A rare moment of Christmas magic touched Bloomsbury yesterday. It was around four in the afternoon and we had been feeding starving squirrels on Tavistock Square, each one variously soaked and filthy from scratching about in the vast bog that is supposed to be lawn. Once we’d run out of nuts, we had to run ourselves because they were intent on following us, so hungry and desperate were they. Crossing Gordon Square, we heard the strange sound of voices singing, echoing through the quiet streets – quiet only because the council has changed the one-way system and two thirds of the road is now given over to cyclists, thus screwing up the traffic for miles around. We couldn’t figure out where the singing was coming from as it echoed off all the buildings. I thought it must be the large, ornate church that looms on Byng Place but the lights weren’t on. It was that time of afternoon when ordinary lights everywhere were glittering like Christmas trees in the damp dark, reflecting off the black mirror streets and turning the foggy sky a weird mauve colour. We wandered towards Waterstones to inspect the new cafe and were amazed to find that Waterstones has undergone a transformation: the windows are now “open” so that you can see right into the shop. Instead of the usual boring displays, they were decidedly Christmassy. There was even fake snow. The new cafe is now on the ground floor and has been named Dillons. If you know the history of Waterstones on Gower Street, you’ll understand the poignancy. But the cafe was full of students frantically stabbing laptops and it didn’t look half as inviting as the old Costa downstairs (my favourite branch, now gone). Perhaps I’ll try it out later when it’s quieter. The singing turned out to be a choir doing fantastic harmonies on standard Christmas Carols outside the church on Byng Place. One of the choir members was wearing a Santa hat. On Gordon Square, deserted and dark, there were four robins competing beautifully and several startled blackbirds, but the wet squirrels on Tavistock Square had gone to bed. If you see them, feed them.
I live in Bloomsbury.