I really wanted our Christmas day to be different, and it certainly was.
I had booked lunch at my favourite hotel in Soho so all we had to do was get up, open presents, throw on something festive to wear and roll into a taxi – bliss, bliss and triple bliss. We got a taxi into town and drove through Hyde Park – it was beautiful. The roads were quite empty and we felt that for once, our beloved London was our own.
We arrived at the hotel grinning and happy.
‘Wow Mum this place is amazing’
‘Yes darling, it’s gorgeous – look at the art and paintings’
It was so festive and sparkly, it was hard not to be in a great mood – especially after a fine glass of Ruinart Rose Champagne I just quaffed at the bar and the way they served the festive cranberry juice for the little one made it all so swish too.
As Miniminx and I tottered to our table, I looked around the room. I knew the place was fully booked and there were lots of different sized tables; some for eight, or two, or three, all sorts. Our table was laid out beautifully with flowers, silver crackers and very stylish glasses and cutlery. We sat down giggled away playing 20Q and swapping silly stories.
For a moment I got a bit serious. There’s something about living in London and going out on Christmas day which is really amazing and more than a tad indulgent but there’s also the other side of the coin, some people are not having such are great time are they?
‘Darling, if you had Christmas completely own your own when you’re a grown up what would you do? Would you come somewhere like here and eat alone?’
‘No Mum, I’d never do that, I’d find people to spend Christmas with Mum…my family or friends.’
‘But what if you didn’t have any?’
‘Well, it’s not like that, I just wouldn’t’
‘Hmmm…it’s just a thought. I think perhaps, maybe, I just might – I’m not quite sure’
We looked over our menus and ordered our food and I forgot all about our conversation for a while until an extremely well dressed, and possibly the wrong side of 70, man walked very slowly past us. He was directed towards his table which was laid out for just one. When he was seated we looked across and smiled.
‘You see darling. That’s just what I was talking about. There is a very brave man. I am full of admiration that he has done that’
‘Really?’ Ok, Miniminx was more concerned about other things, like presents at this point.
The lunch began, we enjoyed several courses of exquisite food. At one point all the lights went off and everyone cheered – there was a power cut – then the lights came back on again and everyone cheered louder! It even felt like we were in the wild wild west; over exuberant Christmas crackers made gunshot sounds as they snapped and shot the little gifts inside across the room so they landed on and under tables and one toy even hit someone on the head.
I looked across the tables and sneaked a sideways look at this gentleman, I saw that sat on his table was a lone Christmas cracker. It was possibly the only unbroken one in the whole place. Hmmm, that’s not right I thought.
‘Darling look over there, that cracker does look a little sad. Why don’t you go and ask that man if he wants to pull it with you?’
‘Really Mum? Shall I?’ said Miniminx.
‘Yes, go on darling, it’s Christmas day – everyone has to pull a cracker. Go on, go over there.’
‘Ok, I will.’ she said with a big smile.
She walked coyly up to his table and quietly asked him. He picked up the cracker and smiled as she grabbed the other end. They pulled and pulled. People had turned to look and then kaboom! It cracked and then there was a cheery ‘Aaah’ as Miniminx nearly fell on her backside from the effort. It was quite a sight.
I waved over ‘Happy Christmas to you!’ I said. He waved back ‘And to you two too.’
What a great icebreaker that was, the gentleman was befriended by a man on the table next to him who sat and talked with him for about half an hour and the mood around us became chatty and warm. I did feel my eyes brim with tears, a kind of sad-happy, happy-sad feeling.
We finished our meal and were beginning to get ourselves together to go. Me for a traditional afternoon nap on the sofa after a huge Christmas lunch and Miniminx to play with her friends and all their new toys. Before we left, the man left asked one of the waitresses to ask us if he would mind her taking a photograph of us for him to keep. We happily obliged and were so glad to see the smile on his face – he was obviously enjoying himself.
That made my day even more special, wonderful in fact.
So my question had been answered. Some people do dine out alone on Christmas day.
The thing is though, if you do decide to dine out alone on Christmas day, fear not, for you are really booking a table for one, and a hundred or so more others.
Happy Christmas one and all xx