The countdown to Christmas has begun! Lights are up in Regent Street and elsewhere. Big stores have their TV commercials competing for attention. There are special cartoons and films slotted for the next few weeks. Christmas pantomime shows are planned as are Nativity plays in schools which excite the parents even more than their children taking part. Office parties and neighbourhood gatherings are on the calendar……But …are the big Christmas parties really going to happen, or will Christmas be cancelled like last year, at the last minute? No one knows. It depends on Omicron, the new unwelcome guest.
This time around the very first two cases uncovered here spread more concern than what the South Africans had observed. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, always loath to spoil any party, is not quite sure whether to slam the brakes or not. Sajid Javed, the health secretary, has to try to be more serious than Boris: that is, advise caution but not exactly be a killjoy.
And so, can we have office parties with all the drinking and mixing and “snogging” under the mistletoe? While one minister has advised against any impromptu snogging under the mistletoe, others (like Javed) are saying wisely that the government cannot advise on whom to kiss. But scientists are warning that close contact or a bodily exchange of fluids (i.e., when snogging) with strangers is inadvisable …so are we back to rules and regulations and social distancing?
Omicron has taken over our Christmas in a way no one expected. After feeling triumphant about the successful vaccination programme and the extra jab to drive Covid away, here we are, back again. But from the general mood of the nation, everyone wants to take that booster shot and celebrate!
However, my advance Christmas present is that I have finally seen a play on the West End after two years! Unbelievable, really, as theatres have opened up — and are going house full! There is no social distancing inside, and not a single empty seat! In fact it is difficult to get into any good performance, with tickets being sold for over 100 pounds. The audience is hungry for entertainment, and fortunately some new shows are more than making up for the long hiatus due to Covid. One of the most talked about shows right now is The Life of Pi (with a very difficult concept to translate onto the stage). Teeming with Indian/Asian characters, Life of Pi won the Booker for the author Yann Martel and the Oscar for director Ang Lee, and so its life on stage was bound to draw comparisons between the three avatars. Now directed by Lolita Chakrabarti, and piled high with sound and visual effects —any literal translation of the book onto the stage will obviously be difficult. So some critics have drawn the line and pronounced that the visual effects, including puppets playing the tigers and other animals, are breathtaking — but dominate the actors. Playing at Wyndham’s Theatre, it’s a must -see— as is Hamilton, the play that I managed to go for at the Victoria Palace Theatre.
A musical, the Pulitzer Prize winning Hamilton, has won rave reviews since opened in 2015. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it tells the story one of American’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, through a variety of music and songs — including hip hop, jazz and rap. Hamilton was an immigrant from the West Indies, who worked closely with George Washington. Today his narrative is even more significant as he represents the truth behind the campaign of Black Lives Matter.
While the play is almost a classic now, being able to view one after such a long time was by itself a classic experience. The drinks before you go in, the packed auditorium, with live music — and the spectacular show! Omicron was banished from our minds within seconds!
And while the world debates about how badly student life has been affected during the pandemic — some students are fighting for the right to study and read in libraries, just like in the old days!
Cambridge university students from Kings College are in the middle of a protest stating that they would like to remain in the library for 24 hours as they used to before the pandemic. They have threatened sit inside the library all night if their demands are not agreed to. In fact, they have even asked for increased heating in the library, and disputed that the library hours for them should not be 9 to 5 any more, and that it should also be open on weekends.
This is a dilemma for the college, as they try to balance the needs of the students and the requirements of keeping a Covid-free environment.
While we juggle around our lives to evade the “mutant” many such dilemmas will confront us — but meanwhile let the lights of Christmas shine on!...