Archive for the ‘Christmas at Greenwich’ Category

Christmas Tidings

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Christmas at ye Ice Rinke in ye olden tymes.

Merry Christmas, Folks. My very great apologies for abandoning you for much of this year – I was simply unable to post, but you have never been far away from my thoughts. Thank you for all the encouraging messages – they are much appreciated.

I hope to return to blogging soon – just as soon as circumstances allow – but for now I wish you a happy, safe and peaceful Festive Season.

The Phantom Waif Gets a Slap Up Boxing Day Breakfast

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

I’s only a littl’un, Sir. I been in the workhouse yonder since I was a wee nipper but it ain’t that bad at that.

I gets to sweep the crossin’ down by the Spread Eagle most Wednesday afternoons – me an’ Hobb’lin’ Herbert an’ Peg-leg Tom and Consumptive Charlie – you know, the other Phantom Waifs, Sir, we  shares the priv-lige and occasional-like a real Greenwich gent gives us a tanner which I slips back to me dear old Mam back in the Union.

1884′s going to be a good Christmas this year though and no mistake, Sir. That Rev. Bullock, God bless his soul, you know, the vicar that wrote them poems in the Fireside News way back before I was born, Sir. No, I ain’t read ‘em, Sir, but they stirred up a right old hollerin’ among the toffs who like to do a bit of good this time of year.

They say he got one of them new-fangled ‘Christmas cards’, with a cock robin on it, all red-breast and chirpy-cheep, wishin’ him a Merry One, Sir. He wrote these verses, and I’m tellin’ yer, Mister, they must have been right pretty because next thing you know they’re startin’ these ‘Robin Dinners’ for the likes of me an’ Herbert and Tom and Charlie.

We gets a right slap up nosh, Sir and no mistake. They gives us tickets an’ we can eat and drink as much as we can. ‘Course, there’s a downside – we ‘ave to do prayers and sing hymns and listen to the vicar preachin’ on about the Baby Jesus, but fair’s fair – that’s what the people in big houses like.

Indeed, Sir. All over, they are. Up and down the country. Like wildfire it is, all that doin’ good at Christmas malarky. But last year the toffs up the hill in the big houses in West Greenwich, they had a bright idea – you know – to go one better – be a bit different, like. They come up with a new thing that no one else in the whole country come up with – Robin Breakfasts!

Last year there was about 600 of us waifs, Sir. This year old Toothless Albert reckons  there’s going to be eighteen hundred!

We gets to go in a big room all decorated by the ladies and gentlemen, with long tables and plates and cups and garlands made of paper and ribbons. And they’re all dressed up too and the ladies are cooing and saying how sweet we look which I reckon’s rich, given they sees us most days on the crossing and don’t take no notice at all.

A buttered roll at every place, Sir! Imagine that! An’ there’s dishes of oranges an’ buns an’ cakes an’ mugs of coffee – with milk! As much as we can drink, Sir! And there’s soup, though you don’t want to get there after Scabby Bob’s been up there with his dish. But then you don’t want to be many places at all when Scabby Bob’s been around.

‘Course ‘Robin’ himself can’t come – you know, the Rev. Bullock, God bless his soul, but he sends another gent, ‘Robin’s Friend’ to give us a sermon about how lucky we are and then we gets entertainment. Last year we had Professor Bentley Green who showed us ‘sleight of hand’ tricks, though I reckons he could learn a thing or two from Swift-Hand George who swiped the Prof’s pocket handkerchief out of his tail coat as he was pretending to take a coin out of George’s partner Harry One-Eye’s ear.

Then it’s back to the speeches again, Sir, which we tolerates well enough, given we’ve just eaten our fill and when it comes to the end we all hollers “Three cheers for the Robin Committee and Her Majesty” at the tops of our lungs.  Well, all of us except little TB Tim, the Weakest Waif in the Workhouse, who can’t holler on account of his not having much in the way of lungs.

As we all files out, we all gets given a little bag, all decorated by the ladies and pretty as a picture they are too. Fetch a good price if you’re quick enough. Last year mine had an orange, a bun, some sweets and a book. I ate the orange and the sweets and the bun but I took the bag down to the Uncle on Turnpin Lane on account of the fact as I can’t read.

Trouble was, I got waylaid by Percy Rickets and Nit-Noggin Wilf wanting my slot on the crossing which meant by the time I got to the brokers he told me to sling me hook  on account of his already having 247 identical little books that morning and he’d kick the next snot-nosed kid who tried to sell him any more I-won’t-say-the-word-he-used, Sir, “religious books”.

If you don’t mind me asking, Sir, why do you ask all these questions? The Daily Chronicle Sir? Yes, I know it. Scurfy Sam sells it down on Stockwell Street. So – am I going to be famous then, Sir?

borrowed from Worcestershire Archives




Jolly Christmas Lights

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Heavens – is it just me trying to deny the march of time or has the festive season snuck up on everyone this year? I’m so NOT ready to be festive yet – and yet there’s no denying it’s almost here. From the council guys putting up the lights earlier this week:

to the arrival of the Christmas tree (nice to see a real one back…)

Photo: Mike Purdy

and being spruced up:

Photo: Mike Purdy

through to the grand switching on yesterday:

Missed the lantern parade and the turning on of the Greenwich Christmas lights yesterday? Worry not. Mike didn’t:

So – what’s next…? Advent Windows and Greenwich Panto. Actually come to think of it, I am feeling a little more festive…

Christmas Greetings

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Fourth in a short series of turn-of-the-20th-Century Greenwich Christmas postcards from the Phantom Collection.

I’ve chosen this one as my Actual The Day card because it amuses me that it’s just a bog-standard postcard that’s had a greeting hurriedly plonked on it, presumably by some local printer to meet the Christmas rush. I know the feeling…

I’ll not be around much (if at all) for the next week or so, so for now, have a happy one, folks…

We Will Have Snowballs…

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

First of a short series of turn-of-the-20th-Century Greenwich Christmas cards from the Phantom Collection today.

This is not a rare shot – there are quite a few of these postcards around – and often have the exact same scene in the snow by night, with an eerie moon but it’s rare that it’s in colour – and unique, now that it has actually been used.

In case you can’t read the writing, it intriguingly says

Wait until Xmas, Pat. We will have snowballs here, when you come. Hurry up. Dickie.

On the back it is addressed to a Miss Shalf in Walsall, Staffs and postmarked 8.00pm , 6th December 1903.

Who were Pat and Dickie? Long-distance sweethearts? Brother and Sister? Cousins? Neighbours? Friends?

I guess we’ll never know, though sadly Pat could have taken her time after all. Christmas 1903 was just bloomin’ wet. Dickie would have had to have waited for another three years for his snowball fight, but he would have had a beezer of a time then. Boxing Day 1906 saw heavy snow in London…

I had my first snowball ever last Saturday when I confessed to pals at a party that when I was a kid in the 70s all the adults drank them but I was too young and was never allowed to try them.

My pals, shocked, suddenly switched to retro-ville, dug around the back of the cocktail cabinet for a crusty old bottle of advocaat and we all went back to 1976. If you’ve never tried one, it’s not nearly as disgusting as people might make you think. Actually, I’ve become quite addicted to them this Christmas…


2 measures Warninks Advocaat (I’m told to avoid cheap own-brand versions)

1/4 measure of Lime Cordial

Top up with Lemonade.


Serve in the cheesiest Hi-Ball glass you own with a maraschino cherry. Mmmm

Season’s Greetings – But Which Season?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Amazingly, Jeremy took this photo TODAY (anyone looking in the archives in future – that’s 22nd December 2011) in the Observatory Gardens.

Well, I guess the days are growing longer now…

Happy Easter Christmas Folks!


A Happy Christmas

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

I’m not sure why I chose this rather apocalyptic vision as my Christmas card to you all this year – don’t take it personally. As I am sure Miss J. Wilkinson of 69, Upper Stanhope St, Liverpool didn’t when she received it from her friend Maggie  ”with love and every good wish” in 1904. I can’t remember how it came to be in the Phantom postcard collection, but I can tell you it’s from a painting by Professor Van Hier of whom I had never heard before, and it’s called Moonlight over Greenwich.

Happy Christmas, folks.

A Gallant Greenwich Knight

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

A little tradition at Phantom Towers is to listen to my favourite Christmas stories as I wrap presents, write cards, eat mince pies etc. I keep trying different Christmas Carols – I haven’t found a truly excellent audiobook of it yet (this year I’m going to try Patrick Stewart even though I’ve already seen him give a curiously Max Shreck-alike Scrooge) but I confess to having a bootleg copy of the superb Ian Mackellen / R4 drama of Simon Armitage’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (the poet reading his own version just doesn’t cut it for me.) I don’t generally approve of bootlegs but it  isn’t available to buy anywhere so my recording will have to do for now – I promise to buy it as soon as someone releases it. 

All this is a clumsy attempt to bring the subject round to suits of armour. When Benedict and Mme Benedict moved from Greenwich to Canada a couple of years ago they took with them this splendid fellow, who they first encountered in the much-lamented Greenwich Village Market for a few quid, but who cost an arm and a leg (maybe I should say a gauntlet and a greave) to take with them. 

He now stands on guard outside their gaff in Toronto, a little piece of traditional Greenwich Armour (ish) in the colonies (tee hee – knew that would annoy you Ben…) And every Christmas he gets to wear this charming cap & cape ensemble, knitted specially for him by an Auntie. He lives next door to the Christmas Gnome who apparently has his own blog reviewing books (sadly I don’t have the address, but you can fill in your own book-title puns…) 

Thing is, however terrifying a suit of armour may look close up, I can’t help thinking of that Buffy episode Actual Size when I see the long shot:

Good to know there’s a little piece of Greenwich over in Toronto – and a suitably bizarre piece too. Oooh. I’m coming over all festive…

You Can’t Polish One…

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

…but you can stick a Christmas tree in the middle of it.

There’s no denying that Greenwich is a total mess at the moment – building sites, hoardings, rubble, broken foot tunnels (I note there’s not going to be any way of walking or cycling across the Thames east of Rotherhithe this Christmas Day – the council refers to it as Christmas ‘arrangements’) and  cuts we haven’t seen for a generation, but we do have a giant Christmas tree. 

And what a fine tree, too. So much better to have a huge, real fir tree than that rather odd teepee of lights that we’ve had the past few years – but to be honest with all the cutbacks I wasn’t even expecting that. I’ve been trying to get a picture of it by night, but my camera isn’t having any of it, so here it is in the day time bearing an uncanny resemblance to this year’s Tate Christmas Tree (I’m not convinced commissioning someone who hates Christmas decorations was a great idea, but then they are the Tate, I guess…)

I absolutely love it but a tree this size won’t have cost twenty quid down at B&Q. I’m guessing that Greenwich Council didn’t fork out for it, given they nixed the fireworks. But if they didn’t, who did? Greenwich Hospital? The Greenwich Foundation? The Cutty Sark Trust? Sammy Ofer? Frank Dowling? Some other individual? I think we should be told – so we can shake them by the hand and thank them heartily.

Christmas Dinner

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Funny, isn’t it. Summer turns into Autumn and almost instantly my inbox starts to turn with it as people begin to look forward to the festive season, despite its still being just under three months away. This post feels a bit wrong, but I can actually see why Barry is asking this so early – I would be asking the same thing too, in his position. He says:

“We are from Australia and in 2008 stayed with our son who lives across the river on the Isle of Dogs – so we spent a fair bit of time in Greenwich ( and walking there through the foot tunnel :-) )  

We will be there again this Christmas – after sailing over via Suez – and will have nearly 3 weeks in the area. I have been searching, searching, searching  for someplace to have a Christmas Day lunch or evening dinner in the area – within walking distance- with no luck so far.

My son, who has now lived there for going on 3 years, can’t provide any info – so am currently at a complete loss. We are amazed to think that there is absolutely NO public transport on Christmas Day in London.”

The Phantom replies

Yes – the state of public transport on 25th December leaves a LOT to be desired. But no matter, there should be stuff to do around here.

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a chaotic joy. The market’s going full-throttle, there are events all over the shop – look at the Maritime Museum, Fan Museum and Old Royal Naval College for possiblities (check out Ian Visits for quirky events further afield.) Carol services are held at St Alfege’s (I can’t remember whether they use the proper, traditional words in the carols or those grim ’contemporary’ ones) and their Advent Windows (still trying to asertain whether they’re on this year, but I have no reason to think not) are a splendid modern tradition, imitated in various places around the country but born in Greenwich, where a different house/shop/venue displays a special window each day of Advent.

Greenwich Theatre’s panto is a must if you’re into that kind of thing (which I am, and that reminds me - must sort out this year’s trip…) and one year Greenwich Playhouse, just above Belushis outside Greenwich Station did the most wonderful adaptation of A Christmas Carol. The writer, Brian Sibley, has promised me some M.R. James but then wasn’t very well. I live in hope that this year he’s all better and raring to go which seasonal ghost stories…(hint, hint…)

But onto the day itself – a tough call for many places, but I have got some good news. I highly recommend that whichever of the following you choose, you book nice and far in advance, just to be sure. If I get any more replies from local eateries that I rate, I’ll post ‘em up here.

I put out the call to a bunch of local restaurants and pubs (sadly there were a few I couldn’t ask because they don’t have email addresses, they have nasty online forms or they use that irritating phone service provided by beer comparison websites.) I had very prompt replies from some, tardier responses from others, and no response at all from a few.

First the bad news – Guy Awford tells me that neither Inside nor The Guildford is open on the day itself (though of course there will be seasonal menus at other times. Good news for the future is that the promised fine dining upstairs at the Guildford is still going to happen at some point – hurrah.)

For large numbers,  French bistro chain Cafe Rouge is proud that it’s opening Christmas Day – even providing a menu on its website. I didn’t even have to contact them. I often go there if there’s a big bunch of us and I’ve neglected to book a table as there’s always room – but for The Big Day, I suspect that booking is advisable.

The North Pole is also open – they do a £49.95, three course set menu for groups (I don’t know what consitutes a group) – call them for further details.

As far as the Greenwich chain INC are concerned, the Bar du Musee and the rather more upmarket Spread Eagle are both open; they are finalising menus at the moment. I was rather surprised that the other INC staple, the Trafalgar, won’t be opening on the Day Itself, but the other two do make more sense.

Maeve at the Hill  on Royal Hill, tells me they’re open for lunch too, and, as with all the other venues, a special menu at £60. Maeve tells me that three courses, plus Champagne, coffee and mince pies are involved in the festive fare.

Finally, I am delighted to say that one of my favourite restaurants in Greenwich, The Old Brewery will be open on Christmas Day. Like Inc, they’re still deciding on details; give ‘em a call for details.

After lunch, I suggest a little tour of all 24 of  St Alfege’s Advent Windows - though don’t forget a nice bracing between-course stroll around the park is also a cherished tradition for many Greenwich families (including Phantoms…)