I am in Vienna. It is cold and snowing and everything looks like a Christmas card. I am eating a lot of cake, seeing some great art and -though I’ve packed the world’s most impractical shoes- mostly having a wonderful time. The only thing I do not love about Vienna in December is the epidemic of Christmas markets. Note my use of the word epidemic. There’s not just one. There are dozens of them. Every time I shuffle, (impractical shoes plus icy pavements), round a corner into a charming square or Platz I am confronted by a huddle of little wooden sheds -similar to the one in which my dad keeps his lawnmower- draped with fairy lights and fake snow.
They are almost all selling gluhwein in mugs shaped like Father Christmas’ head, or sausages, or dangly things carved out of wood. I do not want to buy mulled wine in a mug shaped like Father Christmas’ head or anything carved out of wood, (though I am quite partial to sausages). I do not want to listen to a man in a Santa hat covering Mariah Carey on an acoustic guitar. I do not want to browse round garden sheds in the cold, pretending I’m interested in Celtic jewellery or handmade soap or grooming products for men with beards, whilst a woman in a thermal fleece and one of those knitted hats with plaits for earflaps glares murderously at me from behind the counter.
I’m just going to come right out and say it, I really don’t like Christmas markets. I pretty much loathe them. The crowds. The cold. The way there’s never anywhere to sit down. I don’t like any kind of markets at all. (I include in this list the following markets: Continental, food, craft and the ones where you can buy ten dishcloths for a pound. I have not yet formed an opinion on cattle markets). I realise this makes me a kind of deviant; most people I know seem to have been born to browse. Whilst, you’re already judging my lack of festive spirit I thought I’d take the opportunity to make a short list of things I don’t like though everyone else does.
- Musicals– No surprises here. I’m always banging on about my issues around the suspension of disbelief and people dancing on tabletops.
- Baked Beans– Literally, the only food I can’t keep down. It’s the consistency that bothers me. Who wants to eat tomato flavoured flour?
- Groundhog Day – I’m sorry, but it’s the most boring movie I’ve ever watched. Is that the point of it? If it is, it’s a stupid point.
- Prosecco- Two words on Prosecco: Fizzy Vomit.
- Animated films – Don’t be emailing me to say have I seen Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away. The answer’s yes, and I’d still rather be watching something with actual people in it.
- Russians – The writers rather than the people. Tried. Tried again. Kept trying. Eventually gave up.
- Skype/Facetime/Any service allowing me to see your face whilst talking to you – I do not want to see your face while I’m talking to you via a machine. I find this strange and alienating. I’m only just starting to get used to phones.
- London – I thought about this really hard and for every one pleasant visit to London I’ve had approximately six very stressful London experiences. I’m really not sure it’s actually worth going.
- Lord of the Rings – I know that Lord of the Rings is the reason you fell in love with books but walking trees and Hobbits are to me the baked beans of literature.
- Queen – the band not the monarch. Radio Ga Ga is the sound of a migraine headache and don’t even get me started on Freddie Mercury’s mouth.
Two late but festive entry:
- Cinnamon-scented anything– If Radio Ga Ga‘s the sound of a migraine, then the smell of cinnamon is the catalyst. I include in this list candles, coffee, cinnamon-infused pinecones and sachets for setting on top of your radiator. Nb. this may be a longterm symptom of the year I spent working in the Yankee Candle Shop.
- Best of the year lists published in November: It is only November. There is still a full month left in the year. You may yet watch the movie or read the book or see the play that will turn your year upside down. Why can’t we wait ’til the 1st of January to publish our recommendations?