Birmingham’s Christmas German Market certainly has a sense of scale. I’m used to a few sheds dotted about for this kind of thing, but they’ve managed to cram stalls everywhere.
I’m also pleased that the Germans have their own particular brand of Christmas tat. Some of it is pretty, but there’s a fair load of rubbish too. Perhaps they just send the bad stuff over here, and I wouldn’t blame them.
It is cold and damp, yet there is still a grim determination amongst everyone to have a good time. Groups of lads try to holler, but also clear up after themselves. Couples shiver with the steins amongst the slushy remains of the past few days’ snow.
A German band offer their distinctive version of Shakin’ Stevens’ Christmas classic.
I like it. It is more festive than wandering around a shopping centre. Being out in the cold at night, browsing the stalls, taking in the atmosphere, is fun. But I think a pub is still a better place for a drink than a wooden shelter in a pedestrianised area. There’s a time for heading into the warm.
“All around them men drank alone, staring out of their faces.” When Denis Johnson wrote that line I don’t think he was describing the experience of drinking in a Wetherspoons, but he might as well have been.
The Sir John Hawkshaw is a peculiar little pub, sat within Cannon Street station. Wetherspoons are rarely destination pubs, and neither are station pubs. They are stopping-off points, placeholders, they mark the beginning or the end, rarely do they host the whole evening’s festivities.
And so The Sir John Hawkshaw, as both a Wetherspoons and a station pub, is particularly transitory. Everyone perches, or hovers. Everyone just one swift movement away from leaving, or at least grabbing a rare free seat.
The trains are a mess today, so it offers solace and shelter from the cold. But you get the impression we’re here out of function rather than joy. We would rather be home. The Christmas revellers about to go out feel especially out of place in this pub.
I could damn it with faint praise in saying it serves its purpose. But sometimes that is all you really want from a pub. No matter what it is and where it is. A place to wait. And to stare out your face for a while.
Snow. What could be more apt as Christmas approaches?
And yet it is somewhat disconcerting. Perhaps because we had such a mild autumn, so such a cold snap is a shock.
But I think it is disconcerting more because snow at this time of year is rare. I’ve not experienced a White Christmas in my lifetime; that as much as the visual language of Christmas has snow at its centre, my memories of Christmas don’t.
However, it provides a good excuse for staying indoors, which is no bad thing at this time of year.