Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas on Southbank

Last night The Irishman and I went to a late night showing of The Hobbit in 3D at the BFI Imax near Waterloo. Crazy kids on a school night! As the showing was later and we both skipped out of the office a bit early, it being the last week of work before Christmas and all, we treated ourselves to dinner at The Anchor & Hope, a sister restaurant to our favorite 32 Great Queen Street, which we'd never had a chance to try, and a stroll along Southbank. Every year Southbank gets all gussied up for the holidays, with a German Christmas market, lights, and all sorts of installations, and this year is no exception.

The programming on Southbank is part of its annual Winter Festival, which includes lots of performances and installations like this Christmas tree with bicycle powered lights. That's The Irishman lighting the tree through his furious pedalling.

If you can, try to get down to Southbank this holiday season as it's really a lovely festive area with tons to see and do.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow

The Irishman and I were in Dublin last weekend to celebrate his father's 70th birthday. In and amongst the family dinners and bottles of wine, we made time to get out and about. Besides going into town to run errands around Temple Bar, we went for a beach walk around an hour or so south along the cost. I did some light beachcombing and frequent photo-taking, and here are some of the results. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Giving at Christmas

Howdy from Doha. I'm here for the week kicking off a new project with my client here. I'm jetlagged, cranky, have an upset stomach, and am getting a little emotional. So of course, lets blog!

December is a weird time to be in the Middle East; it's really sunny and warm during the day, the adhan sounds at regular intervals, you subsist on hummus and tabbouleh, and yet there are Christmas trees and wreaths adorning the insides of hotels and other Western-expat type areas and canned Christmas music everywhere you turn. Once the sun sets, it's actually cold and you find yourself wrapped in a sweater just like in London, only sitting in a restaurant eating mezze with a lot of berobed people. It's an odd experience to be receiving festive holiday emails and invites and cheer in my via email while in a sandy desert city – and I can't imagine what it's like to be here, away from family and friends, for an extended or established period of time during the holidays.

So while I'm here experiencing a strange out of body experience, I learned that my company is organising a gift tree in aid of Camila Batmanghelidjh's Charity Kids Company. She selflessly gives up her Christmas celebration every year to host a big meal and party for 7,500 lonely kids who wouldn't otherwise have a holiday. She has also teamed up with John Lewis to create a Wish List of toys for the kids she serves (list number 525473, if you're interested) that members of the public can donate. An email came around with the information, and a suggestion that we try to pool our funds together to buy some of the more expensive toys for the kids.

I clicked on the wishlist out of curiosity, and as I looked through the selection of toys I started welling up. Maybe it's the work stress, maybe it's the tiredness, maybe it's hearing canned versions of Disney theme songs constantly from the beach outside, maybe it's reading too much about the Royal Bump, but I got really emotional looking at all of those toys picked out for kids whose parents just can't give them a proper Christmas. Nothing on that list is over £65, which I think made me even more sad – I work for a fancy branding agency that charges a lot of money to clients for our work, and we employees take home rather good salaries for our industry, and we can't afford, each of us, to give some kids some gifts that will hopefully make them think that each of them are special just for one day? I just felt, in some part of me, a big injustice and a need to do something.

So I've decided: of course I will buy some gifts, myself, to donate for these special kids, but also I am going to ensure that in my budget moving forward I keep aside some money for charity. Despite my self-pitying laments that I am "always broke" and "can't afford xx or yy," in reality I am much better off than so many others. As I go about this holiday season buying gifts for my loved ones, I want to remember that the joy of giving is not just about presents but about making life better for everyone.