Owing to the spectacular uselessness of Ticketmaster, my son missed out on his birthday treat, seats for Hamilton at the newly refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre. Our show was cancelled — just one of a total of 16 — and our allotted replacement date clashed with an immovable engagement. By the time the rusty wheels of Ticketmaster’s nonexistent customer service had ground into action, the entire run was sold out. I asked the boy’s godfather to accompany him in my place. Turns out even that’s verboten. Such is the hype that tickets are non-transferable — and require you to show a printed email confirmation, your original payment card and a photo ID on arrival at the theatre. Even with the best will in the world, I don’t think Nick Boles can pass himself off as me.
What makes all this doubly irritating is that the show itself is brilliant. It takes a dusty, distant slice of history and infuses it with excitement, intellect, lightning wit and an intoxicating whiff of sexual tension. I know this because I saw it in New York two years ago, just before the EU referendum. And I was struck by the way it captured — not always intentionally, I suspect, given the impeccable liberal credentials of the cast and writers — the political mood in America and over here: revolution, uncertainty, unrest, the falling of old orders and rising of new. In particular, it’s the inspiring story of a nation full of talent and fizzing with energy that’s shackled to a greedy, unelected elite across the sea; belittled and derided by self-appointed rulers, yet willing nonetheless to take a risk in the name of freedom and self-determination. America, 1776 — or Brexit, 2016? That said, among the standout features are the Thomas Jefferson vs Alexander Hamilton rap battles, conducted with machine-gun speed and precision. I can’t help thinking the modern equivalent — David Davis vs Michel Barnier — might not quicken the pulse so effectively.
Hamilton is one example of a great American import; less so the tradition of eating turkey at Christmas. I don’t bother doing the turkey thing anymore. We have game pie instead: cheap, organic, easy to cook. I take whatever the butcher has — usually partridge and venison, sometimes pheasant — brown it off in a pan, sling in a bit (OK, a lot) of vino, a dash of port, Italian pancetta, stock, veg and a variety of seasoning, and slow cook on a low heat for a few hours, before topping with a bit of trusty Jus-Rol. The kids love it, and the dogs feast on the leftovers.
In fact, it’s a mystery why game is so cheap. Nothing beats it for tasty, lean meat that’s lived a good life. Yet far too many avoid it because of irrational, class-based anti-field sports sentiment, not realising that as well as being good for the planet and the countryside economy, it’s a darn sight more ethical than eating some creature stuffed full of hormones and reared in an aircraft hangar.
Speaking of poor creatures pumped with hormones, how ironic that it should take an invasion of the female-only pond in Hampstead by trans women to make luvvies realise the implications of allowing any old Tom, Dick or Harry who self-identifies as female into women’s spaces. Those virtue-signalling ideals are all very well around your fashionable dinner tables, but remember: it’s real women in the real world — prisons, refuges and anywhere vulnerable women exist — who have to live with the consequences.
In Iran, women have had their lives dictated by ill-intentioned men for years now, as have homosexuals and anyone who dares oppose the hardline Islamic regime there. At last that nation’s downtrodden people seem to have found the strength and courage to rise up. No thanks, it must be said, to that self-styled champion of the oppressed, Jeremy Corbyn who, as men, women and children were laying their lives on the line in Tehran, maintained a deafening silence on the issue. Meanwhile, Labour trolls turned their attention to a far more pressing outrage: the appointment of a Conservative to a government quango. Toby Young’s addition to the board of the new higher education watchdog, the OfS, provoked outrage among entitled lefties who feel that kind of role is by rights theirs. Again, no comment from Comrade Corbyn.
I shall not be doing dry January. It’s not just that the sight of Corbyn celebrating Christmas with an apple juice and a run (the last time we were governed by someone who thought Christmas was a suitable time for a purgative and mortification of the flesh it was Oliver Cromwell), it’s that of all the times to give up the booze, the one month when you really don’t want to be without a stiff drink is January. Tax returns, credit card bills, grey skies: what else is red wine for?