Christmas In London

Christopher Wren, Karl Marx, Stamp Duties, And Snow Flurries–Christmastime In London

“‘Just go through the archway on the left of the Cathedral Square, walk past the Christmas tree, cross the street, and you will be there,’ said Diane.

“It worked,” reports friend and Roving Correspondent Vivian Lewis.

“I hit the City of London yesterday to check out shopping beyond Westfield malls, including the outpost of Mammon by St. Paul’s Cathedral. Under the official name of One New Change, and the unofficial one of ‘Cheapside Mall,’ this is a cross-shaped set of passages between four glitzy glass towers connected only above the street level just past the Cathedral Christmas Tree across a street.

“Howling winds and snow flurries harried the few pre-Christmas shoppers in the mall’s wide corridors, which lack any cozy amenities like seats or a cafe where you can place your sugar daddy until his checkbook is required. But the passages do give you occasional startling juxtapositions of full views of Sir Christopher Wren’s cathedral masterpiece alongside yet another overpriced jewelry shop.

“Luckily there are some more down-market women’s clothing chains in the mix. While City men are rich and powerful, their female support staff are not overpaid and shop at The Gap, Monsoon, and Mango.

“On the other side of St. Paul’s you can glimpse another local house of worship, St. Vedast Alias Porter, an odd name for a saint. Why did Vedast require a pseudonym?

“Two comments. First, remember that the Brits pronounce ‘Mall’ to rhyme with ‘Hell.’ Second, if there was any doubt in your mind, Cheapside ain’t cheap. I await the opening next year of the Stratford Westfield East near my base at Mudchute Manor for serious shopping therapy.

“Despite my hesitation over pricing, I did buy some bright glittery trousers and a top for pre-Christmas parties, for a total outlay of GBP 19.90, which was not too excessive.

“Upon my return to Mudchute (that’s a real station on the DLR) I was shocked to discover that my broker, Fidelity, had just billed me for Stamp Duty on a transaction done on the London stock exchange before I left home. Stamp Duty brings out my Tea-Party instincts. We do not pay such iniquitous taxes when we are U.S. residents and citizens with American brokerage accounts run by Fidelity, which moreover is HQ’d in Boston, the city where our Revolution began. I expect to get my Stamp Duty back before July 4, 2011. Of course I invest internationally, being the editor of, but I do not expect to pay duty to the successors of George III.

“Because about an inch of snow has fallen on London since I bought my glad rags, I shall not be wearing them tonight at one of the pre-Christmas feasts one attends at this time of year. This one is taking place in the People’s Republic of Islington, a north London center of liberalism, something like the Upper West Side of Manhattan where I grew up.

“Last night, pre-snow, I met again the only remaining Latin American journalist who is a Marxist. He is a Briton called Gott, which may explain why he fell for Karl Marx’s version of history in the first place. One would be anti-clerical if one was called Gott. It’s a Yorkshire name.

“London is like that. Leftism is part of the traditions Britons relish, along with fattening Christmas foods like mince pies, Christmas pudding, roast turkey, bread sauce, and Brussels sprouts and parsnips. The latter appeal to me more than mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping as a side dish, but Marxism is positively anachronistic even in one who covers Latin America.

“The snow here does not bring out bevies of young men with shovels offering to remove the white stuff from your driveway, paths, and pavements. This is yet another result of an overgenerous welfare state. The youths are so well compensated for joblessness and being ineligible for any gainful employment that they do not even offer to shovel your snow…”

Kathleen Peddicord

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