British-born ED PETERS returns home for the pubs, carols and creature comforts of a traditional English Christmas in southern England


Iwould be fibbing if I said I was one of the very few English grownups who can listen to The Holly and The Ivy without blinking back a tear.

The rising of the sun

And the running of the deer, The playing of the merry organ, Sweet singing in the choir.

Christmas in 2018 is a pretty urbanised and commercialised affair. In Britain, it starts in the supermarkets some time in October, then spreads down the high streets and into every home through TV and pop-up ads online. By the time you get to 25 December, we are stupefied by a Christmas that’s neon and backlit, tinselly and fabulous.

All of which is wonderful and very good for the economy. But The Holly and the Ivy has a deeper, simpler, more powerful magic. It speaks of the old ways, the ancient villages, a rural English Christmas before the John Lewis Christmas ad, before Santa, even before Charles Dickens and Ebenezer Scrooge. I’ve lived in Hong Kong for most of my adult life. That’s the English Christmas I miss. So, that’s the one I decided to go looking for.

The quest began on the motorway that runs south from Gatwick Airport to Brighton, aka London-by-the-Sea.

You need to get off the motorway and go backwards in time. A satnav – or a map and some common sense – can act as a guide along high-hedged country roads that thread their way across the Weald. As you weave between the chalky South Downs and hidden valleys you are already in the droveways of a much older England.

A short detour brings you to Ashdown Forest. This is where you want to be on a frosty morning around Christmastime for the full Holly and the Ivy experience. It was a favoured hunting ground for English kings and queens from Norman times onwards: if there is one place you are guaranteed to see the running of the deer, it’s Ashdown. (But many visitors, especially from Asia, come in search of a different kind of animal: a small bear called Winnie the Pooh, whose creator, AA Milne, lived here in the 1920s.)

From here, we head to Brighton. It’s Christmas: we shop.

Even in this most progressive and hip of English cities, you can find traces of the ‘irregular market town’ this once was before the piers, Pavilion and Premiership football.

The Lanes are a warren of narrow streets much loved by antique dealers; where you can plausibly pretend you’re looking for a present for your wife in, say, 1793.

At Baroque Bespoke Jewellery I pick up a pair of ‘Brighton Rocks’ gold and diamond ear studs, designed and made on the premises.

And it’s Christmas: I need chocolate. Sidestepping She Said (an erotic boutique) and the luxury hair accessories at Tegen, I dive into the gorgeously named Choccywoccydoodah, which makes phantasmagorical cakes and lollies.

The Englishman’s home is his castle. And at Christmas, that home is likely to be a modern suburban house with a fourmetre-long decoration of Santa and his sleigh taking up most of the frontage.

We wanted a proper castle. West of Brighton, happily, there is one.

Amberley is the real thing – portcullis, 18-metre-tall walls, muster of peacocks – and has been around since the 1300s. Now it houses a hotel with 19 bedrooms, whose mullioned windows and antique furnishings murmur ‘quintessentially English’.

There is intense competition among castles and stately homes at Christmas. Amberley keeps the thing simple and traditional with a non-stop combination of ritual and gluttony. You get cream tea (a light afternoon tea of scones, clotted cream and jam) when you arrive, then an a la carte dinner followed by singing lustily at the nearby parish church for midnight Mass. Christmas Day: the full English breakfast, and a six-course lunch and buffet in the evening. It’s a careful balance between the pounds you put on and the pounds you lose (£695 – HK$7,100 – a night for 24-27 December).

As the calorie count mounts, the average Briton is gripped by the need to don an amusing Christmas jumper and Wellington boots and head into the great outdoors.

The South Downs is a wonderful place for a Boxing Day ramble. Boxing Day – said to be named for the church poor box traditionally unlocked immediately after Christmas – demands exercise. I’ve a great fondness for the South Downs Way, a prehistoric path running over the hilltops from Winchester in the general direction of Gatwick and down towards Eastbourne. Its 160 kilometres are way too far for an afternoon potter, but a short section is utterly bracing.

And the British constitution states that a good ramble must end in a good pub.

A little west of the South Downs National Park, at the end of a lane mapped in the 11th century Domesday Book, The Harrow is a perfect pub at any time of year. At Christmastime, it becomes as close to an English heaven on Earth as you’ll find. A log fire crackles, the menu promises ‘scotch eggs (on some days)’, and regulars – mostly grizzled, some less so – have been known to organise a poetry competition.

Despite being bombarded with enthusiastic praise by award presenters, guidebooks and websites, The Harrow – dating from the 16th century – changes little, welcoming to outsiders but essentially a social pivot for anyone who lives within walking distance.

‘ There’s a lot of banter, like thinking up a faux Wi-Fi password – though naturally the pub’s not wired,’ says Jhon Cosgrove, who lives in a nearby timbered cottage.

‘Many of the beers, like Bowman’s Swift One and Ringwood Best Bitter, are brewed here in Hampshire. The Harrow’s certainly not a gastropub, simply somewhere that serves very good, simple food. The Ploughman’s – bread, cheese and pickle – is gigantic and genuine.’

Like Christmas itself, Christmas dinner has extended way beyond the confines of 25 December. Pubs and inns like The Wykeham Arms in Winchester, the former capital of England, and The Montagu Arms in Brockenhurst, on the edge of the 1,000-year-old New Forest, roll out £30-a-head seasonal menus (HK$300) for pretty much the whole of December. Roast turkey with chestnut and sage stuffing is de rigueur, Christmas pudding – crowned with a sprig of holly and flamed with brandy – remains the only acceptable follow-through, though I can rarely resist a mince pie and brandy butter. The Wykeham Arms is also handily close to the cathedral, which traces its origins to 642 AD and come December hosts a German-style market, an outdoor skating rink and a sublime carol service lead by 22 boy choristers.

To finish: a Harry Potteresque journey watching the countryside going past, in a painstakingly restored steam engine thundering along the Watercress Line between Alresford and Alton. It’s a fitting way to end my Yuletide journey. Not once have I been tempted to use the words ‘contemporary’ or ‘vibrant’. You can spend the rest of the year looking for that. Christmas is for the cosy set.


The writer rented a car through Hertz. For special promotions, visit hertzmultibrand. com/cathaypacific

最念懷 的就是種這統傳英的式誕聖 節,所以我決定踏上旅途,前尋往 覓一番。

這旅趟 程的起點格,由 域蓋( 特威克)機場通往南部布萊頓(又名海邊的倫敦)的高路速公 上展開。

不過你要及時離開現化公代 的 路駛,往古老的車路。一個衛星導航系統或一張地圖,再加上一點普通常識,就可以引導你沿著兩旁樹木稠密的鄉間道路,穿越蘭英格 東南的部 Weald森林地帶你堊。當 在白 地質的南斯唐 及隱蔽的山谷之間的道車 上迂迴前行你時, 已踏足一個更古老的英。格蘭

繞行段一 短程後,就來到Ashdown Forest森林。在聖節誕 前後的嚴寒早上這,裡徹是 底體驗〈Holly and the Ivy〉歌曲內容的地由最佳 點。 諾曼時代起,這個地就方是多位英方蘭帝后最喜歡的狩獵場地。如果你要個找 保證能見到鹿在飛奔的地方,就一定要來Ashdown。(過多客不 很 旅 ,尤其是亞旅洲的 客前, 來這裡是為了尋另找 一種動物:一隻名叫維尼的小熊;這小隻的熊作創者米AA 恩於1920年代在這居裡 住。)

讓們這我從 裡出發前往布萊頓。時逢



巷子區副名 其實裡, 面盡是狹窄的小街巷。這一區有許多出售古董和舊物的店舖,你大日少可假 活在1793年,到這些店舖為太太挑選一禮份物。

我在Baroque Bespoke Jewellery首店飾挑選了一對「Brighton Rocks」黃金鑲鑽石耳環,店內自設工作坊,這對耳環從設計到製造全在部 店內完成。

由於是聖誕節,所日我需要買點朱古力於。 是我繞過情色精品店She Said和高級髮飾店Tegen,走進名字古怪有趣的糕

餅甜店品 Choccywoccydoodah,裡面放 滿型的了造 奇幻 蛋糕糖和 果。

英國人家的就是他的城堡。在聖節誕的時候,這個家很可能是一座位鄉於 郊的現代房子,門前擺放了全長四米的聖人誕老 與鹿車少飾。

不過我們要找一座真正的城堡,幸好在布萊西頓 面就有一座。

Amberley是貨價真 實的城堡,沉擁有重的吊閘、18米高的護城牆群雀、成 的孔,

應有盡有,而且歷史可日溯追 至1300年代。城堡現在是一家設有19間客房的酒店房, 間內的直櫺與窗 古色古香的家具和佈置,散發出「典型的英式風味」。

聖節誕期間,眾多城堡和豪華古宅之間競爭十分激烈。Amberley的特色是維持簡單而傳統慶方的 祝 式:除了上教堂之其外,餘的時間是都大吃大喝。聖誕前夕,客人剛抵達酒時, 店會奉上包鬆括 餅、凝塊忌廉及果醬的簡便下午茶,接著是客可人 按菜單隨意點菜餐後的晚 。飯 到附近的教區禮拜堂參加子夜彌,撒 盡情引吭高唱讚美。詩歌 聖誕日當天,首先是豐富的英式早餐,隨後是六道的菜 午和餐 自助餐晚。想在這個古堡歡度聖誕就節, 要小心平衡你身體增加的磅數和荷包裡花掉的英鎊金額( 12月24至27日入住,每晚費用695英,鎊 即7,100港)元 。

隨著吃進肚裡的卡路里數字不斷上升,英國人會上案就 穿 圖 有趣的聖套毛誕 頭衣和靈威 頓長筒靴,奔向戶外廣闊的天地。

聖誕節翌日就是節禮日,據說源自教會傳,統 當天會將濟貧的奉獻箱打開將, 裡面的金錢派給窮人。這天也是應該做運動的日子,我漫喜歡步南斯道唐小 ,這一是 條古道,可日溯追 至史前時代;從溫徹斯特的山丘頂端開始,朝著方域蓋( 特威克)及Eastbourne鎮的方向往下伸延,全長160公里。這個長法度沒 於一個下午從完容走 ,不過行段一小 卻令人感到心曠神怡。

英國人在輕步鬆散 完後畢之 ,一定要找家酒酌吧小 一下。

在南唐斯國家公園西面不遠,處 一條早於世11 紀英的 方蘭地理人口調查文獻《Domesday Book》上現出 的古老小徑盡頭,就是The Harrow,這是一家無論何時光顧皆宜的酒吧。聖節誕期間吧,更酒是散發濃得化不開的英國風味:有木柴燒得劈啪作響的火爐菜、 單上還有「蘇蘭方蛋」(只限某些日子供應, ) 日及一群大部分已頭髮花白的老主顧;這些人會在酒吧內舉行詩歌比賽。

這家酒吧於世16 紀開業至今,備受各種獎旅項、 遊南指 及網站的讚揚,但吧酒本身基本上沒麼有什 重大變化,前光來 顧的客熟都是住在附近的居民,除了喝酒之外,也是街坊鄰里社交聊天的聚腳點。

Jhon Cosgrove就住在附近一所小木屋子內,:他說 「這人裡的 非常喜歡,說笑例如酒吧升升沒有Wi- Fi無線上網,但是他們會捏造一些假的密作碼來 笑談。」

「這裡有多款啤酒,例如Bowman的Swift One和Ringwood的Best Bitter,都是 在漢普郡釀製的。The Harrow酒然吧當不是一家供應高級佳餚的酒吧但, 食都物 是十分美味而簡單。那裡的農夫午餐麵有包、芝醃士和 菜,不但量份 奇大,而且風味非常地道。」

一如誕本聖 節身,聖誕大餐現在也不再局限於在12月25日才吃有, 些酒吧館和旅於個整 12月都推位出每 30英鎊( 300港元)的應節餐單,例如在英方蘭舊都溫徹斯特的The Wykeham Arms,日及Brockenhurst

村莊內的The Montagu Arms(村莊就在有千年歷史的新旁森林 邊) ,嚐都可 到這種聖誕大餐的滋味。腹內釀了栗子和鼠尾草的烤火固不或雞 然 可 缺,而甜品則必定上是面放了一小枝冬青的聖誕布甸,上桌時再淋上白蘭地然後點火;不過令我難日拒抗 的卻是免乾果 治批配加了白蘭地的牛油。The Wykeham Arms酒館與建於公元642年的大教堂相鄰,12月會開國設德 式的市集,還有戶溜外 冰場和聖誕頌歌崇拜,由名22 男童組成的唱帶詩班 領,歌揚聲悠動人。

此外,你也日可 選擇來一趟哈利波特式的列車之旅,安坐Watercress Line鐵路日心修精 復的蒸汽火車頭推動的列車車廂內,看著窗外的郊野風景在你眼溜前 過。這列火車往返Alresford鎮與Alton鎮之間我,日乘坐火車來為這趟誕聖 之旅劃上完美句號。寫這篇文章時,我完全沒想要過 用「現代」或熱「 鬧」等字眼,你大可日在年中其餘時間追尋這些東西但, 在誕聖 節理,應是馨溫 愜的意 時候。

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