A Short Antidote to Christmas Cheer

If you are one of those who is finding the day a little saccherine-sweet: why, this is for you.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with the season.

It is an illustration of that most refreshing additions to the cloyed palette, the anonymous curmudgeon.

You don’t know him: I don’t know him.

He’s just very grumpy.

In the early days of Summer Maddie, Felix and I were incredibly lucky. When Phil jaunted off to Germany by overnight sleeper train, we were packed off to London to see some of our favourite places.

After years of shaking our heads sadly at the admission prices and sermonising to ticketers outside, we clutched the coins in our purses and lined up for entrance to the Tower of London.

Oh, joy! Oh, wonder of wonders! This hallowed piece of earth where Elizabeth I had moored, the Princes had played, Charles II had his menagerie: you can imagine we were in seventh heaven.

And when I am in seventh Heaven, I take photographs. Clickclickwhirrwhirrclickclick.

I snapped the buildings from every possible angle: then Maddie spotted a raven on the lawns and of course, we had to have a Vogue-style photoshoot. Over here, raven; a little to the right; next to Maddie; next to Felix; you get the picture.

We snapped window-views, battlement-views, white towers, tudor-bricked rooms, traitor’s gates.

And of course, we snapped those pantalooned guardians of the Tower, Beefeaters.

There are cheery Beefeaters; and there are less cheery beefeaters.

A cheery Beefeater was waxing lyrical to a huge crowd gathered by the main gate, telling tales of heads chopped and pokers inserted where really, a poker has no business going.

The crowd was lapping it up. The Beefeater’s face was animated, his arms expansive. He made the most perfect photo op, entrancing the tourists. We would catch up with him now and then, bawling happy anecdotes at everyone who cared to listen.

As we wandered, full of stories and pictures, through the green at the centre of the tower, we happened upon a little Beefeater shed.

These are scattered through the Tower’s grounds. They are jolly smart: and they sit Beefeaters in them. Why, I am not quite sure. It looks to be some sort of steward role. Anyhow, sitting inside the shed was a Beefeater, stewarding or suchlike.

Ooooh! I squeaked. Project! Beefeater framed perfectly by little house!

The children stood back and I waited for the Beefeater to adjust his face.

This man did not want to be there. His face was a curious mixture of tedium and pique. Had he been able, I feel sure he would have clicked his fingers and transported himself to virtually anywhere else in the world.

I waited. His face did not adjust. We were staring at each other. I must have had a think bubble over my head: “Well…..go on, then!”

But much as I mentally urged him to change his demeanour, his face wore the same expression of disgruntlement. So many tourists, and they all want a smile, the expression read. Think you’re the first person who ever snapped a beefeater-in-a-little-house shot? Lady, you are the 1,106th today to try this. My patience wore out at number 5.

Usually our cookie slightly odd off-the-wall charm melts these types. But not today. Oh, no.

I clicked anyway. And every time I look at it, it makes me laugh.

And so, the Beefeater would probably be outraged to learn that he is to bring a little non-Christmas cheer to this day, for those of you who don’t really feel much like celebrating.

I have saved the best till last.

44 thoughts on “A Short Antidote to Christmas Cheer

  1. Ah yes, we must always have the curmudgeons to remind us of what we never want to become. This particular Beefeater probably gets great joy by being the photo spoiler, although for the life of me, I would wonder why the Tower would want such spoil sports as a representative.

    1. I know! I could not believe anyone could be that blatantly rude! Why would anyone apply for a job at the tower if they didn’t want to be cheerful with tourists?

      He does make me laugh, though: every time I look at his face.

    1. Ah, that’s it, Karen! you have solved the mystery! The poor chap just has really dodgy neurotransmitters.

      If I am ever feeling glum, I just have to look at this picture and I want to laugh. He hath given us a great gift this day πŸ˜€

      1. Dear Kate, I stumbled over this photo and was in histerics. I have a great of sympathy for this fine looking chap and I intend to use the photo if I may as my Facebook profile photo – because it is I. I am the guilty beefeater. The expression I wore is one of resigned desperation mixed with the boredom and after effects of the night before. However, I would like to point out that usually I am a cheerful chap with a sunny disposition (some have compared me to the Easter bunny on Prosac.

      2. Mark, what a lovely surprise. Thank you for your good humour: I hope you will forgive the liberty but it’s not every day you get a beefeater replying to your blog, and I have blogged about it. We bloggers are just verbose leaky cauldrons at heart. Enjoy the picture πŸ™‚ And maybe, we’ll see you at the Tower one day in the Summer for a smiley pic!

  2. Perhaps he’s really MI5 and was waiting for one of his resources to drop off a flash drive or some microfilm. Those people get quite testy when their missions are interrupted by camera-toting tourists, you know.

    1. You have a point. I should have sidled up to him and said through the corner of my mouth “Ze Vether in Prague is delightful this time of year I hear” and waited for him to hand over the blueprints.

  3. Bravo! Love love luv this pic, Kate. I’m even more enjoying your lovely tale (thou it isn’t lovely, its ghostly!). You are such a talent! Thank you for blessing us with your gifts, and thank you for being so kind to visit my humble blog. Merry Christmas to you and the crew. May you see great fortune in 2012, that includes, your name in published fame (of course, if that is your wish) Cheers ~ angela

    1. Angela, what a wonderful comment. Just the kind a fairy godmother might make. I love your blog – what an incredibly intuitive breath of fresh air – and wouldn’t miss it for the worlds.

      Have a wonderful Christmas break.

  4. Ha ha!

    Loved: A cheery Beefeater was waxing lyrical to a huge crowd gathered by the main gate, telling tales of heads chopped and pokers inserted where really, a poker has no business going.

  5. What a great face! I feel just like that today as I await a post-Christmas client. Too much holiday has worn me thin; I shall take a lesson from the Beefeater and try not to be a spoil sport!

    1. It must be tough, watching tourists file by and ask the same questions and take the same photos, Elizabeth. I suppose we must cut our grumpy beefeater a little slack πŸ™‚

      Hope you’re feeling full of – well- New Year hope – very soon!

    1. If you had stood there, Cameron, to take that snap: I was laughing almost so hard I was falling over, and he kept that granite face all the way through…they choose the grimmest guardians for the Tower, you know….

      1. Somewhere there is a photo of me with a grim, but less expressively so,Tower Guard – and with a man dressed as a teddy bear dressed as a Beefeater. Of course.

      2. Naturally: with beefeaters like mine it’s important to demonstrate the Tower has a cuddly side…it also helps to offset the whole head-on-the-block-terrifying-torture thing. Honestly, the English: execute hordes horribly and then expect a bloke dressed as a bear dressed as a beefeater cuddly bear to make it all just go away πŸ˜€

  6. Hi, came across this by mistake and couldn’t help but read … did make me smile but I have to feel for these guys, after serving 22 + in the armed forces it is quite the career change. I bet the marjority of people don’t even ask them if they can take their photograph … it must be so annoying having a camera shoved in their face without so much as a please or thankyou … wouldn’t you agree?

  7. Hilarious! This made me ferret out our photos with a Beefeater from AGES ago, just to check his expression! No contest, your guy wins hands down in the curmudgeon department πŸ˜€

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