I wont lie, I am not a fan of Christmas. It was not a time of great joy during my own childhood. Although I more than made up for my own experience with some pretty good presents for my son when he was young. As a grown man, his taste is now far too expensive for the likes of me and I refuse to receive a gift from him. He has better things to spend his money on.
So with no real family and a vegan diet that is allergy driven: what dinner invitations I get, I tend to turn down. In the “old days” I used to head for the beach on Christmas day. One cant beat a beer and sunshine in the Caribbean or Som Tam and a party in Asia. But that was before Treacle the dog came on the scene and my allergies were identified. One of which is beer.
Instead of sitting around and getting bored, this year. I Got up early, assembled the troops and headed to London at 5am. The plan was to hit as many landmarks as possible and get some cool shots of the van.
My two main goals: one, get a shot of a Christmas tree through the back doors of the van. Two, get a picture of the van with a good landmark in the background. We aced the Christmas tree first time, the building behind it was a bonus shot. Piccadilly Circus on the other hand was something of a disappointment. Obviously I still live in the 70’s, so envisioned the Coca Cola sign arching around the corner of the building. Instead of which I was met with flatscreens that we could not even get in shot when we parked.
Despite the disappointment I felt emboldened. So I decided to see if I could tempt one of Londons more famous residents to an early morning tattoo with a glimpse of the truck. This could still prove to be a mistake, although they do say that any publicity is good publicity.
I heard him before I saw him. Then I saw the machine gun. Then the checkered stripe around the hat. Whilst he screamed at me “to get in my van and foxtrot” ( I think he said foxtrot ) I somehow thought it would make things “better” if I quickly explained that the van was a tattoo studio and we were visiting landmarks. It did not help.
Not actually sure what order we visited the next landmarks in. Nelsons Column and the London Eye were two good locations. To tell the truth: I was busy watching the mirrors for mi6 on the way home. No doubt I wont have long to wait for the postman to bring a bag full of Christmas morning traffic violations. It was worth it, it was fun, depending on the eventual fines of course.
We dined on a vegan breakfast of falafel salad and coffee in Gloucester Place London. There is no Vegan cafe there, we simply parked in full stealth mode and put the kettle on. We were grateful for a hot drink to warm our bones. Even though we only left the van to get the pictures it was a bitterly cold night.
I was quite pleased with myself, having captured some pretty decent pictures. But we were all troubled by some of the not so well known London sights.
I don’t get out much. It has been a long time since I travelled through London in the early hours of the morning. I was shocked to the core by the sheer number of homeless people sleeping on the street. To think that even one or two of them are ex-squaddies made my blood boil. It was quite heartbreaking to see.
There was not a lot of conversation on the drive home from London. It had been an interesting and thought provoking journey. On arrival at home base I clicked on the TV to check the news. As I did not fancy watching Kay Burley on Christmas morning or for that matter the BBC 2018 year in review I switched over to RT news as a first time viewer.
For a Russian state sponsored peddler of propaganda, they put together a very decent report on homelessness in London. It was not propaganda, because we had just witnessed it only an hour or so before with our own eyes.
But for the grace of God that could be me or any one of us. The experience made me reflect on my own circumstances. I have no family therefore no real “safety net”, I have been caught out by the housing market so have to make the best of a “bad lot” with my living arrangements. In my early tattoo career I spent at least six months “sofa surfing” whilst I tried to work out if I even had a career. Moreover I remember what it is like to be bitterly cold, the army will do that to you.
I have an idea. I am not sure if it is a good idea of if it is even feasible. Would it not be nice if at least some of the homeless in London were to benefit from a “Secret Santa”? I wonder how many gifts I could fit in the back of the Tattoo Race truck with the tattoo chair and workstation removed?
It would need to be a useful and uniformed gift. Toothpaste, a new toothbrush, clean dry socks, waterproof matches, zip lock bags, wet wipes and plasters are a few items that spring to mind. Perhaps a small kit that would make Christmas day on the streets a little bit better. It would have to be wrapped.
Having never undertaken such a task before I wonder if it is achievable with my existing workload. The thought of running around London in the early hours of Christmas morning with a real mission whilst in full stealth mode does appeal to me. Can I blag the money and press gang the volunteers that I will need to pull this off? This question needs to be answered.
I have not wrapped a present in years. At the very least a three man crew will be needed to undertake the mission. Camouflage Santa suits would be a nice touch. I am going to need some help over here.
It makes you wonder what Lord Nelson or any of the other great British soldiers remembered in the monuments of London would think? If they knew how many of their comrades now sleep on the streets of this once great nation. We open our doors to everyone and then give them a pavement to sleep on? This is just not British. We need to sort this out.
So this year I am going to try and do my bit. It may not amount to much but I am going to give it a damn good go. Even if it means digging into my own pocket. I have not even worked out a unit cost yet, but ten pound seems fair for a “secret Santa” present does it not? So I will buy the first twenty five units. Worst case scenario: twenty five people who expected nothing on Christmas morning 2019 will get something. Hopefully WE can do better than just twenty five.
I needed a new hobby for 2019, I now have one: Blagging. I shall be blagging the whole of 2019 in aid of “Secret Santa On The Road”
Merry Christmas London 2018. See you next year. Thank you, God bless you and wishing you all a happy and prosperous New Year! To all of my customers, friends and peers for supporting me, keeping me on the road and motivated, thank you. 2018 was a very tough year, I am looking forward to hitting the road hard in 2019.
Don’t Get Left Behind!