Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Christmas Displays – 2003

Tuesday, December 26th, 2023

Christmas Displays – Back in December 2003 I walked and cycled over much of the outer areas of London to photograph the Christmas displays that people had put on the outside of their houses, sometimes collecting large amounts for charities. Twenty years ago I was of course 20 years younger and considerably fitter – and had been told by my doctor to get a lot of exercise after a rather minor heart op at the start of the year.

Christmas Displays

Christmas Displays

My heart attack had coincided with a couple of other important events in my life at the end of 2002, the start of my change to digital photography with the purchase of a Nikon D100, one of the first affordable digital SLR cameras capable of professional quality, and of a folding bicycle. This camera and the Brompton were both essential to this project, as was the Internet, where I appealed for details of where the more interesting displays could be found.

Christmas Displays

Cameras have improved considerably over that 20 years and photographically it would be much easier to take pictures like this now, with cameras having a greater dynamic range and also many incorporating easy to use HDR modes. This was one of the few projects I’ve carried out where the use of a tripod – a sturdy Manfrotto – was essential, and for some images I was able to combine two different exposures.

Christmas Displays

Here with minor corrections is what I wrote about these pictures 20 years ago:

Christmas is on its way, and houses all over Britain are beginning to display the signs, some more tastefully than others. Some I’ve found are rather impressive, others I find amusing, but your opinions may well differ.

Christmas has almost completely lost the connection it had to the nativity, and the ‘Christmas Story’ is now one of cash registers and a Santa Claus who owes as much to advertising as to Saint Nicholas. Originally of course this was a pagan festival, from over 4000 years ago, the feast of the goddess of nature, an occasion for drinking, gluttony and gifts, so perhaps we really are getting down to our roots for once.

Many celebrations, especially those for Yule (the ‘wheel’ or sun) were on the winter solstice – the shortest daylight, usually on Dec 21 or 22, when the rebirth of the sun was celebrated. Pope julius I decided it would be a good idea for Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Dec 25th back in 350AD, so that Christians could go on celebrating Yule and not feel bad about it, celebrating the birth of the son while others were celebrating the birth of the sun.

Christmas as we know it only came in around the 1500s in Germany, many of its customs only arriving here when Victoria married Albert. Our modern picture of Santa developed in the USA in the mid nineteenth century, particularly in the drawings of Thomas Nast for ‘Harpers’, and the jovial fat bearded man in red and white was well-established before Haddon Sundbloom annexed him for his fantastically successful coke adverts. Although Coca-Cola didn’t invent Santa, it was largely the power of their advertising that sold him around the world.

These decorated houses, often an attempt to go one better than the Joneses, have become an urban folk art; one of the glories of folk art is that it is seldom polite or tasteful, sometimes incredibly kitsch and over the top. Despite my misgivings on grounds of religion, ecology, upbringing and reserve I love them. At the very least they add a little colour to our lives.

My London Diary

Some of the better pictures are on the page linked above, which also has some more about my travels around London in search of them, but others are rather scattered around on other pages from the month.

Now I’m out to get a little exercise, with a five mile walk to a meal with relatives which has become a tradition with us on Boxing Days. Last year I wrote a little about this on >Re:Photo in the post Boxing Day Walks (and Rides) with pictures from 2005.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.

Christmas Greetings From My Flickr Albums

Monday, December 25th, 2023

Christmas Greetings From My Flickr Albums – There are only 17 pictures out of the roughly 30,000 on my Flickr account which have the tag ‘Christmas‘, and some of those are only because I’ve mentioned the festival in my description rather than for anything in the picture. Although I’ve taken many pictures of Santas on the streets of London, almost all of these have been in the last 25 years, and so far I’ve mainly put pictures from earlier times onto Flickr – mostly from 1970-1994 and mainly of London. Wishing you all a happy Christmas. But if you get too fed up with the nonsense on TV or even with family and friends there are plenty of pictures on-line to look at!

Former Cobblers, Hackney Road, Cambridge Heath, Tower Hamlets. 1983 36u-62
Former Cobblers, Hackney Road, Cambridge Heath, Tower Hamlets, 1983 36u-62

I took this in 1983, looking through the window of a cobblers shop which had recently closed but still had posters with the message ‘It wouldn’t be Christmas without Pirelli’. Santa Claus wasn’t entirely the invention of Coca-Cola though his popularity and appearance owes much to their Christmas advertising from the 1930s. The article on the link to Wikipedia above has more about Santa than you will ever want to know. This year I produced a short run of poorly printed versions of this picture as Christmas cards for selected personal friends, mainly photographers. This picture is in my album London 1983 and also appears in Tower Hamlets – Black and White.

Auto-Sparks Ltd, Electric Harness Manufacturers, Wincolmlee, Hull, 1982 33g21
Auto-Sparks Ltd, Electric Harness Manufacturers, Wincolmlee, Hull, 1982 33g21

In my Hull Black and White album you can find this picture and the long description below:

An unprepossessing 20th century industrial building on or close to Wincolmlee where electrical harnesses – bundles of cables and connectors – for various makes of cars and other vehicles were made. Apparently Auto-Sparks Ltd Hull dates back to an electrical business founded by Mr Henry Colomb on Beverley Rd in the 1920s. Auto-Sparks Ltd was incorporated in April 1942 and a history page on the web site of its successor company, Autosparks reproduces the original company logo from 1954 when it was registered as a trade mark.

After the original owner and manager retired in the 1980s Auto-Sparks got into difficulties and collapsed in 1991. It was bought and moved to Sandiacre Nottingham by R D Components who were specialists in classic motorbike and car harnesses and they took over the name as Autosparks, and in 2005 became Autosparks Ltd.

This picture was taken in December, and my attention was drawn to the building by the Christmas decorations drawn on its first-floor windows. And by wondering whatever an electric harness was.

Hull Black and White

The SI unit of electric charge is of course the Coulomb, named after Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, so this electical business founded by Mr Henry Colomb would appear to be a remarkable example of nominative determinism.

Father Christmas, High Rd, Willesden, Brent, 1990, 90-12c-55
Father Christmas, High Rd, Willesden, Brent, 1990, 90-12c-55

In 1990 in Brent I took two Christmas pictures in 1990, one in black and white in the album 1990 London Photos of a Santa holding a number of figures and with a Harrods tag ‘£22’ standing on a box containing a caravan TV aerial kit.

Café, Christmas, Harlesden, Brent, 1990, 90c12-01b-41
Café, Christmas, Harlesden, Brent, 1990, 90c12-01b-41

The second picture from 1990 Brent was a café window in colour with Christmas decorations and an advert posted in it for flats to let in Station Road. Also in the window is a poster for Sickle Cell Awareness Day, 15th December 1990, to the left of which you can see part of me reflected as I made the image, along with reflections of a parked van and the shops and flats on the opposite side of the road. This is one of many pictures in my album 1990 London Colour.

Christmas, Car Sales, High St, Norwood, Croydon, 1991, 91-1b-22
Christmas, Car Sales, High St, Norwood, Croydon, 1991, 91-1b-22

From a South London used car showroom in the album 1991 London Photos is a 1987 car with its features and price described in notices on the windscreen complete with Christmas decorations. Usually when photographing interiors through windows I tried to work close to the glass and eliminate reflections so far as possible, but here I deliberately moved the black glove I was wearing to include the church across the road.

Christmas Lights, West End, Westminster, London, 1986, 86c123-32
Christmas Lights, West End, Westminster, London, 1986, 86c123-32

In 1986 I took a few colour photographs at night around Piccadilly Circus just before Christmas which are in both 1986 Colour – London & the Thames and in Westminster – Colour 1985-92.

Pictures at night are so much easier now with digital cameras as you can work with much shorter exposures – this was probably taken on ISO400 film, while now at night I often work and get better results at 4 stops faster – the ISO6400 setting on my camera. Also being able to see what you have taken immediately makes it much easier than having to wait until the film was processed and printed.

Eros, Christmas, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster, 1986, 86c123-43
Eros, Christmas, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster, 1986, 86c123-43

In the same albums and taken within a minute or two of the previous picture was this picture of Eros and the advertising display. The clock tells us that I made this at 16.06, around 15 minutes after sunset. Of course Eros isn’t really Eros, but Anteros, designed by Sir Alfred Gilbert to commemorate the philanthropic work of Lord Shaftesbury and called by him ‘The God of Selfless Love‘ – “as opposed to Eros or Cupid, the frivolous tyrant.”

But Piccadilly is a place at Christmas where some like to come and celebrate drunkenly and Anteros needs boarding up for protection and instead of seeing the fountain we see the hoardings with vintage Christmas images and greetings from The London Standard which featured Eros on its masthead.

Christmas, Shop window, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988, 88c1-01-61
Christmas, Shop window, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988, 88c1-01-61

Finally in 1988 in Shepherds Bush and now the first image in my album 1988 London Colour. This shop was a pet shop and the window is full of Christmas Stockings for cats and dogs and boxes of ‘Good Boy’ treats. Even the scratching post has some green ribbon attached. Along with some rather horrible artificial tree-like objects complete with blue and silver hanging balls. It seemed a particularly bleak image of the capitalist commercialisation of a religious festival.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk – 2017

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk – On Thursday 7th November 2017 I met up old friends, all photographers, for the early Christmas social event we’ve organised most years. It had proved difficult to find a date everyone could make and several of the group were missing and we were down to five of us.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk
Four – and I was holding the camera

It’s a sobering thought that six years on only three of the five are still in the land of the living, with first Alex and more recently John having died. I’ve several times written about John Benton-Harris on this site over the years and he also years ago contributed two guest posts, as well as featuring his surprise 70th birthday party in 2009.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

I’d worked with John in recent years on producing a number of books, including a few for the Café Royal Books series, including his Saint Patrick’s People, though his major work, ‘Mad Hatters’ on the English sadly remains unpublished. And I’d gone with him taking pictures to St Patrick’s Day events in London and elsewhere. Although he had some health problems and was in his 80s, his death still came as a great shock to us all.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

We met at St Paul’s Underground Station and our first visit was to the Guildhall Art Gallery, where we went “down into its depths where a few years ago the remains of the Roman Coliseum were discovered and are now rather well displayed, before looking at the City of London’s art collection on display. It’s a rather mixed bunch with some fine works ancient and modern along with some rather tedious municipal records of great occasions that would have looked fine in the Illustrated London News but don’t really cut it as vast canvasses on the gallery wall.” (Quotes her are from my article written here in December 2017)

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

Some years earlier in 2005 I had been to the opening of a show at the gallery featuring works by some of London’s best-known living painters curated by Mireille Gailinou for a now defunct organisation I was then the treasurer of, London Arts Café, ‘London Now – CITY OF HEAVEN CITY OF HELL’ and had given my opinion on the gallery’s collection to the then curator who was very shocked when I’d said I would quite happily burn one of the largest canvases. Fortunately that had not resulted in me being banned from the gallery!

That show is now long gone, as too is the London Arts Café, but its web site with more about this and other shows and events we organised remains currently on-line. And despite my opinions the Guildhall Art Gallery is still worth visiting both for the artworks and certainly for its Roman remains and entry is free.

From there we walked “on past the Bank of England we walked into Adams Court and walked around in a circle before driven by thirst to the Crosse Keys, where I failed to resist the temptation of a pint of Smokestack Lightnin’, a beer from the Dorking Brewery, named after my favourite Howling Wolf track – I still somewhere have the 45rpm record. It was the first time I’ve come across the idea of a ‘smoked’ beer, and while interesting I think it would be best drunk around a bonfire.”

John had left us when we went into the pub, saying there was still light to take photographs and he wanted to make the most of it, but he seemed seldom to enjoy coming with us into pubs. The Crosse Keys is one of many interesting buildings – old pubs, theatres, cinemas, banks etc – around the country that Wetherspoons have taken over and preserved and though their owner has terrible politics and the chain poor conditions of service they offer cheap and generally well-kept beer and plain good-value food. Obviously their staff should unionise and fight for better terms.

We didn’t stay long in the pub, just a quick pint on the balcony and a short visit to the toilets in the depths, before leaving. Alex said goodbye here, seeing a bus that would take him back home to Hackney rather than go west with us, and I led the remaining two “down to the river, where we turned upstream along the Thames path. The light was fading a little, but perhaps becoming more interesting, but when we left the river at Queenhithe it was time to make our way back to St Paul’s to catch a bus and get a table for our meal together before the city workers crowded in.”

All the pictures accompanying this post were made with a Fuji X-E1 and 18mm Fuji lens, an almost pocketable combination. The 18mm f2 is probably my favourite Fuji lens, though often I prefer the added flexibility of the slightly slower but still fairly compact 18-55mm zoom. Later I moved up to the X-E3, which has better auto-focus and a significantly larger sensor and is slightly smaller, but both are still very usable cameras, and the X-E1 is now available secondhand pretty cheaply. It’s still a great camera for street photography and as an introduction to the Fuji range.

A few more pictures at Photographers Walk.

Climate Justice, Congo & London – 2011

Sunday, December 3rd, 2023

Climate Justice, Congo & London – On Saturday 3rd December 2011 there was an Xmas shopping event in the City, normally pretty dead at weekends and Occupy were holding climate justice workshops before joining Campaign Against Climate Change’s annual march. That took me past a protest at Downing Street against the vote-rigging in the recent election in the DRC. I’d taken some pictures earlier as I was going around London and took a few more in the dark later on my way to an event in Acton.

City Xmas Celebrations – Bank

Climate Justice, Congo & London
A live musical box

There was a special Xmas Saturday shopping event in the centre of the City of London which usually closes down for the weekend, but I think it was aimed more at the wealthy 1% than me.

Climate Justice, Congo & London
Santa had come with real reindeer

I wouldn’t normally have gone but it was on my fastest route to St Paul’s Cathedral and it was the first time the City had held such an event. Though unless there were rather more visitors later in the day it would probably be the last. I didn’t feel welcome and didn’t stay long.

More – including reindeer – at City Xmas Celebrations.

Occupy LSX Climate Justice Workshops – St Paul’s Cathedral steps

Climate Justice, Congo & London

Occupy London was still camping next to St Paul’s Cathedral, having been there since 15th October, and they were holding workshops when I arrived about various aspects of climate justice and campaigning, and preparing banners and posters for the Climate Justice march later in the day.

Climate Justice, Congo & London

They planned to make their way to the start of the march in a ‘Climate Walk of Shame’ around the offices of various climate change villians (‘unsavoury sites of climate criminality’) in the City.

As often with Occupy, the plenary session went on longer than anticipated. Many people wanted to contribute and some at rather greater length than necessary and the walk began rather late.

I’d hoped to be able to go with them, but only went as far as their first stop at one of the banks in St Paul’s Churchyard before I had to leave to make my own more direct way to the start of the march in Blackfriars.

Occupy LSX Climate Justice Workshops

Stand Up For Climate Justice – Blackfriars to Old Palace Yard

Around a thousand people gathered at Blackfriars for the march organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change to a rally opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Climate talks were taking place in the 17th UN conference in Durban, but seemed unlikely to make much progreess as the US were continuing to refuse to accept mandatory limits on carbon emissions. It seemed likely this would prevent any progress on global reductions in emissions, and seemed certain to lead to catastrophic increases in global temperature. Or, as I put it “bluntly, our planet is going to fry.”

While Barbara Boxer the head of the Senate environment committee was pointing out that the US is the world’s largest historic emitter and thus has a moral obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the US right, and the ‘Tea Party’ movement in particular, were still denying the existence of climate change and vehemently opposing any restrictions on the emissions of US industry.

By 2011 there had long been no serious scientific debate about the reality of climate change, though still some controversy about the exact magnitude and the timescales involved. But all informed opinion agreed that urgent action is needed, though the heavily funded fossil fuel lobby was still spreading lies and opposing any action.

Since 2011 things have become even more clear and the effects have become worse than even the more pessimistic scientists then predicted. But still politicians are not taking the urgent actions needed, and limiting the temperature rise to 1.5°C now seems impossible.

Among many speakers was John Stewart of HACAN who pointed out that while the richest 7% who cause 50% of the world’s pollution, aircraft use, one of the major sources of emissions, is limited to an even more limited group of the world’s population, with only 5% of the world’s population ever having flown.

More at Stand Up For Climate Justice.

Congolese Protest Against Kabila Vote-Rigging – Downing St

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is both blessed and cursed by its immense mineral resouces, probably the richest of any country in the world, including 80% of the world’s cobalt reserves, and between 65-80% of coltan, the mineral from which tantalum capacitors, vital for mobile phones, games consoles, computers and other electronic devices are made.

Despite this wealth of the DRC, the people remain some of the poorest in the world, and because of these minerals the country is one of the most corrupt in the world. The move towards renewable energy and the increasing need for batteries for electrical vehicles has led to increased geopolitical competition over the DRC’s cobalt resources.

The area has been the subject of various wars and there is still conflict as well as widespread violation of humanitarian and human rights law, including the sexual abuse of women and children.

The Kabila regime has been kept in office by western interests who have now turned a blind eye to the widespread vote-rigging violence and fraud in the elections. The opposition later claimed to have outvoted Kabila with 54% of the vote to his 26%, while Kabila claimed to have won by 49% to 32%.

In 2019, the son of the candidate thee protesters say won the 2011 election became President in the first peaceful transition of power since the DRC became independent but the early years of his presidency were still with governments dominated by supporters of Kabila. In 2021 he was able to form a new government which among other measures has promised to reverse deforestation in the DRC by 2030.

More at Congolese Protest Against Kabila Vote-Rigging.

London Wandering – City and North Acton

I’d taken a few views of London as I walked with the Climate March.

And in the early evening I went to an event in North Acton, walking to the venue from Willesden Junction. There are just a few more on-line at London Wandering.

Wishing You a Happy Christmas

Sunday, December 25th, 2022

Just a few of my Christmassy pictures from over the years. Today I’ll be having a quiet Christmas at home with a few family members. Well, fairly quiet as we usually sing a few carols in the evening, rather boisterously. Fortunately for them our neighbours are away visiting family elsewhere.

I looked through some of the older files on my computer a couple of days ago and found these – and scheduled this post. Some of them are images I’ve used in Christmas Cards in previous years – and one a few friends got this year.

Wishing You a Happy Christmas
Shop window, 1988
Wishing You a Happy Christmas
Shop window, 1989
Wishing You a Happy Christmas
Shop window, 1990
Wishing You a Happy Christmas
Oxford St, 1999
Fathers4Justice (and Mothers) 2004
Snow Maiden & Father Frost 2005
More Santas and Mama Santas from Fathers4Justice 2005
Christmas Designed by Debenhams, 2006
Santacon – Santas get engaged
Tower Bridge, 2007

For many it hasn’t been a great year but perhaps this will be one of the better parts of it. I hope you can enjoy Christmas.

Hampton Hill Christmas Lights 2011

Friday, November 25th, 2022

Today’s date reminds me that Christmas is still a month away. Personally I’d like to see a moratorium on any mentions of the forthcoming annual festival banned before December 1st and after January 6th with stiff fines for those who breach the rules. Thirty-seven days is more than a tenth of the year and surely that’s enough?

But perhaps we – and especially photographers – need something to cheer us up ofter the imposed blackout each year at the end of October when the clocks are returned to our archaic Greenwich Mean Time (and usually I forget to change the hour on at least one of my cameras for a week or two.) And at least the event at Hampton Hill was only a month early.

I doubt if there would be a great deal of support for my idea of a time system which came to me in a dream as I was in bed at around 2pm (or was it 3pm) when our clocks were changing, of avoiding the two sudden jumps in time each year by making incremental changes to keep sunrise always at 7am, although it would now be possible when so many timekeeping devices take their time from a distant time-server rather than being altered by pushing around the hands of a clock. But it would be rather better to do as we did for some years to keep to British Summer Time all year, as we did from 1968-71, and perhaps appropriate as our global temperature rises.

I’ve never much liked taking photographs in the dark, and many flash photographs are horrible, with overlit forergrounds and pitch-black backgrounds. Fortunately digital cameras now enable us to get away from this, at least to some extent, by working at much higher ISOs, which enable us to make photographs more readily in low light. Flash systems have also improved tremendously, an Nikon’s iTTL was, at least in 2011, the best of all, though their camera systems were designed to frustrate its best use. I got better at fooling it in later years. And just introduced were cheap handheld LED lighting systems, powerful enough to illuminate subjects a couple of metres away, though not much further. I used both flash and an LED light on different pictures at Hampton Hill as well as making use of available light where I could.

So here is the whole of my introductory text from My London Diary (with a few minor corrections) for the event. You can find more pictures with the original article online along with some picture captions.

Hampton Hill Christmas Lights – Hampton Hill, Middlesex.
Friday 25th November 2011

Crowds filled the High St in Hampton Hill for the 43rd annual Christmas parade last night, along with music, Morris Dancing and many stalls on the street and in the URC church hall making this a real community event

Although Christmas is still a month away, the people of Hampton Hill, just to the west of Bushey Park in the London Borough of Richmond, were out on the streets celebrating last night. Many of the shops along the street were open late, with some holding special events and handing out balloons and sweets.

Santa was kept busy in his grotto seeing groups of children, and quite a few other Santas were out on the street, with a group in the parade accompanying the mayor. Morris Dancers performed in the middle of the road, closed to traffic, and tried to teach some brave young ladies one of their dances. The several pubs along the street were all kept busy, and it was also crowded at times inside the church hall, with several rooms full of stalls, as well as a continuing series of events inside the church itself.

The highlight of the evening was of course the parade, which included some children on ponies and people leading Christmas-decorated dogs behind Santa in a large sled, and a large engine. But it was the energetic kids from local schools and youth groups that really brought the event to life.

Unlike some other Christmas ‘lighting up’ events, Hampton’s seems very much to be one that involves large sections of the local community, which is perhaps why it is still very much alive after 43 years.

More at Hampton Hill Christmas Lights.

Happy Christmas

Saturday, December 25th, 2021

Happy Christmas to all readers of >Re:PHOTO. My wife and I still send Christmas Cards, actual cards rather than e-cards, put into envelopes, stamped and posted, or put through the doors of nearby friends and neighbours.

Most of those cards are from Traidcraft, an organisation that is “pioneering the future of fair trade. Traidcraft stands for changing peoples’ lives through trade, saving vanishing traditional skills from extinction, and celebrating a world of creativity and culture.” Linda sells their products in the local area on a non-profit basis, and we eat and drink many of them, though use rather fewer of the craft products. And when I say we still send cards, its Linda who writes almost all of them, most with a personal message which sometimes gets rather long and for a few is in a foreign language.

But I also like to send my own personal cards to a few friends, mainly fellow photographers – and also usually use the same one of my pictures on an e-card on social media. But this year I found it very difficult to select a suitable image, partly because I spent the first four months of the year still more or less in isolation because of Covid.

Even since I went back to work on May 1st – I just couldn’t bear to miss another May Day – I’ve still been very much cutting down on the events I photograph, going to take pictures less frequently and largely only covering those causes I feel most strongly about. I’ve always liked to use recent pictures on my cards, so there were rather fewer to choose from.

At the start of my Covid isolation in March 2019 I stopped updating My London Diary. I had nothing to write and post in it. And although I have gone back to work I’ve not felt able to resume posting on that site. Part of the reason is simply that the web site is filling up and I am close to the limit of the number of files that it can handle, 262,144. To continue with My London Diary and this blog I would need to move to a more expensive solution, and I may in any case soon have to delete some older content. In past years I’ve always used pictures from My London Diary on these cards – but this year there were no new pictures on line.

So this year I chose one of the many pictures I’ve made on my walks and bike rides while I’ve been isolating, a winter scene from Staines Moor, a mile or so from my home. Not Christmassy, but at least it has snow.

i hope you have a good Christmas.

Christmas Eve, Christmas walks

Friday, December 24th, 2021

An acre of America at Runnymede

Christmas Eve, Christmas walks. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on Christmas Eve. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to be able to help with the final preparations for Christmas – things like going to collect our order from the butcher, wrapping presents… But there is sometimes time for a walk.

Sculptures and the Old Town Hall, Staines

For many years we’ve invited people to visit on Christmas Eve, to come in and share some home made cakes, biscuits and drinks. Linda has made mulled wine which has gone down well, or mulled apple juice and some of us shared a decent bottle of red, though I often had to drink most of it myself.

Disused railway line, Staines

Our smallish front room often got rather crowded though most of the younger visitors would be upstairs in a bedroom making large and complicated layouts of a Brio railway. There was a lot of talking, sharing news and sometimes some singing together; it is a small room, but still has a piano. We’d often run out of chairs, though we brought more down from upstairs.

Underneath the Staines by-pass

It had rather run down in more recent years, partly because our own two children had left home, but also as friends moved away. But this year it won’t be happening at all. Omicron has made us all rethink. People are wary of inviting others or of responding to invitations. We’ve still got the large Stollen and I expect several different varieties of biscuits will be made, but on Christmas Eve we will be eating them on our own, though we are expecting just a little help from close family in the few days that follow. But then there’s the Christmas Cake to eat as well.

Magna Carta Memorial, Runnymede

But it will be a rather different Christmas to usual. We decided too that we should cancel the family Boxing Day pub meal that had been booked. That means also we won’t be making the five or six mile walk to get there which we needed to get back an appetite after Christmas Day. I’ve already missed the carol service where Linda was in the choir – it seemed an unnecessary risk. And the concert by her choral society last Saturday was cancelled at short notice.

Mead Lake from Devil’s Lane

But we still will have a Christmas dinner with some family – if rather fewer of them than previous years, and I’m sure we will still go out for some walks. We will still have presents to share and still enjoy ourselves, but it won’t be quite the same.


The pictures here are from our walks in 2013. Since there is no public transport here on Christmas Day and little or none on Boxing Day our walks are all close to our home. You can see more of them in Walks around Staines.

Xmas Protests – Low Wages, Evictions, John Lewis – 2014

Monday, December 13th, 2021

Three Xmas Protests – Low wages, Evictions, John Lewis – in Brixton, Mayfair and Oxford St on December 14th 2014.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage

Lambeth Living Wage campaigners, led by an impressive Santa, protested in and outside shops in the centre of Brixton, handing out flyers calling for all workers to be paid a living wage. They urged shop workers to join a union and gave out forms.

While I was with them they visited department store Morleys, Subway and Poundland and they were going on to other stores in Brixton paying poverty wages. The protest was supported by Unite the Resistance, the Socialist Party, Unison (who provided the Santa costume), the Fast Food Rights Hungry for Justice campaign supported by the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union, BFWAWU, the National Shop Stewards Network and other groups.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage

Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’

Scrooge at Christmas 2014 was US property developers Westbrook Partners who were intending to evict the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate by Christmas so they can refurbish these low rent social properties and re-let them at market rents at roughly four times the current rents. Class War and friends protested at their Mayfair offices of in solidarity with the tenants.

Class War came with banners and posters and a Christmas Card which they presented to Westbrook with the message ‘Christmas Greetings! – but not for Rich Bastards’ and a pictures of wrapped gifts and the cover image from Ian Bone’s autobiography ‘BASH THE RICH’. It’s an interesting read and might make a friend a good Christmas Present, available from Freedom Press at a special discount.

This was one of a number of protests by the residents, Class War and other housing activists, with a video by Russell Brand going viral and a petition with 350,000 signatures that led to Hackney Council entering into talks with Westbrook and resulted in the estate being sold to the affordable housing group Dolphin Living.

Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis

Many shoppers who can afford it go to John Lewis to buy Christmas presents, but members of te IWGB trade union and supporters including some John Lewis customers were there not to buy gifts but calling for the London Living Wage for cleaners there and an end to their treatment as second-class citizens. Many of the Christmas shoppers applauded their noisy protest.

I met the cleaners on the top floor of the store where they had gathered in the restaurant before getting out banners and flags and a megaphone, with IWGB organiser Alberto Durango used to inform customers why they were holding the protest.

The together with a group of John Lewis customers they slowly and loudly made their way around the top floor to the escalator, moving carefully through the gangways to avoid any damage.

They made their way down floor by floor, pausing on the balconies to display their banners.

John Lewis security staff and managers met the protesters and asked them to stop protesting and leave the store. They continued their way protesting until they reached the ground floor, where police stopped them from leaving. Here the situation became confused, with a great deal of unnecessary pushing by the police which blurred many of the pictures I made. The protesters were trying to get out, store security was pushing them out and the police were pushing them back. Eventually most of the protesters managed to get past the police and the protest continued on the pavement outside. The protest inside the store had been totally non-violent for a little over a quarter of an hour and had the police not decided to push the protesters back they would simply have walked out.

A police officer made an attempt to seize the amplifier the protesters were using, but they held onto it and eventually he gave up. At least one person was arrested and carried out of the store by police, though I think charges were later dropped.

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis

Christmas Is Coming – 2014

Monday, December 6th, 2021

Three of the four posts I made on December 6th 2014 had a Christmas theme, with two of them around the then annual Santacon event in London. In 2014, around a thousand Santas were gathering on Clapham Common and more at two other locations in East and North London, along with the odd elf, reindeer to start to a day-long alcohol-fuelled crawl through London, eventually meeting up somehere in the centre of the city in the early evening.

I followed them for a short distance, but I’d actually come to Clapham for an entirely different event, the South London March for Free Education, part of a national day of education activism against tuition fees, where students and supporters including Lambeth Left Unity and South London Defend Education were meeting to march to a rally in Brixton.

It was a rather smaller march than anticipated – perhaps many students were in Santa costumes on another event, or busy with Christmas shopping but I marched around a mile with them taking pictures before getting the tube into Central London.

The Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest! in the area between Westminster Abbey and Methodist Central Hall was organised and performed by Christian Climate Action and Occupy London, and was an entertaining if rather amateur performance starring Westley Ingram who wrote the play and performed as the Angel Gabriel, and George Barda of Occupy who played Joseph with his child as the baby Jesus. It was part of a continuing campaign to get churches to disinvest from fossil fuel companies.

From Westminster I set off in a bus towards north London in search of Santas, jumping off when I saw a red cloud of them in the distance. Or rather ringing the bell and fortunately it was not far from a stop where the driver would open a door. I don’t at all mind wearing a mask for Covid, but still feel something of a loss of freedom over the loss of open-door hop-on, hop-off buses.

Thousands in Santa suits and other Xmas deviations, police trying hard to keep smiling, cans of beer, doubtfully soft drinks, just a few Brussel sprouts in the air, crowded bars, sprawling mass of mainly young people having fun on the streets of London. Santacon!

I’d met a couple of photographer friends also out photographing the Santas and they packed up and left as the light fell, while I continued working with flash for another quarter of hour or so, until a phone call alerted me to a pint awaiting me in a local pub. I’d been photographing people drinking for hours but all that had passed my lips to that point was water, and I was ready to break that particular fast with a little Christmas celebration.

Santacon North London
Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest!
South London March for Free Education
Santacon Start in Clapham