DE’s Christmas Message

Long term readers will know that every Christmas I try to get my photo taken in front of a different Christmas tree somewhere in London. Sometimes I’ve chosen a tree in a new haunt: one in the Boogaloo pub, one in the London Library, and last year one in Birkbeck College. This year has been synonymous with the London Olympics, of which I’ve had only a cursory interest and certainly didn’t attend in person. However, I did enjoy the sense that the city really was at the centre of the world during the summer of 2012. That, and the added niceness that was in the air. There was no repeat of last year’s riots, and though it was hardly a Richard Curtis-like utopia, London did often feel like quite a nice place for a person to be in.

It was a year when I did a spot of personal ‘winning’ myself, finishing the first year of that English degree I’d always meant to do, ever since I dropped out of A-levels at school. This summer my final year marks were all Firsts. This by itself might seem like an item from one of those tiresome round-robin newsletters, a boring and ugly boast that one should keep to oneself. But in my case I have something of a history of giving up on projects and jobs, and of being late on deadlines, and of just trying to get out of doing work full stop. So I feel obliged to note what really did feel like a personal highlight. And I highly recommend adult education for anyone who needs a renewed sense of worth.

This year’s tree is at St Pancras station- another haunt which in 2012 became a rail connection for the Olympic village. The station has installed a ‘golden’ tree, which has rather an ingenious design. It’s made up of huge Olympic gold medals, one for each of those won by the British team, and they look just enough like traditional tree decorations too – specifically chocolate gold coins. Forming the body of the tree is a gold-coloured spiral strip, which I presume represents a medal ribbon. Then there’s the usual lights, but they’re inside the spiral, forming the tree’s core. I love how it’s such a simple idea, and how it’s kept simple, too. No overt branding. One aspect of the Olympics that put a lot of people off – at least in the run-up – was the sense of overly intrusive sponsorship.

From the people who won the medals, to the volunteers who participated in the ceremonies and who helped to direct visitors, the lasting legacy was, in the end, a celebration of people first, money second. This attitude seemed to last, too: I never thought I’d see a Conservative government criticising corporations for avoiding taxes, berating executives for six figure pay-offs, and campaigning for gay marriage.

So for 2013, I wish for more of this sort of thing. More concern for humanity, less concern for profit. More kindness, but also more accountability. More striving to make a unique contribution to the world, less striving to criticise the contributions of others. More sharing but also more empathy. I also wish that more people (by which I mean me) resist the temptations of Twitter and Facebook more often, particularly if they’re letting the need to be ‘Liked’ or ‘Re-tweeted’ go to their heads.

And I wish more people would take their free newspapers home rather than leave them cluttering up buses and Tube trains.

(Oh! And he was doing so well…)

A Very Merry Christmas.

St Pancras International, December 24th 2012.