On the bus, two pairs of identical twin toddlers poke each other in the face and giggle. One is wearing a bright scarlet wooly hat with two pom-poms on the top that enrages her; and she angrily takes it off every time her mum jams it on – a lifetime battle of wills in the making. The girls are dressed identically in sugar and spice pink and scarlet; to underline their distinctive similarity. “Look. I’ve got two of the same one.” The boys are in a mustard sludge colour; making the same point in a more “puppy dog tail” way. And so, we are branded and colour coded before we can talk. I recall one of the six year olds I used to try to teach to read saying very indignantly to me “Boys can’t wear PINK!” I was wearing a pink sweater at the time. I think the word he meant was “daren’t.”
Out the bus window at the bottom of the hill waiting to turn onto the Edgware road, climbing up the wall of one of those painfully thin first generation council houses that seem to exist nowhere other than Barnet – “Honey! I shrunk the house” – homes fit for heroes who weren’t quite heroic enough – there is a very small Santa seemingly caught mid burglary. Perhaps its his size, that of a wiry goblin, or the lack of any visible support or props – no sleigh or reindeer or even a ladder – that makes him look so menacing.
In a sudden break with the norm, a huge chatter of Parakeets flashes across the milky sky above the Sainsbury store, glinting green in the pallid sunlight; still an exciting shock to see, like finding a bright shoal of tropical fish in a dull suburban pond.
In the store. a bloke wearing foam antlers looks miserably at the bananas.
In the evening, Christmas lights glow in windows – some elegantly soothing, in white or deep colours like a collection of gem stones in stained glass – some overloaded and crass, an embodiment of the principle that more is all too often less, and flashing manically like alarms – inducing just the thoughts of panic, migraine and epilepsy you need for a season of peace.