Advent 16: Grog

Gift “Your favourite tipple!” © Southampton Old Lady

p1140294It must be so strange for people who cannot or do not want to drink alcohol at Christmas when for some it is what the Solstice is all about.

In Britain, like food, we are bombarded with booze at this time of year. As well as all the traditional drinks like: bucks fizz for breakfast, sherry before dinner, special reserve wines with dinner, after dinner port, champagne, mulled wine, gluewhein, schnapps. Then brandy, rum, whisky (or whiskey if you prefer Irish). Then there are the bottled cocktails: rum punch, raspberry vodka, egg-nog, spiced cider, Baileys, Tia Maria, Malibu, Dubonnet, Martini – the list is endless.






In Europe there has been an increase in English flavoured-gins too, not just the usual sloe gin, but gins with spices like cardamom and cinnamon or dried orange peel.

All so very festive I agree, but dangers lurk too… What do children make of all this? Christmas is often when a toddler might sneak their first taste of the demon stuff while adults are distracted. So many of us forget about the calories, cancers, unit-limitations and we might let our hair down in ways we regret. How shocking! Did I really say that? p1180690That nasty fall! “Sure I can drive.”

I tend to drink lots of water between tipples and sup slowly.
I give myself plenty of dry days in between the jolly ones. I read the NHS alcohol units and, just to get people thinking without being a party bore, I slip questions into Christmas quizzes  (click on that last one for the BBC quiz about people’s drinking habits around the world – the link might not work in countries with Network restrictions)

Glass bottles of wine with corks and labels from around the World

All photos © Southampton Old Lady


Advent 15: Oh! Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding…

Blumenthal’s Banana and Bacon Trifle from Waitrose, though I believe Elvis ate it first © Southampton Old Lady

p1180558At Christmas time, we are bombarded with both new and traditional weird combinations of rich eats that we would not bother with at any other time. Each year celebrity chefs and supermarkets offer shocking products to pile on the calories and get in the news – it has become more like a jungle challenge from “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here”

Michelin Star chef Heston Blumenthal, who brought us the likes of snail porridge and lollypops made from real mice paté has come up with Banana and Bacon trifle this year to replace our traditional English one.

Turkish delight and bon-bons
A variety of dates

Some British try to sample every single item that is considered ‘traditional’ over the festive period, which costs a fortune and prevents you from moving from your armchair.

By no means exhaustive, there’s: Russet apples, Anjou pears, quinces, clementines, Medjool dates, Quality Street chocolates, chocolate mice, chocolate tree decorations, advent calendar chocolates, chocolate selection boxes, Belgian chocolates,


chocolate biscuits, short-bread biscuits, gingerbread, lobster, prawns, salmon, raised pork pie, turkey, venison, goose, Brussels sprouts (which no-one seems to be able to cook properly), pickled onions, p1140457
pickled gherkins, pickled red cabbage, assorted chutneys, parsnips, turnips, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, pigs in blankets (chippolata sausages wrapped in bacon), nut-roast, chestnut-stuffing, Stilton cheese, baked Brie, panettone, stollen, samosas, Turkish delight, sherry trifle, crisps, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chocolate Yule log, and lots of cakes and puddings made with dried fruits, marzipan and all soaked in alcohol (I’ll need a separate post for the booze, though WordPress are telling me I am running out of space on my post): Christmas cake, mince pies (nope no meat in these).

Set fire to Christmas pudding

p1140735Then pour plenty more alcohol over your figgy pudding (Christmas Pudding) and set alight to it!  Serve these with brandy-butter, rum-cream, vanilla custard or any flavour ice-cream you fancy – Heston has brought out marmalade-on-toast flavour for Waitrose this year!

Photos © Southampton Old Lady

Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
And bring it right here.
Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin;
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year.
we won’t go till we get some,
We won’t go till we get some,
we won’t go till we get some,
So bring it right here.

Have I left out any ingredients?

Advent 14: Silly Jumpers

Christmas jumper party at the Southampton Christmas Market © SOL

As children we wore our Christmas sweaters all winter – They were more like the tasteful Nordic ones then only not as good crafting.

Scene from Bridget Jones Diary (2001) 
Presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield wearing Christmas jumpers

For anyone that has read or seen the Bridget Jones Diary (2001) movie, they will know that in the UK we wear silly pullovers at Christmas. Knitwear presents are popular and if your aunt has spent the year knitting that embarrassing sweater for you, then the least you can do is wear it to family gatherings over Christmas.

But since that film these jumpers have taken off in a big way. Sixteen years later, we now even import cheap acrylic ones from China. We have a Christmas jumper at work day to raise money for charity and Presenters even wear them on television! There are nights out and pub-crawls where it is compulsory to wear your Christmas jumper.

Here are more photos I took from the Christmas jumper night out at Southampton’s Christmas market – click on to enlarge:

Some of my favourites:

Take a look at these Cheesy Jumpers on WordPress

What do you wear at Christmas?


Advent 13: Floral Christmas

The Holly bears the crown
The Holly bears the crown
Christmas flowers © Southampton Old Lady
If you're not fond of traditional Brussels sprouts then they make intriguing wreaths!
If you’re not fond of traditional Brussels sprouts then they make intriguing wreaths!
Scarce in Britain the last decade, mild weather this year has meant an abundance of mistletoe
Scarce in Britain the last decade, mild weather this year has meant an abundance of mistletoe
Citrus and spice © Southampton Old Lady


traditional poinsettias
traditional poinsettias


Advent 12: Illuminations

The Titanic leaving Dock Gate 4, Southampton

p1180671Southampton is not usually forthcoming on Christmas lights as much as other cities – What with the Christmas market and so many lights from shops, ships and offices – But, to open up a leisure area for Christmas at West Quay malls this year, a stunning loop of 7-minute, light and sound illuminations ran on our Old Town Wall at the weekend.


p1180656Depicted, was the history of Southampton’s port, which focused on departures of: Henry V troops leaving for Agincourt, The Mayflower with Pilgrims preparing for America, The Titanic leaving for New York, boats and planes in WW2 manoeuvres, J-Class yachts, powerboats, hovercraft, container-ships and so on.

Do you have any festive lights where you are?

Southampton’s city square

Advent 10: Peace on the Horizon





Christmas is a very peaceful time in the neighbourhood where I am. Mainly because there is a big exodus of students and people who visit relatives in other countries leaving just about a quarter of the crowded streets. Sometimes I feel like I have God’s earth all to myself.

All photos © Southampton Old Lady

Also in response to the Weekly WordPress Challenge: Horizon

Advent 9: Christmas Crackers

Specially illustrated stamps are printed each Christmas this one is of Father Christmas with a cracker. The cracker has an illustration of a Pantomime Dame

christmas-cracker-drummerIn Britain and Ireland we pull Christmas crackers at the dinner table which we have at lunch time on December 25th.

Victorian illustration of pulling a Christmas cracker
Victorian illustration of pulling a Christmas cracker

Crackers may have caught on in other countries too and I’d be interested to hear from your part of the world if they have.

When pulled it activates a firecracker that makes a loud ‘crack’.

Whoever gets the longest end, gets the prize. Prizes can vary from cheap plastic charms to gold tie-pins depending on how much you can afford.

Coloured paper crown can get quite wrinkly by the end of dinner © Southampton Old Lady
Coloured paper crowns can get quite wrinkly by the end of dinner © Southampton Old Lady

One is set at each dinner place. Each will contain a paper crown, which is compulsory to wear at the table and there will be a lot of cajoling to get a grumpy Grandad to wear his. There will also be a joke to read out – usually a pun on words that will be so corny it makes everyone sigh. It is essential that the joke is corny.

Here are some examples:

Q: What kind of sweet goes swinging through the jungle?  A: Tarzi-pan

QWhat do you call two robbers? A:  A pair of knickers

This then starts the reminiscing  old jokes and funny tales. Often there are enough crackers left to pull the next day “Boxing Day” which is also a holiday in Britain.

From Southampton: “New cancer drug shows promise in helping patients with blood cancer” — Science Springs

University of Southampton 5 December 2016 No writer credit found New cancer drug shows promise in helping patients with blood cancer. No image credit. A drug, which has been developed from the results of cancer immunology research at the University of Southampton, has been showed to reduce the risk of follicular lymphoma progression. Results from […]

via From Southampton: “New cancer drug shows promise in helping patients with blood cancer” — Science Springs

Advent 8: Pantomime

A traditional panto in a British town hall will have jokes about the Mayor and local issues.
Pub pantos are for adults and tend to be more political

Everyone should see a pantomime at least once. The traditional British festive plays are full of audience-participation with calls of “It’s behind you” and “Oh! Yes it is – No it isn’t” – The audience have to sing and they get sweets thrown at them. These are popular fairy tales rewritten, from Aladdin to Jack & The Beanstalk, full of adult innuendos that go right over kids heads. There is a fair bit of cross-dressing – The Dame, who is usually the mother of the hero, is played by an older male and the Principal Boy is always played by a younger leggy woman in tights.

School productions invite the parents. They have jokes about teachers and it is a teacher usually plays the Dame, such as Widow Twanky who squirts water over everyone in a washing scene. It will also show off talented pupils dancing, singing or playing an instrument.

The ones in pubs are usually political and raucous – usually a charity fund-raiser. Village hall ‘pantos’ deal with local issues and are usually the funniest.

In cities it is harder to create humour that everyone gets, so they tend to be more like musicals which feature celebrities and have bigger budgets for the sets.

Mary Poppins at The Mayflower Theatre Southampton 2015