What are you most looking forward to about Christmas? Speak to a young Londoner in their twenties like me and the answer may surprise you. My friends and I mostly live centrally (many in Islington); most of us have jobs that range from acceptably to well-paid. Some of us have even bought houses further out east. We’re young and hungry and in the big city, so why is our festive talk this year so grim?
Simple: it’s the cost-of-living crisis. “Have you turned on the heating yet?” was the common refrain before this week. Now the cold snap has hit, it’s more: “How little can you get away with having the heating on?” Chatter about holidays has been put to bed with a hot water bottle — who’s travelling, due to baggage and train strikes?
Instead, we swap tales about the mould colonies growing in poorly ventilated flats, the price of food and transport (don’t get me started on how much a Tube fare is) and how much of our salary goes on rent each month. The benefits of wearing slippers in cold houses is another hot topic. We’ve all turned into grumpy pensioners counting every penny that passes out of our bank accounts; Christmas meals out are a distant dream.
With that in mind, the Christmas break has never seemed so alluring. Every day this week I’ve woken up able to see the breath in front of my face in my rented flat. Trips into the office have become must-haves thanks to the building’s excellent central heating.
But heading home — ah, at home there are good-quality duvets and parents who are willing to splash out on the cost of radiators, and log burners that it’s possible to curl up in front of for hours. At home, Christmas is King and I’m lucky enough that the cost of food magically ceases to matter for a week or so. And even better, there’ll be no taking the Tube for a whole week: a miracle in itself.
So roll on the break. As I head home this year (with my fingers and toes crossed for no train strike-related disasters) the festive period feels like more of a lifeline than ever before: a chance to save money, eat well and sleep in a room that is, for once, heated.
And who knows? Maybe my numb toes will finally have the chance to thaw before I head back to London after the New Year.