“Good-bye,” said Michael to the Bird Woman. “Feed the Birds,” she replied, smiling. “Good-bye,” said Jane. “Tuppence a Bag!” said the Bird Woman and waved her hand.”
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
I stood in the warmth of the church after the service sipping a hot tea in a paper cup. Outside a small boy, puffer-jacketed, gloved and woolly-hatted ran back and forth on the lawn chasing pigeons. They settled. He charged. They flew up into the chilled air and swirled around him for some seconds. Then they settled again on the other side of the lawn. He squealed and charged again. They took flight. He waved his pudgy coated arms around. They swirled. It was mesmerising, this game.
Pigeons. London. Christmas. A heady mixture.
And so it was with little surprise that our annual Christmas pantomime – this year, Dick Whittington – featured not just Dick and his cat, but the villain Queen Rat and Mayor Pigeon!
Hubby and I have been in a bubble of busyness and work. We have dragged ourselves through this week, exhausted, but Christmas is breaking in.
It was in the glitter face paint at the pantomime last weekend. It’s in the chilly dark London evenings. It was in the twinkling lights as we pushed our way through the Christmas market crowds on the South Bank. It was in Hubby’s birthday dinner at Pimlico Tandoori on Monday and the staff Christmas party on Tuesday. It was in the lovely faces of our church Bible study group dinner on Wednesday, Hubby’s sister’s party on Thursday and dinner with our Chinese neighbours last night.
Yes, Christmas broke through our bubble – EVERY NIGHT THIS WEEK!
And I think it’s got us.
We are packing boxes and suitcases, writing cards (I hope they get there – it’s a bit late), wrapping presents and dreaming of our house in Morgan Bay.
When we arrive I don’t think we will look much better than Mayor Pigeon or Queen Rat, but come Tuesday we will be on a plane heading south.
Two desperate pilgrims, in need of sun, a haircut, an escape from the noise of the big city and a large glass of wine.
Come on Christmas, we are ready!
P.s. P.L Travers had many names. To her readers she was P.L. Travers to hide her gender. The real life writer, Pamela Lyndon Travers, held and OBE. She was born in Australia as Helen Lyndon Goff (9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996), but lived most of her life England where she wrote Mary Poppins. Are you going to see Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns (2018) this Christmas? I certainly intend to!
P.p.s. Neither Hubby nor I have been to a pantomime in some years, but the reference to ‘annual Christmas pantomime’ is because we have now declared it so!
P.p.p.s. When I first moved to London in 2001 you could still buy a bag of seeds and feed the pigeon like in Mary Poppins. Trafalgar Square was the regular pigeon-pooping, fluttering, crowded smelly centre of pigeondom.
P.p.p.p. 4 more days until our house needs to be completed – still lots to do. I don’t doubt our builder for a second.
P.p.p.p.p.s. Photos (left) are courtesy of The Telegraph and The Lyric Theatre.