It’s that time of year. The sound of a Silesian Bratwurst connecting with cold lips. A security guard getting aggy with the actor playing ‘the elf’. Ketchup spraying into the air like celebratory champagne. Spilled mulled wine inebriating the local rat population. Overpriced tat sold in gift box form to drooling tourists.
It’s Christmas market season. A confusing month of crowded streets and impulsive shoppers. But Christmas markets have nothing to do with Christmas. They did once. They do in Germany. But these markets, the central city cesspits, are nothing more than shoddy farmers’ markets in tinsel.
There is an idea of a Christmas market – something that is almost holy. Quaint wooden stalls and twinkling lights. A rotund German man who looks like Brian Blessed and laughs like the father you never had. The slow, enjoyable passing of time. Father Christmas played by someone who isn’t a whisky away from a community protection notice. Presents that don’t make your parents say, ‘Ah, gee… thanks. I’ve always wanted a bar of soap that’s been touched by hundreds of strangers.’
These Christmas markets don’t exist. At least not in London. They only exist in the fever dreams of Richard Curtis’s agent and the minds of Coca-Cola marketing executives. Last week I took myself up to central London to see if I was wrong about these markets. I wanted to shake my Cromwellian disposition. It was either that or drowning myself in a bath of Sainsbury’s eggnog – and Sainsbury’s was out of eggnog.
First up was Leicester Square. Leicester Square has a market. Well, it’s not really a market. It’s more of a space. Think of purgatory or a GP’s waiting room. An empty place to contemplate where you went wrong in life. I walked past an elderly couple. The man had his mouth around a cone of mayonnaise splattered fries.