Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Christmas music.

It was the week before Christmas. The wave of humanity surfed the street in search of something it couldn't quite find, probably a shop in which to trade in unwanted money. It's the spirit of Christmas. Tracy paused for a hundredth of a second to bend down and adjust William's hat, causing a woman behind to check her speed. She glared and tutted and overtook at race walk pace and disappeared into the throng. Compliments of the season, ma'am.

It was eleven on a Saturday morning. Once upon a time, before we were civilised, shops closed at midday on Saturdays. Then they let them open all day, in order to stop the late-morning rush. Now they just rush all day. William and Thomas's much older sister rang me from Northland the other day. The background noise sounded like eighty thousand elephants stampeding, but it was just the food mall and it wasn't even lunch time. Looking for a career? Forget restaurants. Get into fast food. There's money in it.

Earlier I had walked through Victoria Mall and around the corner past the smokes shop and the Italian butcher, and the old derelict leaning unsteadily on the butcher's window stammered Merry Christmas to me and laughed a dry cackle as if it were funny to wish someone a Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to you too, sir, indeed. He has been around for years, used to sell The Big Issue in Lonsdale Street but now he's past it and he just walks up and down and sometimes sits on a chair outside the cafes, and talks to everyone and himself in a growling ravaged voice. Years ago, when he was a Big Issue seller he had the dry, cultured voice of a barrister before he went downhill.

You never know where they come from, and you never know where they end up.


Jingle Bell Rock sung by chipmunks on the supermarket PA doesn't make me buy crackers or turkey or plum pudding or anything in particular at all, if that's their intention. Christmas music in supermarkets drives me nuts, pardon the semi-pun. I think I wrote about this some other year but it still happens. There's something about the sheer vapidity of bells and sleighs and snow set to hokey music. What the hell are chipmunks anyway?

If you want to avoid jingle bells and partridges there's plenty of Christmas music around. You just have to find it. Not all of it comes out of the same dumpster. The best way to judge Christmas music is to play it in April. If it doesn't sound wrong, then it's good. Take Kate Rusby for example. She has the voice of an earthbound angel. Put Sweet Bells on during Christmas lunch and watch your diners stop dead, forkful of turkey halfway between plate and mouth. Mix it up with some Loreena McKennit for an unearthly blend of voice and medieval instruments with some kind of middle eastern influence. Ageless. Perfect. Add in some tracks that are not specifically about Christmas, but mention it in some way. The Pretenders' Two Thousand Miles is a favourite. Of course, you can always toss in some Lobby Lloyde and the Coloured Balls or Max Merritt and the Meteors to keep the aunts alert during the dessert course or wake your grandfather before his face drops into the shortbread and scotch. I like to mix it up. I never like anything to be too themey. It's kitsch. Follow the Tallis Scholars with Guns'n'Roses and they'll really sit up and take notice.

(Thanks to Australia's best radio station, 3RRR, for playing Kate Rusby and Loreena McKennit this morning.)


Radio announced this morning Mary McKillop is to be canonised, thanks to the Pope recognising two miracles. The second was someone's cancer cured. Talkback was full of it. It always is when such arcane minutiae gets into the public arena. Miracles? "That's a concept I can't get my head around!" the announcer reassured listeners, unwittingly confirming some kind of truth. What dangerous medieval nonsense. Who could believe that?

Then an ad break came on and it was Santa Claus selling Bertocchi Christmas hams.


jo said...

Oh how I adore Kate Rusby. My Young Man can bring me to tears faster than a 1940's paramount holiday picture. I could live without 90% of Christmas music, but there a few I need to hear every year, 2000 miles is one and I believe in Father Christmas (ELP).

Barbara said...

This is a proper chipmunk ;) and they only chirp and fuss, not sing!

I like Loreena Mckennitt, too.

Happy Christmas to you and your family!

A Melbourne Girl said...

Thanks for the tip on Kate Rusby KH. I'd never heard of her before but I certaionly have now and love her voice.
Thanks again. I'll be hunting out her CD
PS Have a great Christmas

kitchen hand said...

Jo, Emerson Lake & Palmer was the soundtrack to my teenage years.

Thanks for that, Barbara. (I recently described my children as squirrels. Now I think they're closer to chipmunks.)

My pleasure, Lesley.

Have a great Christmas all!