The London Mennonite Centre pays for all of the staff of the centre (and Wayne & Lois) to go and have lunch shortly before Christmas. So we had a nice 3 course meal at a local place & enjoy good fellowship. The only downside was that Ed & Phyllis Shirk, the host couple of the LMC, were not present because they left the day prior to fly to the States because Phyllis' mother was close to dying. Instead it was Alastair, Colin, myself (the three members of the Bridge Builders' team), Will (Metanoia manager/IT person/Misc), Kim (Accountant), Jane (part time volunteer), and Wayne & Lois (MMN care workers). As a part of the meal we brought crackers, which in the UK are basically a toilet paper cardboard roll wrapped with wrapping paper and filled with a paper hat/toy/poor joke. Two people pull on either end and it explodes hence the "crack" with a bang. Hadn't experienced it before, but it's quite common for x-mas events here.
Over the weekend I went to a Messiah performance that was held at Albert Royal Hall because Will was singing in the choir. Fun event, large building, very impressive organ, good singing and orchestra. I also went ice skating for the first time in about 12 or so years. I was impressed with how much I enjoyed it. Might be something I will try again soon and possibly more often if I enjoy it again. I will plan to skate with Will at some point (he skates regularly) sometime in mid-to-late January once the Holiday time has cooled down a bit.
I saw a Carol service at a local church in Muswell Hill on Sunday evening called St James. I have been attending their evening services and found their Carol service very enjoyable. VERY large crowd...from what the ministry assistant told me their carol services and Christmas Eve services are the most people they have in the entire year. It had multiple "traditional" Christmas carols with a choir and orchestra playing (and congregation joining in as well), although a couple of the songs were "British" versions that I had not heard before. For example, the tune to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was a little different than I recognised, but still easy to pick up. A short sketch and a short sermon also accompanied the service. Felt almost like a Christmas Eve service, but I'll experience one of those later in the week so perhaps they are slightly different or just more of the same. I don't know where I will go for that yet, but perhaps St Martin-in-the-Field in central London.
We had a bit of snow in London on Monday evening. Something to the tune of 3-4 inches of slushy snow. I think it started as snow, changed to rain, and then finished as snow. Basically shut down a lot of the tube system, virtually all of the bus system for the evening commute. I helped numerous people push their car's out after they got stuck on our street. When I went grocery shopping I counted 22 buses parked along a 9/10ths of a mile stretch of road. Almost seemed like I was downtown with all the people walking on the sidewalks. I also proceeded to make a couple of snowmen. I figured how often will I get enough snow in London to do it. As you can see from my pictures the snowmen fell over :-( by morning. Still fun to do.
Snowman fell over
LMC w/3-4 inches of slushy snow (morning after so a lot melted)
The green spot is where I rolled my snowman...
Backyard of LMC morning after
Tomorrow (23 December) I am travelling up to Cambridge to see "a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" at King's College Chapel. It is actually held on Christmas Eve, but tickets are not sold in advance so we (Lois, Wayne, their daughter, another member from Wood Green Mennonite Church, and I) are going to get in line at 7:30 am when it opens and wait in the queue until they let us in at 1:30 pm for the 3 pm service. It is aired on BBC in the UK and around the world at various times. Lois and Wayne have always listened to it when in the States so they wanted to go and see it live. We will take the train up tomorrow afternoon, sightsee Cambridge in the evening, bunker down in a hostel, and then get up early.
Christmas day I will be making egg's benedict for everyone who is at the LMC (7 or 8 of us) as a mid-morning brunch. At 11 we will be having a Christmas Service for Wood Green Mennonite Church (WGMC) members followed by a "bring and share" at 2pm. Later I plan to also talk with my parents and Aunt Mary/Uncle Allen via skype after they are done with their Christmas meal in Vermont.
On Boxing Day (day after Christmas), I will be going to Sue & Peter's (Sue is the "Paid Elder" from WGMC & Peter is her husband) to play some games with Peter. Peter is a resident board game enthusiast whom I have enjoyed playing games with already. Although we often play with a few more people, it will just be the two of us since others are away over the Holidays. Never-the-less I look forward to an afternoon/evening of strategy board/card gaming.
The rest of my Holiday break is rather up in the air. I plan to see Phantom of the Opera or another major show sometime between Boxing Day and New Years. I will try to get cheaper tickets by showing up on the day of the performance when the box office for the theatre opens (usually 10 am) and ask for tickets for the afternoon/evening shows. Apparently it's the way to get cheap seats in London, so I'll it and see. If I can't get tickets over the Holiday period I will just get real nose bleed seats sometime later in January.
I also plan on visiting some more of the major museums and Cathedrals while I have the free time. Westminster Abbey and St Paul's seem to be "calling me" to attend one of their services as opposed to paying the 10 or more pounds it costs to enter as a tourist.
My New Years plans are not set up yet, but if nothing comes up (got an invite to go to Dorset for New Year's Eve. but haven't decided on it yet) I'll head down to the Thames to watch fireworks with Will and his girlfriend.
If anything else exciting happens I'll try to remember to post it. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! Here's to 2010!!!