Christmas Day Links #25

"A Briton celebrates and reflects on Christmas in the United Kingdom."

"The octopus found a wrapped and bow-tied gift in her tank."

"On the patio of a gay dive bar in the California desert, surrounded by palm trees, neon lights and cheap cocktails, Ron Oliver has penned the world’s syrupiest and snowiest Christmas films."

"In 1998, Michael Chubb’s team at Birmingham city council came up with ‘Winterval’ – and the backlash is still being felt today."

"A woman who is preparing to run an ultramarathon on Christmas Day dressed in festive fancy dress has said she wants to "spread positivity"."

"Most TV shows tackle the holiday season in one way or another."

"Welcome to the Solitary Christmas Photo project! If you’re spending Christmas alone in the UK this year, we’d like to invite you to be part of something."

"It started last November with a single string of Christmas lights on a Baltimore County street."

"When I was in my first year of senior school, my English teacher asked our class to write a poem about grief."

"This was the first painting by Friedrich, one of the principal figures of German Romantic art, to enter a British public collection when it was purchased by the National Gallery in 1987."

Christmas Eve Links #24

Plastic penguins, grotty grottos and grumpy elves: it’s not easy being a Santa impersonator:
"The pandemic has taken a toll on the festive season, and now many of my fellow Father Christmases are struggling."

"The cast and creator of Eve Of The Daleks reveal all about the episode, which will air on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 7pm on New Year’s Day 2022."

"Since 1994, Casa Magazines in Manhattan has carried almost 3,000 unique titles."

"Over the course of my career at The Washington Post, I’ve made a lot of graphics and animations."

"A total of 6,100 British servicemen and women will be deployed at home and overseas this festive season."

"It’s the first day of Christmas, and my true love sends me a partridge in a pear tree. But the tree and partridge arrive separately, weeks apart, and require assembly. I am missing many pieces. Visitors ask, “Is that supposed to be a tree?” I look away, ashamed."

"Fears that a disrupted supply chain could wreak havoc on the logistics industry over the holiday turned out to be wrong as many Americans ordered early and shopped in stores."

"After serving in Vietnam in 1967, Jim Steadman started selling Christmas trees to make some cash for skiing."

"Photographs from the 1950s and 1960s show how the city centre's most eclectic street looked during the festive holidays."

"Mark Gatiss turbocharged his career as a dramatist on Sherlock and Doctor Who, and last year delivered an acclaimed adaptation of Dracula."

Festivus Links #23

"With an estimated 2.4 million street lamp lights in service across Australia, there’s lots at stake when a city, town or council area considers how it should best provide public illumination."

"The traditional Festivus dish is meatloaf."

"For those who are looking for a holiday to celebrate without distracting tinsel, a Southside family has started a "Festivus" tradition.

"Superman's strength grew in response to each new challenge, reaching immeasurable (and sometimes ridiculous) levels of power."

"Since we don’t spend December shopping and wrapping any more, we give each other the gift of time instead."

"A man who rescued a suitcase of photos from a skip has said he wants to find the owner's family because they "belong back with his relatives"."

"It’s a Sin has been voted the Guardian’s best TV show of the year. Russell T Davies reveals why it took him 30 years to write, who the real Colin is – and why he just can’t keep away from Doctor Who."

"Santa and his elves have plenty of their own deliveries to make, but first
they’re here to help with ours! Can you find all 100 elves and Santa?"

"We were invited for a sneak peak at a Newark bakery which has churned out more than 1,000 mince pies this Christmas."

"Photographer Ben Lord captured Suffolk's festive spirit on camera with these stunning images of Bury St Edmunds after dark."

Christmas Links #22

Man sent Christmas card by stranger for more than 20 years:
"The man decided it was time to get to the bottom of the mystery."

"Eight in 10 PinkNews readers say they have to hide who they really are during the festive period, highlighting how difficult the holidays can be for many LGBT+ folk."

"Loneliness can hurt so much more at Christmas because you feel like you're supposed to be bursting with joy, like everyone else is."

"A Wigan group is urging people to protect their sexual health over the Christmas period."

"Whittaker is leaving the TARDIS behind after three specials in 2022."

"From video calls to group movies and multiplayer games, here are some ideas to make a remote Christmas more fun."

"Improving accessibility for every viewer should be a requirement for all broadcasters, not an optional extra, says Scott Bryan."

"Continuing our series of Guardian writers revealing their most memorable gift books, David Barnett remembers how Usborne’s The World of the Unknown: Ghosts scared him for years."

"A woman from North Devon says she is "happy to lift people's spirits" by creating beach art using pebbles, shells and sea glass."

"Vivian Archer is a bookseller in east London who's been helping local communities for decades."

Christmas Links #21

"Congratulations: you've outdone the chip shortage and conquered the crowds, or maybe Santa's due to be very good to you. Either way, you've got some new technology under the Christmas tree."

"From Christmas cards to decorated trees and Christmas crackers, many of our best-known Christmas traditions are products of the Victorian era."

"We had been looking forward to watching unlimited television, but the set was on the blink. Then came a knock at the door …"

"Get up early on Christmas morning to enjoy one of the last sightings of the year."

"An inflatable Santa Claus loomed four stories over a Christmas tree lot, waving in the breeze and catching Jesse Rieser’s attention as he drove through Phoenix in 2009."

"By David Sedaris."

"Time to plan your festive sofa time..."

"If Die Hard is a Christmas film then these are all Christmas Books!"

"During the Christmas season, Greece is filled with the delicious aroma of sugary-sweet traditional Greek desserts, floating out from houses and bakeries as people prepare for the holiday season."

"30 is also set to tie Olivia Rodrigo's Sour as the longest-running Number 1 album of the year."

Review 2021:
The Christmas Sandwich Reviews:

Food  And there we have it, twenty days, twenty sandwich reviews.  As you might suspect, the original plan was work right through to Christmas Eve, but at a certain point when you've walked into both Wilkinson's and Co-op on multiple occasions only to find that they've sold out of pre-packed festive sandwiches or weren't even restocked in the first place that you realise you have to just stop.  That and being stuck in the above cafe working through this dismal three bird sandwich (chicken, turkey and duck) just to make up the numbers and realising the logistics of trying to squeak out a final four review could ruin an already psychologically tenuous Christmas.

Do I have any conclusions after eating turkey, bacon, stuffing and cranberry sauce on malted bread every lunch time for nearly three weeks?  Not really.  Most of the sandwiches are very similar and after comparing my own experiences with the some of the professional reviews online, you're probably at the mercy of whoever put the individual sandwich together as to how it tastes.  Too much of one ingredient, too little of another can mean the difference between a pleasant or average lunch.  There's a lot to be said for looking in the window on the hypotenuse of the triangular packaging and seeing if they seem to be well balanced.

The choice of ingredients can mitigate against the average.  The bread needs to be relatively thin, it's not the most important part of the meal, it's really just a container.  My preference is for thinly sliced Turkey rather than "pulled" or in chunks which can create a stodgy effect.  Smoked back bacon please.  The thin streaky bacon might be what you'd find on pigs in blankets but it often barely registers in this environment.  Proper cranberry sauce with real berries, anything else is just sad.  Sage and onion stuffing, but a thin layer.  Pork is already covered in the bacon.  No spinach or brie, they're just an unnecessary complication.  Sausage is optional and only if its moist.

The price of sandwiches doesn't seem to have much sway on the quality.  In these circumstances, you don't always get what you pay for.  Some of the cheaper options have been deliciously rich, while the more expensive sandwiches were pitiable.  The problem is, you don't know, you never know, although its fair to say that if you already like a particular brand of sandwiches, you'll probably like their Christmas variety.  It's all a matter of taste.  But make it a treat.  Eating these lumps of protein every day hasn't exactly helped my constitution, weight or bank balance.  If there's another reason to stop it's so that I can become more regular, healthier and solvent.  All the best to you and yours.

Christmas Links #20

"About 70 people dressed as Father Christmas took to the water to take part in an annual charity paddle."

A Brief Investigation into Recording Dates for So Haunt Me:
"As we come to the end of the year, it’s a time for reflection, and pondering exactly what you have achieved with your life."

"Global slowdown in production of popular tech leaves shoppers at the mercy of ‘scalpers’."

"The classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, his ghostly visitations and festive redemption.  Read by Sean Baker (unabridged)."

"Once you become a parent, time no longer travels in a line, but turns into a circle."

"As we fill our homes with Christmas decorations, you could be making a very simple - and costly - mistake."

"Rising temperatures have been eating away at the chances for snowfall for Santa in much of the United States, and the forecast is for mild weather again."

"Takeaway is serving up a Christmas dinner with a crunch to satisfy customers' cravings."

"Liverpool is well known as a party town, with plenty of opportunities to let your hair down and dance the night away."

"From a dastardly, word-scrambling cat to a very personable penguin, this year’s best festive reads for kids are full of memorable characters, write Emma Dunn and Hannah Sycamore."

Review 2021:
The Christmas Sandwich Reviews:
Waitrose freefrom Gluton Free Turkey, Stuffing & Bacon.

 Food  Although I use Google Alerts much less than before - I tend to just visit a search page daily if it's something which is likely to have something published about it well, daily.  But there are odd things which I've kept and one of those is for Waitrose AND Liverpool.  Every now and then something pops through and it's a piece from the Liverpool Echo website which has been syndicated throughout the Reach newspaper network about product recalls for various supermarkets.

What I'm aiming for is an early warning that an actual Waitrose shop is opening in Liverpool city centre.  For years it was one of the shops which was synonymous for me with breaking out of the localist bubble and visiting the outlet in Formby was a way of tasting what supermarket shopping was like in places like London, with a more unusual selection of goods from brands who wouldn't be seen dead in Tesco or Asda.  If Manchester or Chester could have a mini version why not us?

Well, neither Manchester or Chester have those any more after a series of branch closures in the past couple of years, which makes the chances of them opening in Liverpool, the city centre also as we've discussed already oversaturated with Tesco shops, increasingly slim.  I'm coming to terms with that, not least because a few of the brands which only seemed to have been in Waitrose have slowly begun to appear elsewhere, even in Tesco or Asda.

Plus, Liverpool does have a Waitrose of sorts.  It's situated on the top floor of the John Lewis building in The Place To Eat Cafe, currently in the counter opposite the entrance which serves teas, coffees and cakes.  There you'll find numerous varieties of Waitrose snacks and where I bought today sandwich, saving me a trip to Formby.  Not somewhere you can pick up a Wood Pigeon or a packet of Gravadlax, but still a chance to possibly try something different.

Not this sandwich of course.  Apart from the glutton free bread and so slightly dry crusts, this isn't that much different to a dozen or so of the sandwiches I've also eaten this month.  The strongest flavour and texture is from the bacon which as with every other occasion this has been the case is smoked.  The cranberry doesn't make much of an impression, or the turkey, although that isn't as hard as in some cases.  So not bad, but definitely not worth £4.95 ...

Christmas Links #19

"The photos were unearthed from our archives."

"A short film documenting the old Christmas traditions of people in North Yorkshire has been published online."

Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie:
"The chocolate-chip cookie celebrated its seventy-fifth birthday this year."

"Tearfund campaigners from around the UK share their tips and ideas for a more sustainable Christmas."

"In years past, celebrating the festive season has been about Pinterest and Martha Stewart. This year the visuals aren’t the point – it’s about people, not pressure."

"Cooks should not be exiled to the kitchen on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day."

"Sick of the silly season already? Spare a thought for the Filipino community."

A reusable tree seems environmentally friendly, but cutting down a tree is actually better for the Earth.

"Singer’s first-ever holiday album I Dream of Christmas arrived Oct. 15."

"While walking around the outside of the Royal Albert Hall, it can be tricky to take in all the striking details on the building."

Review 2021:
The Christmas Sandwich Reviews:
Pret's Christmas Lunch.

Food  Dear god, what a crushing disappointment.  Rather like the film Dune, I find myself on the other side of the overwhelming critical plaudits for Pret a Manger's festive offering which has garnered four and five star reviews from the likes of The Independent and Time Out and generally very positive in places which don't do the star rating sort of thing.  The only write-up I've found vaguely in line with experience is from "My London" back in July when they originally went on sale and their writer Melissa Sigodo wrote: "As I bit into the festive meal gone lunchtime snack, I couldn’t quite distinguish the different tastes, as a mish-mash of carbohydrates rolled together in between my jaws like a cement mixer."

Folks, this was a chore to eat.  Right through the middle is a thick seem of crunchy spinach which is ever present throughout every bite and overpowers pretty much everything else the sandwich is trying to do.  On top of that, the seeds in the too thick malted bread are rather large and tough as grit and yet still somewhat distinguished from the crunchy onions which have been sprinkled throughout.  All of this means the turkey, stuffing and sauce which should be the stars of the meal make no impact and you're left with an ordeal of sandwich which seems to take forever to work through.  About half way through I had to take a break, not because I was filling up, but to give my jaw a rest after chomping away at the crusts.

Usually I love Pret.  Is it a perfect company?  No.  The wikipedia has a list of their failures including a failure to list all of the ingredients on their packaging which led to deaths.  That will account for the incredibly details label stuck to the bottom of the packaging which makes those elements which could cause an allergic reaction as clear as possible.  It's currently owned by a holding company which originated with a family whose ancestors were enthusiastic supporters of Adolf Hitler, although the mother of the current owners was Jewish and they run a foundation which offers support to victims of the holocaust and Nazism.  Wow, that took a turn.  You can bet the end of this paragraph wasn't what I expected it to be when I started writing it.

But I love their porridge, their soups and their coffee.  Outside of the Tesco Chicken Salad, the other sandwich I'll walk out of my way for is the Classic Super Club at Pret which somehow manages to get the right balance between the poultry, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo.  Pret's outlets always have a good and consistent atmosphere no matter where you go from Liverpool to London.  During the lockdown we'd regularly order a bag full of goodies from there via Deliveroo and it always cheered us up.  My first experience of them was a soup at Cheshire Oaks and of all the chain food places, Pret's one the few which has never let me down.  Until now.  Sulk, sulk, sulk.