The Christmas lights are up everywhere already - the town hall is particularly beautiful, strung all over with tiny blue white lights and a huge, simple tree by the grand-looking entrance. And there are penguin statues everywhere, all of a sudden - a little like the Cow Parade that happened a few years ago, where life sized model-cows sprang up across the city, each one painted differently. So far I've seen a blue penguin covered all over with silver and white snowflakes, a realistic black and white penguin with a purple Emperor-sash, and a penguin painted with grass and flowers. Even though I don't like my job very much at the moment, I do love working in a city centre, particularly at Christmas time - random penguin statues, eggnog lattes, pinkcheeked shoppers, Christmas carols, wet streets gleaming with the smeared reflection of a million fairylights...so pretty. I'm catching the train into Manchester on Saturday as the seasonal German Markets have arrived, and my friend Olivia and I go every year - it's sort of our tradition. We wander round the log-cabin type stalls buying cheeses and wooden toys and tree decorations getting pinker and pinker and colder and colder, and then finally, when we're really, truly frozen, we go to the huge cabin at the centre of the square for mulled wine and hot cinnamon waffles.
I still don't have plans for Christmas Day...part of me wants to spend it alone this year - buy new pyjamas, a fluffy blanket and slippers and spend the day on the couch wrapped up reading new books (which I always get stacks of), just being quiet and peaceful and appreciative. But we'll see.
I'll be doing all of my shopping on Christmas Eve, as usual. I hate the thought of reducing Christmas to a shopping list, pencilled out ages in advance and items neatly crossed off each month. I prefer last minute gift-buying, it feels much more Christmassy - dashing in and out of the shops with my red Starbucks cup clutched tightly in one hand and a plethora of plastic bags cutting grooves in the other one...aaah, Christmas, how very much I love thee!