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Dancing on the corpse of Christmas

For once in this month of posting I've gone out, but returned in time to blog it. Tonight I've been at Oxford's non-denominational seasonal celebration: Winterlights. Sadly they've had to explain that even though not everything in Oxford that's associated with lights and winter is branded 'Christmas', they are not actually spitting on Christ's (empty) grave. However, the godless bunch that I enjoyed it with certainly enjoyed pretending that it was, so it was nearly as good.

The evening began when I cycled into the city centre from work, parked my bike, then immediately walked to the wrong square. This inauspicious beginning was soon resolved with a quick forehead slap and about-face, and I arrive in the correct in time to spot cleanskies waving to concourse and hence meet up with them both. We were hanging out and catching up by the war memorial when a brass band marched, playing, up to the step below, rather scotching our attempts at conversation. concourse withdrew to a nearby pub, while cleanskies and I fell back to admire some of the titular light: compellingly weird dripping icicle along Queen Street and projected snowflakes on the walls of the shops surrounding the square. Like a social katamari we gradually accumulated truecatechresis, j4, addedentry, bluedevi and Dan Who Doesn't Even Read LiveJournal And Is Hence Perpetually Out Of The Loop. j4 was surprised to learn that the description of the aforementioned band as 'comic' and 'French' was not cruelly pejorative as she had assumed, merely accurate. Actually they were fairly entertaining, but not really stimulating enough for seasoned hedonists like ourselves.

j4 therefore extorted money from the group to purchase a plastic butterfly on a stick, made of transparent plastic with spring antennae stuffed with LEDs which - we came to suspect - made up in brightness what they lacked in safety testing. Certainly the pulsing vulgarity of its lights had a hypnotic effect on the brain even as they exerted their deleterious effects on the retina, so we spent a surprising amount of time playing with this ghastly knicknack, certainly more than any of the children that we saw toting them throughout the night. As we took it in turns to gaze deep into the butterfly's flickering majesty, we discussed the contrived controversy surrounding the non-Jesus-cetric nomenclature of the event, and came within an ace of starting an entirely inclusive replacement festival called Liberalfest, before ditching the idea as potentially offensive to Librans, Liberians, and/or dyslexic librarians. It was literally political correctness gone mad. You couldn't make it up...

Luckily we were distracted by glowing stilt-walkers waving flags to surprisingly ravey music, then gently parted by stewards clearing a path for a procession of small children from local schools, all bearing hand-decorated pyramidal lanterns and hence looking rather like the youth wing of the Illuminati. Once they'd passed, we realised that the programme for the evening predicted that they'd take an hour to get to their final destination 5 minutes away, so we decided not to follow them and took an alternative route. On the way we were briefly fascinated by a screen outside a church from which a glowing, sepia, composite face watched us, then suddenly zoomed in like that bit in 'Ghostbusters'. We also noted that, deliberately or not, the lights spanning Cornmarket Street looked very much like y-fronts and underwired bras. Subliminal marketing by local shops or simple dirty-mindedness by us? You be the judge.

We arrived in Broad Street with time to kill, time neatly swallowed by the queue for hotdogs (both over-priced and delicious). No sooner had I eaten when I was swept up in the approaching procession and carried towards the centrepiece of the whole affair with cleanskies and timscience. It was totally awesome: above our heads like a pagan orrery dangled a malevolently cheerful sun, filled with fire and exploding with flares; a melancholy moon firing flashes of light, and, in the centre, a smug earth glowing serenely in blue and green speckled with points of light. They rotated and sparked to the sounds of Utah Saints and Sigur Ros, and when they were finished we wholeheartedly joined the toddler next to us in crying "Again! Again!"

Being pragmatic souls, though, we deemed a repeat performance unlikely so headed off through the thick (in both senses) crowd to the pub where we greedily consumed sausages, beer and warmth. Refuelled, we set out for the Natural History museum, another venue participating in this rather wonderful evening. In the interim a thick fog had descended on the city, as if the smoke from the fireworks had intensified instead of dispersing, but we pressed on through it, under the still-burning sun sculpture. The Natural History Museum was as fantastic as only a place full of fossilised dinosaur skellingtons can be, with the added fantasticness of live music and hot toddy. When we arrived a rather fun horn band was playing, but they were soon replaced by a more militaristic brass band whose bombastic blaring was rather too intrusive for our liking. I wandered the galleries with bluedevi and the Aforementioned LiveJournalless Dan, meeting briefly with celestialweasel and t__m__i on our way. The museum was fantastic, and reminded me that it had been far too long since I'd last been. We strolled the wilfully explicit insect galleries, taking in giant model cockroaches and pretty huge live ones, many many beetles and moths on pins, and some eye-catching themed cases: one providing the rather grisly details of forensic entomology, and another about insects and culture which included a genuine Victorian curio under a magnifying glass with the deadpan label 'A flea has been dressed in tiny clothes and backpack'.

Before long the over-loud brass band was replaced by an over-quiet flute ensemble, closing time began to loom, and I decided to bail out and rejoin tinyjo at home, so bid farewell to such companions as I could find (cleanskies and timscience no doubt off canoodling in an allosaur's ribcage) and biked home through increasingly soupy fog, arriving in time to hug, eat, drink wine, talk about finance, and still get a stub of this post up before midnight and actually finish it now, as I am typing this very sentence, which is the last sentence of the post and is just about to end.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
pomma_penses
Nov. 29th, 2008 08:36 am (UTC)
Huh, that means when the flag-wavers on stilts appeared, we were standing no more than 20 feet from you. But we got bored, cold, and hungry so we got cheese and chips and went home. :D
timscience
Nov. 29th, 2008 10:30 am (UTC)
As I recall we were actually canoodling beneath an Iguanadon at that point.
waistcoatmark
Nov. 29th, 2008 10:33 am (UTC)
It was literally political correctness gone mad. You couldn't make it up...

But surely you did?

Or are you claiming higher ability at Political Correctness than your readers? So that while you folks could make it up, it was beyond the negligible ability of us mere mortals ;-)
concourse
Nov. 29th, 2008 12:41 pm (UTC)
Utah Saints?
I recognised Sigur Rós and Aphex Twin (remixed by µ-ziq, I think) - Utah Saints must have been the missing link.

I did try to find you again but was thwarted by.. you know, general thwartings. We watched the sun and the moon from the east side, then went to the Ashmolean, in what sounds like a mirror image of your journey.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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