December 23rd: Not Quite Christmas

With the international schools closed, the expat family compounds abandoned and businesses reverting to Chinese rule, Shanghai has shed most of its foreigners for Christmas.  Migrating east or west, the laowai retreat en masse from whence they came, in most cases with an empty suitcase or two to fill up on Marmite, Angel Delight and Shreddies (or for the Americans: Peanut-butter flavoured anything)

Eating Christmas

Eating Christmas

For those of us left behind, it’s a little strange.  Imagine living in your house, but where somebody has temporarily borrowed your favourite sofa, or replaced all the TV channels with Russian-only dialogue documentaries about disused warehouses.  It all feels very empty.

So what else to do on a Saturday than to visit that most British of institutions – Marks & Spencer, in an attempt to try and feel a little more “Christmassy”.  We needed to buy a few crackers for Monday’s Christmas Eve meal with Ryan and Elouise so also decided to stock up on mince pies and a few other winter essentials.  At ridiculous prices.

Nikki kept us company last night (Saturday) with our last trip of the year to the heart of the former French Concession district for another steak pie at Glo London (now officially “off menu” but somehow rustled up quickly by the chef).  And a final pint of the year in the Shanghai Brewery – purveyors of the smokiest of stouts (this is a good thing).

As most people have discovered by now (although apparently a few are still clinging to hope/despair), the world didn’t end on Friday.  Fortunately, our local Chinese mobile service provider kindly sent us a helpful “don’t panic” text message on Thursday evening which is clearly explained by the following direct translation from Google: “The end of the world untrustworthy the cult crap possession evil intentions; cheated cheated join the church, once into sets of Woe accompanying; Almighty God is a cult, people misuse the doomsday scrambling; Science polish up my eyes, cults, ghosts escape invisible! Shanghai Anti-Cult Association

Meanwhile, on my UK mobile, t-Mobile* sent me a “Welcome to Uganda” text-message on Wednesday night.  Felt to me like I was in a bar, playing pool with JB, but apparently I was elsewhere.

So Happy Christmas to one and all.  Back in the New Year…

*or whatever they’re currently called.

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