Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Santa's Mushroom Village

'Er, well, it's a kind of hole in a rock, perhaps all covered in snow'.

Last week I'd met with puzzled faces and blank stares from the Spanish teachers in Zamora. They'd enjoyed my Christmas Quiz, but were stumped by the question: 'Where does Santa live?'

Was it in:

a) a cabin

b) a chimney

c) a grotto

My Oxford Dictionary Thesaurus says a grotto is ' a picturesque cave' and I recall they were popular as writers' retreats in the eighteenth century. Alexander Pope had one in the garden of his house in Twickenham. The local History Museum and Art Gallery in Blackheath, a converted convent, had one too. Maybe it's iconic, associated with Lourdes and other places where the Blessed Virgin appeared. I've always hankered after a grotto, although I'd settle for a caravan at Whitstable.

So I was dismay to see that the Lewisham Santa doesn't have a grotto; he has a Mushroom Village. Why a mushroom village? It's not very Christmassy, and not even a very accurate description, as the 'mushrooms' are toadstools. Maybe it's an obscure advertising ploy thought up by the market traders.

At least the live elf was authentic- when she saw me wielding a camera she leapt down the path and said it would cost me £1 to take her photograph! I suppose it's all in a good cause if the money really does go to the hospice, but I do like a nice grotto at Christmas

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