The highlight of the festivities was 'Oliver Twisted' a satirical and subversive panto at the Tabernacle, off Portobello Road. Written by Peter Jack, 'Oliver Twisted' was worthy of 'Private Eye' at its best (he ought to be on the staff), laced with wicked wit and peppered with localized 'in' jokes. In the last act Fagin's urchins and earwigs get to go to Notting Hill Prep and were acted by local 'streety' kids who picked a pocket or two on the Portobello, while the Westfield shopping behemoth on the scenery was renamed 'Wasteland'.
Queenie Ingrams (19), aptly the granddaughter of Richard Ingrams was superb as Oliver. The audience, (both children and adults) laughed and swayed to the rhythms of reggae, rock and roll and rapping; this was not a conventional panto. The audience booed and hissed when bankers reared their greedy heads and Nancy Lash, thinly disguised as Rebekah Brooks came on stage. The suave Mick Jones from the Clash made a cameo appearance bringing up the encore with 'Shall I stay or shall I go'? While cast and audience raised the roof with a finale of Slade's 'So Here it is... The proceeds went to the Shepherds Bush Families Charity.
The low point of the season was the 'Russians at the Saatchi Gallery', which upon entering was headed with the ironic words 'Gaiety is the outstanding feature of the Soviet Union'. It is profoundly depressing, I had to avert my eyes to study the patina on the oaken flooring rather than look at tattooed prisoners, junkies and tramps revealing their genitals and people poised to jump out of their windows lest I started to get suicidal. It was so badly laid out that I missed the Kabakov's installation and I was chilled to the bone by art born out of the 'Empire of fear' and its boreal apathy and cruelty. Diderot opined that the 'Russians have rotted before they ripened' and it still rings true, apart from a brief flowering in the early 20th century, Russian art has not been a hardy plant.
Getting into party mode, it seemed churlish not to have our own one; as Tolstoy said 'those who don't entertain aren't entertained', so we had a gathering of the tribes for a winter solstice bender. The only blip was a monumental party bore, a paramour of a friend, whom I wished I could have disinvited, he emptied a room by saying how its was 'perfectly fine for Russian oligarchs and the like to dig down under the foundations of Georgian and Queen Anne houses in the royal borough to make saunas, spas and pools'.
Christmas Lunch was deliciously decadent and delicious at a friend's house, far, far preferable to family, as the xmas luncheon table is nearly always a battle ground for family rows. The dining room was subterranean, deep enough for a pool and it was like being in an aquarium, painted mauve and densely hung with erotica; crotches, bondage, and an explicit large scale photograph of a hermaphrodite, Tarquin and Julian were thrilled and I did wonder what their pious Catholic teachers would make of it all. I tried to explain to them that it was art and not porn, however the Fortnums torpedo exploding with pea shooters and streamers distracted them. We barely made inroads into a Norman keep of a Stilton, that trickled with rivulets of port after the decanter had been passed round.
On Boxing Day we loaded up the car with the boy's presents and through a deluge of rain, drove west to Manorbier to recoup for the new year and make forays to the beach to watch the sea foam and surf. We saw in the new New Year under a clear moonlit skies lighting up Chinese lanterns and launching them from the castle parapets. Now post yule ennui is engulfing me, not augmented by the fact that neither new kindles, my mobile and computer are all refusing to work and its back to books, for they don't need to be charged and registered to Amazon before you can turn a page and read.