Before we went to the official countdown, the whole family shivered into Marks & Spencer to pick up a new winter coat for Jonathan. He found a very well-insulated jacket with hood that he refused to take off; the cashier just pulled the bar code close and scanned the jacket, taking Jonathan with it! He didn't complain. Before I had finished paying for the jacket, Mark turned up at the check out with a new hat, which he needed, and a bottle of port, which perhaps he did not. Jonathan then passed his old blue fleece jacket on to Christopher, so everyone was better prepared to face the evening chill.
While waiting until six o'clock for the lighting of all the decorations, we listened to big band jazz (love the American import!), shivered along with everyone, and ate roasted chestnuts. The big band belted out jazz standards and Christmas songs just as merrily as any I'd ever heard. I hoped that the chestnuts would live up to all the press that they get in Christmas songs (you know, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," and all the rest), but these nuts were not crunchy as I'd hoped. They were soft and sort of mealy, like "a baked baby potato," according to Mark. I'm not sure I liked eating them, but they were nice and warm in our hands!
And finally the moment came! Santa Claus (Yes, they called him Santa Claus -- another American import, I suppose) stepped onto the balcony of Maidenhead Town Hall with two children who had won a coloring contest. The announcer started the countdown, and Santa and the children pushed down the big plunger that turned on all the lights in town. Then the fireworks exploded from the roof of town hall. I was surprised they would have fireworks like that so close to the crowds, but I guess the neighboring roofs were damp from recent drizzle and the air was cold, so no one was concerned about a fire hazard. The entire crowd oohed and aahed with the explosions, hisses, and crackles.
Then we marched onward to KFC to celebrate Jonathan's thirteenth birthday. Well, we shuffled and tried to keep from getting separated on our way to KFC, truth be told. Fortunately, Mark is currently moving slower, so it was easier for the rest of us to keep up. The line snaked out the door to the dark sidewalk outside. We strained our necks to check the menu board for our favorite chicken in large, greasy, crispy quantities. Although the chicken was exactly where we expected it, the biscuits were missing! I didn't expect them to be called biscuits because that's the term used for cookies (sweet biscuits) or crackers (savoury biscuits). But there was not a single bread-like item on the menu. Also, there was no macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes. I know, I can't expect everyone in the UK to adjust to my desires, but I have certain expectations for KFC! We recovered from our disappointment quickly enough to enjoy our hot, greasy chicken.