Two days ago, on the Feast of Epiphany, I took down all the Christmas decorations before noon. I always do this. It’s a habit, or a superstition, that my mother taught me. I don’t know what would happen if I behaved differently. As with all superstitions, I don’t plan to tempt fate and find out.
Most years, as I have mentioned before, discarded Christmas trees litter our local streets for a few weeks after the festive season has ended. At some point they are collected along with the other items that can be recycled or composted. This year the collection was on the morning of 6 January itself, soon after 7am. I was still removing the decorations from our tree, so it did not make its way onto the truck. As usual, I made a trip later (after dark) to the collection point in a local park, dragging our tree behind me.
While removing the decorations on Thursday morning I reflected at length on the same date 10 years earlier. On the morning of 6 January 2012 I had been up all night, drinking and then eating with some old school friends who now live outside the UK. We met in the Pipeline, a long-gone and much-missed pub in Middlesex Street. I have written about it many times, including this piece just after it shut in 2016. We stayed there, drinking and playing pinball, until closing time. Then we headed to a late-night bar round the corner, Dirty Dick’s, for more beer. When that closed, we took a cab west to the 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street for more beer, and stayed until its usual closing time of 3am.
London is not a 24-hour city. There were no nearby bars left open on this Thursday night so we ended up at a sandwich bar on Charing Cross Road, drinking coffee and eating paninis. Over the course of the next hour, my drinking companions (who were now dining companions) both needed to pee, and in time-honoured London fashion this involved finding an alleyway somewhere round the corner. Late-night coffee shops, in my experience, do not even have toilet facilities for their customers.
5am came and went. If all this were happening six months later, or earlier, we would have been able to see the sunrise. Just before 6am two of us headed down towards Embankment station, ready to get the District Line to our respective destinations (Tower Hill for him, Turnham Green for me). By now I needed to pee, so we went to the McDonalds on the Strand. I have a very strict rule about using the facilities in pubs and restaurants: you have to buy something. It is not okay to nip in, do your business, then leave without paying for something. This applies even if it’s one of your children, rather than an adult, who has been caught short. We were too early for the breakfast menu at McDonalds, so we ordered Big Mac meals. It was another coffee that I didn’t need, and a burger that my dining companion didn’t enjoy.
I got home around 7am, just as my wife and children were getting up for a regular school day. Ordinarily I would have headed straight to bed, but it was Epiphany and I couldn’t guarantee that I would be up and about before noon in time to remove all the decorations. I stripped the tree, took down all the cards and other festive items and was in bed by 9am to recover from my night out. As things stand, that was the last time that I stayed up all night.