Coffee Shop Gestures, or Random Acts of Kindness

dining

Why obsess over constructing a perfect moment, when true surprise comes from sudden spontaneity? A few weeks ago, I found myself at an Italian cafe near Trafalgar Square with an absolute gem of a girl. My mind was poring over how to make our weekend unforgettable in every detail, when the waiter approached us out of the blue. I assumed he would offer to take our plates, but instead he crouched down and mentioned that the lady next to us had just paid our bill.

You may be aware of these so-called “random acts of kindness,” such as the Free Hugs campaign, a social movement based on selfless compassion for one another. There’s also the Jewish concept of “mitzvah,” the secondary meaning of which denotes to a moral deed performed as a religious duty; colloquially, a deed done out of generosity. You see these random acts dotted throughout the headlines of news sites, as if such selflessness is a real rarity in this day and age.

Now, it’s impossible to analyse the act without considering the lady in question, who we had no prior connection with. She was by herself, with a programme for the West End production of The Lion King- perhaps she noticed the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory programme on our table, and saw some of her in us? That would mean the act was not truly “random” (the only reason the waiter could provide for the act was that the lady thought we looked like a lovely couple)- yet does that mean it is any less of a selfless act?

The biggest question we had to answer, startled as we were, was whether to acknowledge the lady as she made her way out of the restaurant. Our minds went back and forth, but the waiter had also mentioned that she wished to remain anonymous, so eventually, when the lady did emerge, we decided not to thank her. Sometimes it is nice to have your gestures shrouded in anonymity. Even so, we couldn’t help glancing in her direction as she left, our minds

In truth, random acts of kindness in this day and age really do take you aback. Unfortunately, we are often suspicious of anything being offered to us freely; we always expect to have to do something in return. Furthermore, we all like to think we’d do something selfless on instinct, expecting the best of ourselves on instinct, but how often does that actually happen? When was the last time you did something truly selfless?

Think about it, because honestly, those random acts have such an incredible impact on the bestowed. Our conversations kept going back over it throughout the evening, but it also put us more at ease with one another, as if the lady’s deed was a blessing on our blossoming relationship. So next time you’re struck by inspiration, be it in an Italian café or wherever you are, don’t let it fizzle away; just take it and go with it. It’s amazing how something so random can end up having so much meaning.

My first time at the Proms

BBC proms

A man reaches for a Tupperware of grapes during the interval, as the smell of wine hangs thick in the air. It’s my first time at the Proms- officially as a “Prommer” too- and of all the concerts, gigs, live events that I’ve been to, this is one in particular that is unavoidably informed by the atmosphere. Of course, classical music can be enjoyed anywhere- and maybe likening it to the grandiose architecture of tonight’s venue plays into a certain snooty stereotype – but the ambiance of the Royal Albert Hall really lends to the feeling of the Proms as an occasion, one to celebrate.

And yet, here I am with my flatmate Gavin for the cost of seven pounds. Yes we’re technically standing (though many choose to sit down even during the recitals), but in terms of encouraging people from all backgrounds to experience classical music, the cheap price of the tickets is really promising. There was no queuing for hours either- this is the first year the Proms have started selling these tickets online, on the day of the prom itself. Granted, you can only buy one each, but if you organise it in advance it’s a relatively straightforward process; you really haven’t got an excuse not to give it a go.

The main difference here is that Gavin really knows his classical; he was so determined to hear two of the pieces at this particular prom that he was originally planning to go by himself until I jumped at the chance. I really enjoy classical, but I suffer from a naivety about the different composers, pieces and periods. Sure, I could throw a handful of names at you, but I wouldn’t feel confident debating it. However, your own experience can surprise you at times, and I was happy to find I actually knew the first piece on the bill, Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero;” I just wasn’t aware of its name. Gavin wasn’t a huge fan of its repetitive nature, but I liked the way it built with the number of instruments throughout.

After this came Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor,” an early twentieth century composition with the reputation of being one of the most technically challenging of its kind. As the grand piano was wheeled out, Gavin was craning to see who would be rising to the challenge, and was taken aback by the youthful appearance of Behzod Abduraimov. For such a complex composition, it soared and shimmered throughout its forty two minutes, with an abundance of keys giving the effect of a waterfall. Only the back of Abduraimov’s shirt at the end betrayed how difficult it must have been; the fact he returned for an encore was even more commendable.

Neither of us were aware of Ustvolskaya’s third symphony “Jesus Messiah, Save Us!” but given the uplifting nature of the previous two pieces, it bought a curtain of melancholy that felt out of place; sometimes formidable, sometimes sombre, never really welcomed.  It was intriguing, but fell to Rachmaninov’s shadow. But the fourth! It was a suite from Richard Strauss’s opera “Der Rosenkavalier,” which revived the merrier mood that had started the night. The melodies swelled and dived at such a pace, accelerating up to the gallery before crashing down again, without ever jerking out of place, that it all flowed rather beautifully.

Somehow, I had not comprehended the notion of an encore at the Proms, but after some frenzied foot stomping from the concertgoers, we were treated to two additional pieces. The first neither of us knew, but the second was an unexpected treat that again I knew by ear and not by name- Bach’s “Air on a G String.” Seeing as I have been trying to find the name of this for quite a while, I was rather chuffed to be able to experience it. For me, it’s always felt like a piece of reflection, a time to consider the events that have just occurred. Somehow I got caught up in the notion of an aftermath of a furious battle; quite a contrast to the gentle, contemplative ending it provided to a fine, varied evening of music.

The main thing that I took away from my first night at the Proms is that, because of a lack of lyrics (well, mostly), classical music is something you feel- there were plenty around us, sitting or standing, with their eyes closed as in meditation, just letting the music flow through them. It provokes such a wide range of emotions, that if you’ve not given it a chance before, I reckon you’ll be surprised. After all, movements, keys and composers are just names- the most basic instinct is whether you enjoy it. I can honestly say, as a Prommer, there’s nothing like it.

My Glastonbury 2016 Food Roundup

IMG_1089

If there’s one thing about Glastonbury that you can’t appreciate on the telly, it’s the food. Granted, festivals can be cruel on the bank balance, as your rumbling stomach forces you to part with astonishing amounts for a meal, but the right stalls reward a ramble. I really admire those who endeavor to cook pot noodles and Ainsley Harriot’s couscous on the campsite stoves, as a fair few of my festival mates did. However, if you’re willing to put some money aside, you can treat your taste buds for several days if you pick the right stalls. And the choice! It’s like a small sample from every corner of world cuisine convenes on Worthy Farm.

However, not all Glastonbury food is created equal. Last year, at the end of one night, our drunken eyes were allured by the 24 hour food marquee near our campsite. Even with our alcohol-soaked senses, it was still one of the worst cheeseburgers we’d ever eaten. This year, we arrived at a different campsite at around midnight, shattered from hiking the final three miles to the site with our entire luggage. There was nowhere else to go; even so, I hoped this 24 hour outlet would be different. Sadly no luck; our only hope was to douse it in ketchup. The fact is, there are too many burgers in the world for you to waste your time forcing down a sub-standard one.

THURSDAY

Thursday went a lot better. Any trip to the Park Stage around lunchtime deserves a stop off at the Lebanese Mezze stand. Along with the standards of falafel, olives and hummus, there were also vine leaves stuffed with feta, sumptuous bean and potato dishes. Over at William’s Green for dinner meant an obligatory visit to the BEST cheesy chips you will have; just the right level of crispiness, and melted mature cheddar that doesn’t overpower the whole product. I also tried a stone-baked pizza from a nearby stand, proudly proclaiming it was courtesy of one of the Great British Bake Off finalists; spicy lamb with onions, on a nice crispy base. If they told me he was Italian, I would have believed them.

FRIDAY

On Friday, we were caught in an almighty grime shutdown on the Pyramid Stage, which meant one thing for lunch… Oli’s deep fried halloumi, served in a crispy flatbread cone with salad and sweet chilli sauce. Even writing this makes my mouth water. Granted, a lot of things taste good deep fried, but the combination of textures is what makes this. The soft, chewy flatbread with the rubbery halloumi and the crisp salad leaves… it has to be one of your “must have Glastonbury lunches.”  That evening, as me Tom and Lavie made our way to Foals, I took a chance on Chapati Man; my masala chicken wrap had just the right level of spice, with a good portion of chicken breast in there among the veg.

SATURDAY

Saturday took us back to the Park area, but as much as I loved my mezze, there was too much on offer to go for anything else. I stumbled upon a Carribean stall serving delicious jerk chicken, with a whole charcoaled chicken wing and a large dollop of sauce amongst the rice and peas. Granted, it was a little bit black on the outside, but otherwise the meat was succulent and very good value. That night, waiting for the wonder of Adele, I stumbled across one of several Le Grande Bouffe stands dotted around the site. There’s a reason there’s a few of them; they’re too good to have just one! I went for a sausage in white wine with a potato tartiflette; honestly, one of the nicest things I’ve ever tasted. Probably the only time I debated going back for a second meal!

SUNDAY

On Sunday, I was determined to round off a weekend of good food (and some decent music besides). This was to be a day of past tradition; round the corner from the Other Stage, I banished my hangover with a “Growler”; a deep filled baguette with bacon, chips and melted cheese, described as a “tribute to Pauline Fowler.” Not sure about the link, but it hit the spot. A late afternoon visit to the old favourite Goan Fish Curries was too good to miss; their mackerel masala dahl, with a whole smoked fish atop it, would make the entire ocean proud, and the fresh herbs made it as fragrant as it was tasty. Finally, right before LCD Soundsystem, so I treated myself to Square Pie- a spot-on steak and Guinness, with gravy full of tang and delicious flaky pastry.

Festival food can be hard to get right- not just because there’s so much of it, but if you’re in a group it can be hard not to just go for what’s in front of you- but there are plenty of decent options among the bland. As a rough guide, try anywhere where they’ve made an effort with the name, appearance, that sort of thing. It sounds trivial but often the generic names that just describe the origin of the food (e.g. Mexican) are often below par, as my friends Tom and Lavie sadly found out with some much maligned nachos and a pessimist’s burrito. I couldn’t help but feel bad as I sat there in curry heaven thanks to Chapati Man. Of course, the headliners will always get the most attention, but if you can feast for five days, why turn down the option?

_________________________________________________________________

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and let me know your thoughts in a comment below! You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and I also have a whole host of videos to enjoy on my YouTube channel. Check them out and subscribe! (you know, if you want.)

My belated Glastonbury 2016 review

IMG_1121

Here’s an important question that needs to be answered: how long can you keep talking about Glastonbury after the event has been and passed? It’s an issue as thought-provoking as how long it is reasonably acceptable to keep your wristband on after the event, considering all the mud you embrace during your five days on the farm. But hey, leaving it a few weeks gives you plenty of time to reflect (plus life’s been pretty manic recently), so here are some of my thoughts on this year’s action on Worthy Farm…

_________________________________________________________________

Who would have thought that London to Glastonbury would take 10 hours? No crazy detours either- our coach troupe set off at half 1 on Wednesday,  and we were just over 4 miles away by half 4. Fast forward three hours and we were only a mile closer. In the end, it was just before midnight that we reached the campsite having abandoned the coach just before 10 with three miles to go. This was my 3rd year at Glastonbury, and the queuing has never been as bad as this.

The only thing worse was the mud. The draining, soul-destroying mud. It doubled the length of every journey across the site, and made it impossible to sit down anywhere, meaning there were deep staring battles for chairs and the one patch of grass left in front of the Pyramid. Granted, it did lead to a few entertaining encounters as the luckless lost their wellies in the mud- followed by admirable demonstrations of camaraderie as we rushed in to help, embracing the true festival spirit. But even so, it was a relief to get back on solid ground once the weekend was over.

Why do I start on such negatives? Well, despite the queues, mud, and queues IN mud, Glastonbury still remains the highlight of my year, unchallenged in its celebration of contemporary music and art. Maybe it’s the sheer variety of bands, comedians and artists on offer that keeps me coming back; maybe it’s the sprawling variety of areas that after three years in a row I have still yet to explore entirely. Or maybe now it’s become a post-university tradition that nostalgia forbids me to break. In any case, Glastonbury amazed and delighted in equal measure once again.

IMG_1104

IMG_1102

IMG_1106

For musical highlights, there were plenty of well-chosen last minute decisions, such as the Syrian Orchestra, first on the Pyramid on Friday morning, with Damon Albarn leading a brilliant cover of Blur’s “Out Of Time”. Also on The Hell Stage at 2am on Sunday morning, we decided on The Apples, an Israeli funk nine piece who finished with a rousing cover of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.” Unexpected surprises such as Gentleman’s Dub Club in the Glade, and firm favourites exceeding expectations (Ezra Furman and The Last Shadow Puppets I’m looking at you)… too many bands to name!

However, I do have to mention my headliners. Firstly, Underworld on West Holts were the perfect frenzy for a Friday, an explosion of dance and light that set a commendable pace for the days ahead. I saw them at BBC 6 Music Festival earlier this year, but far from dissuading me that I had already experienced this set it only encouraged me to return. Then, Adele on Saturday was an unforeseen joy- or at least, I thought I would enjoy it, but I was surprised by just how much I did. It was just the right mix of banter to lift your spirits from the emotional depths that her songs plunged to.

Finally, we had LCD Soundsystem on The Other Stage, bringing us down with the curtain call. I knew this would be the one band I would kick myself the most for missing. It wasn’t just the gaiety of their sharp electronic rock; it was in the way James Murphy and his band performed that made it such an enjoyable experience.  From the pounding chants of “Us V Them,” the dance-punk ferocity of “Losing My Edge” to the final number of “All My Friends,” the piano chords refusing to relent, I felt suitably satisfied at the set and only just missing my friends in a few fields away, most of which opted for Earth, Wind & Fire.

 

IMG_1092

 

IMG_1110

IMG_1112

Overall, Saturday night was the maddest of the lot. Somehow, on a high after Adele finished with “Someone Like You,” several of our group made it to the fabled South East Corner, famed for its late night mind boggling madness. Shangri La in particular spins popular culture and the role of the media on its head; the twists to convention enveloping you, particularly after a few bevvies. It was here we saw The Apples, along with Dub Pistols and a DJ set from Mark Ronson and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, before I conceded defeat and made my way home along the railway line (which, I hasten to add, is covered over).

However, halfway along to home, I realized sunrise was just around the corner (or in this case, just over the horizon), and I was caught up with a few other enthusiastic night owls who were making their way to the Stone Circle at the top of the festival site. We arrived to a chorus of drums, percussion and otherworldly chants as the first rays leapt over the horizon. It was a site to behold, a new day at the festival… and then it was half five, and I realised how  truly tired I was, and I struggled back to camp. Even at six, as I finally got into my tent, there was still so much going on, refusing to give in to tiredness.

Glastonbury is full of experiences like that- maybe not all quite so draining- and even waking up late on Friday morning to the news we were leaving the EU did little to affect the festival spirit. Sure, it was mentioned plenty of times- Damon Albarn strolled onto the Pyramid stage a few hours after the result, and proclaimed “reasons to be cheerful? It’s not raining!” But Worthy Farm is one of those places you stride into, and suddenly all of your problems and woes ebb out of you. All I can say is, if you think the Pyramid looks one heck of a site on the telly, just wait till you glimpse it in the Somerset fields.

_________________________________________________________________

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and let me know your thoughts in a comment below! You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and I also have a whole host of videos to enjoy on my YouTube channel. Check them out and subscribe! (go on…)

Jack The Lad #6: End of the line for East Grinstead?

train-station-336602_960_720

After the news broke that East Grinstead train station could lose its ticket office, only three years after the extensive renovations were completed, I decided it was time to return to the East Grinstead Courier to air my thoughts. Have a read below and see what you think!

_________________________________________________________________

If it’s estimated that over 2000 people use East Grinstead station every day, you think that would prescribe it a certain level of importance. But imagine there being absolutely no human interaction during that process: dull, grey boxes dispensing tickets to get you through stiff, stubborn barriers, before an android on wheels descends along the train making checks, like a cold, contentious C3PO.

Maybe I’m exaggerating things here, but cuts have a habit of sitting at the top of a slippery slope, and the speculation that East Grinstead may lose its ticket office has been greeted with the exact kind of negative retorts that you would expect.

Looking round the current site, you have to admit how immaculate it looks. And it should do, at a cost of £2.1 million. It’s been there just long enough for any memories of its decrepit former host to be banished from the minds of the many commuters who use it.

There was even a ceremony with the Town Mayor and our local MP present at its official opening in March 2013; it was seen as that much of an occasion, something to make a fuss about. So why is it, less than three years later, that there are talks of closing the ticket office? You might as well shut the whole station building; after all, why do these things in half measures?

Before you start to get really worried, if this were to actually happen it would not be for a long time. According to reports, the station has been listed in the third wave with the station to close outside of peak hours after a longer period of re-education, with a threat of eventual total closure of the office.

But given the size of the town and the station’s position at the end of its branch for the Oxted line, the fact that the idea is even being debated is utterly ludicrous. Sure, some of us aren’t always in the mood to talk to anyone else and appreciate the serene silence a self-service machine brings, but just picturing the prospect throws up all kinds of questions.

What about season tickets, renewing railcards, or even just a question that a machine cannot answer for you? And what if those ticket machines malfunction? It’s no good being an expert in pushing the right buttons if there aren’t any to push in the first place.

If anything, some people just like to have human interaction. You can just imagine swarms of perplexed customers piling into the Bluebell Railway office trying to renew their monthly passes, or the staff at Motown Coffee facing bemused commuters trying to jab “delay repay” forms in their faces.

Then again, you can certainly see why they’re doing it. We’re seeing more self-service checkouts at supermarkets every day, and banks are gradually encouraging us to become more machine-savvy. But you can afford a delay when you’re doing your weekly shopping; if a machine breaks down at a train station and there’s no kiosks, that’s rush hour chaos guaranteed, regardless of any cancellations.

At a time when half of Southern’s customers are unsatisfied with the franchise’s overall service, it’s hard to imagine this announcement having any kind of positive effect. The solution is simple: stop prioritizing profits over customer service, and stop trying to put us off public transport at a time when more of us should be using it.

_________________________________________________________________

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and let me know your thoughts in a comment below! You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and I also have a whole host of videos to enjoy on my YouTube channel. Check them out and subscribe! (please.)

The Tenth Blog Of Christmas: Thank You For The Music

sackville colleg

“Good King Wenceslas” will always hold a special place in my heart, for in 2003, on the 150th anniversary of the carol’s creation, I sung the carol outside Sackville College in front of the British media. I thought I did a good solo job, and the hundreds of other schoolchildren taking part did well too, taking particular glee in being able to say the word “sod” on national television.

Sackville College, a Jacobean alms-house, had its moment in Christmas music history cemented by one of its wardens the Reverend Dr John Mason Neale. He was a prominent hymn writer, with Good King Wenceslas among his compositions. Whenever I get home for Christmas, I inevitably meander through town admiring the lights, emerging at the top of the High Street to behold the College, and though it may look a little barren in the winter, the spirit of the carol still rouses me.

Asides from the small matter of the nativity, Christmas carols define the crib service at my local church St Swithuns, and with the place packed to the rafters each year, the crooning glides along the robust organ notes to create an ethereal atmosphere. I know carols aren’t for everyone, particularly if you’re not part of a Christian denomination,  but there’s still plenty of festive music to immerse yourself in.

Then there’s the onslaught from the world of retail. Your local supermarket will be slipping the odd “Last Christmas” and “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree” by the end of November, before launching a full festive playlist in the last few weeks before the big day (no doubt I’ve noticed this more due to my experience of working in one), and any festive event will have Slade, Wizzard and The Pogues regularly playing out.

But asides from the classics, there are numerous covers and rarities. My godfather’s brother notably has a festive playlist on Spotify with 1001 Christmas songs, sprawling across every genre imaginable, and he makes a new festive compilation every year; my highlight was Earth Wind And Fire reworking one of their classics into “December.” I myself enjoy new discoveries too-  Andy Williams “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of Year” has been a notable addition to this year’s playlist.

With my house being particular appreciative in all kinds of music, Christmas music has always played a big part in defining the period. Yes, many are as corny and cliché as they come, but they also evoke such strong nostalgia of past Christmases and get my family all singing along to their favourites that I can never discredit it. Me and my Dad are always in charge of music at our Christmas Eve party, and I would be a fool if I said I didn’t immensely enjoy organizing it.

Also, let’s make this clear- I don’t listen to any Christmas music before December for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if it’s overplayed then you’re only going to remove that special feeling of festive cheer you associate with it, and like anything you indulge too much in, it’s only going to annoy you after a while. Even I find my ears grating at the thought of listening to another slow-jam cover of Merry Christmas Everybody- sure, the original has its charms, but the endless covers you hear never quite match up.

As a genre, there’s no denying that Christmas music will always be a guilty pleasure. However, I would be lying to myself if I didn’t underline the power that certain festive tunes have to remind me of home and comfort wherever I am in the world. Lord knows I can’t remember where I first heard “Fairytale of New York” or “I Believe In Father Christmas”; it was probably just at a Christmas party or the big day itself. But it’s how it’s become a staple over time that shows its true importance.

The Second Blog Of Christmas: What Christmas Films Mean To Me

Christmas DVDs 2

How do you rid the stresses that the festive season can bring and banish any depressing thoughts of the long nights ahead? Put on a Christmas film! It’s an instant mood lifter, lifting your spirits in a flash; I mean yeah, ice skating is fun and all, but sometimes you just want to sit back on the sofa, where the most effort you will face is choosing between chocolate and popcorn. (Or both. It’s the one time of year you can get away with it.)

Guides divulging the best Christmas films are constantly thrust upon us, so-called “definitive” lists that can amount to as many as twenty films; enough for nearly every day of the Christmas season depending on how long yours goes on for. Add to this numerous TV specials and suddenly you find yourself spending a lot of your December in front of the big screen, trying to squeeze each out every last drop of festive film magic.

That doesn’t mean you HAVE to watch them all though- there’s still several festive classics that I have yet to see, which means I have a couple of new treats to enjoy each year alongside my core collection. Winter is THE perfect time of year to stay in, when the weather outside is frightful, so why not embrace it? Rather than tell you why each film fits the festive season so perfectly, I thought I would include what each of my regular roster means to me.

 

The Muppet Christmas Carol

A couple of Christmases ago, I got a quaint copy of the classic novel by Charles Dickens in my stocking, and I’d polished it off by the time we set off to my aunts for Christmas dinner. It was interesting reading it with the context of the Muppets adaptation at the back of my mind, but what surprised me was just how faithful the The Muppet Christmas Carol is to the original text. Okay, there weren’t puppets strewn across Victorian London, but asides from that it remains a very faithful adaptation.

I know not everyone warms towards the Muppets, but I’ve always loved their unique, hearty form of comedy, and Michael Caine will always be my definitive Scrooge; he refuses to let his bitterness be overshadowed by the performers around him. It isn’t just a festive classic, but a sterling literary adaptation, and one that refuses to be restrained by the label of a children’s film. One of my old school friends even managed to devise a drinking game, and though I missed the chance to give my liver something to moan about, it reinforces to me how the movie works well for every occasion.

 

Home Alone

As my first university Christmas approached, many of my hall-mates were shocked that I had never seen Home Alone while growing up. This resulted in a large group of us watching it together when it first came on to TV screens, and now it’s a firm favourite of mine. It truly is Macaulay Culkin’s defining role; he can go from tugging at your heartstrings as your heart aches for the poor boy left behind, to putting you in stitches with his juvenile angst, as he pranks the bandits again and again.

What I love most about the pandemonium Kevin pursues is how brilliantly creative it is. Yes, Christmas is a time of year for celebrating, but it’s also one that encourages you to let your imagination run wild, to believe in optimistic myths and perfect winter scenes. Not only will Home Alone have you in stitches, it will stimulate your creativity, albeit the devilish side of it. One for the filthy animal in all of us.

 

Christmas DVDs 1

Miracle On 34th Street

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when my parents casually broke the news one summer evening about Santa (and if you’ve yet to have the news- don’t worry, it’s just about his delivery schedule). For some reason, I remember being particularly devastated while my sister casually shrugged her shoulders. It’s not as if I believed every department store Santa was really the big man himself, but I still clung on to the belief that Father Christmas was out there somewhere. Plus the notion of a job where you only really work one day of the year was a highly exciting prospect.

Miracle On 34th Street, despite a few flaws, can warm the hearts of the biggest Christmas cynics. It emboldens us to believe in all kinds of possibilities, and inspires us to make our own selfless mark on this wonderful time of year. Indulge in spontaneity, and forget the stresses that can come with the season; it’s the moments that you spend spreading goodwill, whether to family and friends or complete strangers, that truly warm the heart.

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

On my first wander around Camden market, I picked up one of numerous knock off hoodies with Jack Skellington’s wicked grimace adorning the back. Because of the prominence of Halloween characters, you can sometimes forget The Nightmare Before Christmas is actually focused on the festive season instead. Because it straddles two holidays, I believe I can justify watching it anytime between the two, which means I always have plenty of time to enjoy it.
Aside from being an immense technical achievement in the field of stop motion, the film also promotes the idea that anyone can celebrate Christmas in our own individual way; we should not feel forced to be guided by tradition. There are so many things you can do at this time of year, you can sometimes feel a pressure to fit them all in before the season vanishes. Yes, Jack’s plans go a little bit awry, but you can’t deny the heart is there; do what you can, but don’t overestimate your own abilities.

 

There are plenty of others that I could mention- Elf, Meet Me In St Louis, The Snowman to name a few- but the films above are the ones I cherish the most. Amazingly, there are still several that I need to tick off my list for the first time; I’ve had quite a few shocked responses when I mention that I’ve yet to see It’s A Wonderful Life.  This doesn’t bother me as much as some think it should; the way I see it, it means that I’ve got a festive treat to look forward to at some point in the future. After all, it’s the things you do in the present that define each Christmas, rather than reflecting on the past.