It has been very surreal in New York today. The subways and streets are filled with people dressed as Santa. Some have just donned a hat, others have added a beard and full fur trimmed outfit. There have been some liberal interpretations of what a Mrs Claus might look like and quite frankly if many of these wanna be female Santas were working in the North Pole for real, they would freeze to death!
Santas crossing Madision Avenue.
And the reason for all this merriment? Well today is New York’s annual Santacon. This is basically a pub crawl through Midtown Manhattan in fancy dress. It’s funny how seeing them on the subway on the way out for lunch in Korea Town it seemed quite odd but by the time you’ve seen a hundred of them, it all seems quite normal.
My favourite Santa was hanging out on the platform at 59th Street. He/She was wearing an outfit that showed Santa’s muscles, bare arms, bare torso and bare legs, just wearing Santa red shorts. Coupled with white wig, beard and glasses, the only hint it might have been a girl under it all was the purple nails, but even then I couldn’t be sure. Kind of like a Marvel style Santa, with special powers to visit every house in the world in one night. Maybe. Such a shame I didn’t get a photo to share here.
Ho ho ho.
Yes, that’s how long it takes to get to the Caribbean from New York. Great, isn’t it? And how do I know? Because we just went there from JFK airport direct to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Talk about a contrast: from the brutal, grey and cold city to the laid back, white sandy beaches, turquoise ocean and clear blue sky. It’s all a bit indulgent, really. We only went for 4 days and as this isn’t a travel blog, I won’t bore you about the lovely apartment, the heat, the sand…
But the point I really wanted to make was about proximity. In the UK you might head off to Spain, Italy or some other Mediterranean destination and take about the same time to get there. The Caribbean is a long haul flight away and an expensive one at that. So think of a trip to the Caribbean from the US as the equivalent of a trip from London to one of the Mediterranean countries. Great thing about much of the Caribbean is that the national language is English and for us in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the currency is the US Dollar, so no currency conversion horrors. And even better it’s on Eastern Time, so no jet lag and no time zone changes to mess about with J’s sleep patterns! All in all, a fabulous way to escape New York’s grim winter.
If I didn’t have the pictures, I probably would think it was all a dream.
My advice for the day: if you want to eat Thanksgiving lunch at 1pm make sure you read the instructions on your lazy lunch from Eli’s. When you read the instructions that say ‘heat for 20-25 minutes in a 350 F oven’ (not shown in the photo below) and you think ‘hmm, that doesn’t seem like very long’, then you are probably right. When you take it out after 25 minutes and probe it with a meat thermometer and it says ‘I am 10 C and you cannot eat me because you will contract food poisoning’, then it’s probably right too. Best re-read the smaller but crucial print at the top of the instructions that says ‘make sure you take everything out of the fridge in good time to get them to room temperature otherwise all the timings below will be wrong, you idiot’. Or something like that. Lunch at 230pm anyone?
I’m sure we did something similarly stupid last year.
Today seems to be mostly about Black Friday. Not a concept that exists in the UK, but in the US, Black Friday is huge. It’s a massive selling day where shops offer large discounts to entice shoppers in after a day of stuffing themselves with turkey. I suppose it’s a bit like Boxing Day, the day after Christmas Day, in the UK. Although I don’t think Boxing Day is quite the shopping mecca it once was.
In my New York Times this morning, there were 18 separate pieces of advertising making the newspaper bundle on my doorstep super thick. Here’s what it looked like: this is Black Friday on Thanksgiving.
I could hardly contain myself in the queue at Fairway this morning. An entire section dedicated to Christmas and an English Christmas at that! There were Maltesers in the shape of Christmas crackers, boxes of jelly babies, selection boxes filled with McVities biscuits and even selection boxes of chocolates like I had when I was a kid.
But most exciting of all was the jars of mincemeat to make mince pies. Mince pies! I didn’t see one here last year and I certainly didn’t see any mincemeat. I was so excited I made some this afternoon. Unfortunately I can’t find any icing sugar here, so they don’t have that lovely dusted with snow look. They were so nice, warm out of the oven with a cup of Darjeeling tea. E said the pastry was a bit bland picked out the mincemeat and left the pastry. Tut, tut, fussy so and so. Here’s the result.
It’s Halloween and in New York it is taken very seriously. I have just walked home from E’s swimming lesson and the streets are full of adults and children dressed in all manner of crazy costumes. I had to shield J from the man who was wrapped in bandages, holding a severed head with a meat hook and sporting a large grey rat gnawing into the bloody gauze on his head…Yuck.
J and I are hiding indoors, providing sweets to trick or treaters, as he has taken completely against Halloween and will not wear a costume and freaks out when he gets anywhere near anyone in fancy dress. R has taken E out trick or treating resplendent in her huntress outfit inspired by The Hunger Games.
The best named sweets for this year are Sassy Tarts. In the interests of my readers, I ate the one pictured below and it turns out to be a rather disappointing tablet sweet. A bit like a refresher, if you remember those (still around?) but more like some kind of chalky heart burn tablet! I’ll stick with chocolate, even if it is American.
We have already bought our pumpkin: they are everywhere so why not join in? Designed by E and carved by R. It looks fabulous lit up this evening. Shame we’re so high up in our apartment, no one but us will see it!
Rather sinister kitty cat for Halloween.
In our local park today there was a costume contest for the local dogs in celebration of Halloween. The Halloween Howl was packed with dogs of all shapes and sizes dressed up and prancing around in an attempt to win a prize. Crazy stuff, but there was a great atmosphere and you couldn’t help but smile and go ‘aahh’ a lot. Check out some of the entrants:
This one is carrying a replica of the Roosevelt Island Tram. Came second in its class.
A super hero and winner of its class.
My favourite. Check out the daschund on the right: yes, he’s wearing a leather cap!
This is a gourd. It’s a sort of vegetable, pumpkin type thing. They are everywhere at the moment as New York gears up for Halloween. This is a particularly nobbly one that I found in Fairways this morning. Isn’t it great?
We’ve experienced two patriotic holidays in the last week. 1 July was Canada Day, not an event I can ever remember noticing before but as we were in Toronto then it was hard to escape. It’s a national holiday and the Canadian Flag was everywhere! We were on one of Toronto’s islands, making the most of the beautiful sunny day and felt positively dull compared with our fellow holiday makers, clad in red and white with ‘Canada’ emblazoned wherever they could. We now have a small Canadian flag, courtesy of the tour guide who took us to Niagara Falls; he used it to pacify J as he bawled his eyes out on the bus – it didn’t work, he clearly knew he wasn’t Canadian.
And of course 4 July is Independence Day and a day of great celebration in the US. We were stuck in Toronto, having failed to get back to La Guardia airport on 3 July due to thunderstorms in NY, so we only got back at lunchtime on 4 July. I like this holiday as there’s no one about! Bizarrely everyone decamps from New York and leaves the non-US residents to enjoy the queue free Fairway, quiet streets and empty playgrounds. Great to see the fireworks in the evening. This was mostly on the TV but slightly through the mass of buildings to the south of our apartment as the Macy’s firework display was off the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges this year. There were patriotic songs to accompany the display which was a riot of red, white and blue. Happy birthday America!