For the first time in 50 years, I spent Christmas in Eastbourne. At around the time I became a teenager, my family would spend the holidays at the Grand Hotel, two blocks from where I live now. I remember Christmas 1963 quite well.
The Beatles had the number one record in the country with I Want to Hold Your Hand and I seem to recall it was being played in the basement of the hotel, where the ping pong tables were. The last part can’t be right, however. The Grand was formal at all times. You’d have been shot for not wearing a tie in the bath, let alone the restaurant.
I visited the hotel a couple of weeks ago, and I’m delighted to report that it’s much the same as it was in 1963. Ties are still required at luncheon, although now only for men. A lengthy sun-facing corridor is still lined with nooks, where couples may sit at tables and take afternoon tea. The same couples were sitting in those nooks that were sitting there in 1963.
Christmas 2013 was marked in Eastbourne by a wild storm that passed through on the Eve of the Eve. It was a bummer. My annual plan calls for final grocery shopping on the 23rd, followed by banging up lengths of wood across the inside of the front door. By tradition, these are not removed until everyone’s gone back to work in February.
So I stocked up on sandwiches at my local newsagents instead. By mistake, I handed the woman behind the till two fives instead of one. “I’d like to keep it, but it’s yours,” she said, handing the extra fiver back. ”A Christmas miracle!” I exclaimed, realising too late that I could now be charged with a religious hate crime. Luckily, the woman has a sense of humour.
On Christmas Eve itself, no rain fell during the day. Driven half-mad by months of advertising urging me to spend money to celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus, I suddenly decided that my computer sound system had to be improved. Yes, reader, I went shopping on Christmas Eve.
It was alright. I buy my cheap junk from Argos, a wonderful store that has everything in one shop. You pick it up, rather than having an Amazon drone drop it off at your house and kill some terrorists on the way back to headquarters. Since there aren’t any terrorists in Eastbourne, we don’t have drone service.
Argos had the £40 ($65) multi-speaker system in stock. Speaking of Christmas miracles, it works just fine. When I tested the speakers on the balcony, they were so loud that they demolished a small hotel. I can now play music so penetrating that the people downstairs would hear it if they weren’t deaf and spending Christmas with relatives in Coventry.
Christmas Day itself passed easily enough. Then came Boxing Day, my father’s favourite day of the year, because it’s as a far as possible from next Christmas. Then came several more public holidays and any minute now it’s New Year’s Eve, the only night of the year I go to bed before midnight, on principle.
My wish is that 2014 brings you the kind of money you need, perfect teeth, good neighbours, a nice holiday and a cake at some point, but only if you like cake.