CHRISTMAS IN CLERKENWELL

You may not have known it but the Christmas Cracker was invented in Clerkenwell. A certain Thomas Smith, confectioner, based in Goswell Road developed it in the 1840s from a Parisian paper-wrapped bon-bon by adding a written message, a toy, a mild explosive and eventually a paper crown.

I had a very religious upbringing so sadly, I am less inclined towards belief these days but it was lovely to walk to Westminster on Christmas Eve for the carols in the abbey. As we stood and the choir sang, I noticed some of my fellow genius loci (and sometime antagonists) but, in honour of the occasion, and the place – elected to set aside centuries old rivalries – well, temporarily at least.

The abbey is always wonderful, not least because it contains ‘Poets Corner’ – a chapel or chamber which is the very epicentre of English Culture with its extraordinary array of tributes to the literary, musical, political and spiritual heroes of these islands.

Afterwards to Trafalgar Square to inspect the Christmas tree – an annual gift from our Norwegian friends in recognition of British efforts on their behalf in the war against “Hister of the crooked cross’. Very nice – but I thought the crib opposite to be rather feeble – perhaps it is a victim of the credit crunch. The bells of St Martin’s-in-the-Field were pealing as we walked backwards home through the frost. Lovely

Anyway, here is that other tune I mentioned and briefly posted. It is rather perky – so watch out. Oh, and a very happy new year to you too.