Miriam’s Dickensian Christmas Review – Margolis are rich and heavy like drunken pudding

Miriam Margolis does not like Christmas. It’s the expense, the stress, the hypocrisy: “People buy gifts for people they don’t like, with money they don’t have.”

Excess is obscene—these days, it’s all about Christmas phrases and John Lewis ads, she says. “When it comes to Christmas, I wonder if I’m a little stingy.”

It was not part of her Jewish childhood, though she remembers her mother cooking turkey and inviting people around. So, can the ghost of Christmas past – her Charles Dickens lover and the template he sets for the season of goodwill – make her feel festive about the future of Christmas, and find joy in the gift of Christmas? Miriam’s Dickensian birthday (Channel 4) is one such attempt.

I have to say I adore Margolis, and will watch her do just about anything. This program, though, is like a cracker with disappointing bangs and little inside. This does not mean that everything is bad. It’s a great idea for a show, and Margulies is a lifelong and knowledgable Dickens fan. I loved reading it from A Christmas Carol, rich and rich as pudding. When you visit his home on Doughty Street, now a museum, and sit at his desk in the room where he wrote Oliver Twist—the first of his works she read as an 11-year-old—she is overcome with emotion. “Why do you make me cry? Because my whole life has been radiated, pleased and enriched by this man.”

I could have done that with the help of a trio of Margolyes on Dickens. Instead, we got a bit of Victorian food—mock turtle soup made with calf’s head, basically for the shit factor (“It’s gross,” says Margolies, eyeball-to-eyeball with tongue-terror skin). Then a visit to the Pollock Toy Museum, where they still make cardboard toy theaters of the kind Dickens kids would have had (that part was magical, actually). And Margolis did some craft work, making “Dickensian” ornaments out of a piece of paper and some ivy. “I think it looks lush and euphoric,” she declares, somewhat overly generous.

Back at the museum, Margolis is shown a lost picture of Dickens, which leads us neatly into child poverty in the writer’s time. The artist Margaret Gillis also illustrated a debtor’s report on child labour, which described children as young as four working in the mines. “Some of them are very young, in their nightgowns,” says Lucinda Huxley, a descendant of Dickens. Margaret Gillies told Dickens about this when she was painting his portrait, which inspired him to write A Christmas Carol.

Dickens, who grew up in poverty — as a child, worked in a shoe-shine factory — never forgot what it was like to be poor, Margolis points out. I know it’s supposed to be fun and festive, but this program could have delved deeper into Christmas when food banks are overrun and families choose between heating and eating. It doesn’t seem like enough to enjoy a £1,000 box of crackers at Fortnum & Mason – “What about all those who don’t really have that much money?” When was Dickens’ book so angry at the treatment of the poor, Margulies wonders.

There’s more to come, once Margolis hosts her first Christmas lunch (no mock turtle soup here) with surplus food collected and cooked by someone from Project Felix, a charity that cooks food for those in need using food that would otherwise go to waste. “It’s unbelievable that we’re wasting all this food and yet every day 400,000 children in London don’t get a proper meal,” says Lyons, chef at the charity. Dickens would have agreed, says our host, sitting at the head of the table, wearing a crown, and not for the first time made me think how wonderful it would be if Margulies were queen.

Did you spot some festive spirit? Well, she enjoyed her party, and remembered Dickens’ “message of hope, redemption, and above all, being kind.” She didn’t seem to take it seriously. She recalled her childhood Christmas lunches to which her mother invited lonely people, whom Margulies described as “boring” and “kind of lame ducks”. For true Christmas spirit, she probably should have looked closer to home.

#Miriams #Dickensian #Christmas #Review #Margolis #rich #heavy #drunken #pudding

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *