yo-yo-ed up and down between 2 and 10, and we ended up with 5!!). Luckily, I didn't miss out entirely because my English gal pal Dishy Debs had made some as a snack at her farewell drinks do a few days earlier.

A Happy New Year to you! Will you be carousing with E & S tomorrow as well?

The British Cowboy said...

I won't. Have I not told you why?

Froog said...

No, you haven't.

Do you have a date with the Philip Seymour Hoffman Fan Club??

Froog said...

Oh, are you in the bosom of the family?? Perhaps you did mention that, quite a while back.

I deduce this from the time of your contribution. I mean, I e-mail and blog when I get back from a bar at 4 in the morning - but you don't! So, you must be on UK time now, yes?

Well, have fun, wherever.

The British Cowboy said...

No - still in the Satan. S is not drinking for a while though...