This brilliant Christmas Cake was made and iced by Ladies Fauset– climate activists Claire and Sophie and their mother Barbara too. They made it to honour Phil Ball and all the Arctic 30, Greenpeace heroes who paid a price of imprisonment for drawing attention to Russian oil drilling in the Arctic. The cake is funny and celebratory and a kind of Christmas toast. Of course there’s also the pun — the problem with the ice(ing). But when I saw the photo, the crack reminded me of that kind of anxiety that accompanies the knowledge that our world is in a state of change and crisis that is going to have quite some consequences.
Christmas is one of those holidays through which we mark time, years advancing, my children growing. Because I juggle with pessimism about the future, I hide the sadness to protect their innocence. We act jolly. But I feel time marching forward– New Years is stong for this too– when I want it to stay still, so we can stop ice melting and oceans warming and figure out what to do PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!
My husband is a climate change campaigner, and so we speak often about the subject, about the future, but also about how people who know and don’t know deal with the knowledge of how serious a situation we find ourselves in, regarding the climate.
So I could only laugh when I realised the Freudian Slip of a Christmas dessert George came up with for our Christmas dinner: Baked Alaska. It was quite delicious: a soft meringue baked in a hot oven around a store-bought Madeira Sponge wrapped around frozen foraged blackberries and home-grown raspberries mounded on a core of vanilla ice cream. It came to the table as a festive masterpiece, and spoke of the wish, The Wish, that something sweet and cold could stay protected and eternal beneath all our technological machinations.
(A brief read on Wikipedia told me that when the microwave was invented a Hungarian physicist and “molecular gastronomist” produced something the opposite, a “Frozen Florida” in which the meringue remained frozen but the inner liquor was heated. Oh the possibilities of climate chaos, and every weird combination of everything, everywhere.)
Meanwhile I bought a £2 (reduced from £4) Christmas Pudding, not because any of us especially enjoy it, but because the brandy heated and set on fire makes the most beautiful dancing blue flame, something spiritual and numinous, sacred, magical, heat and light in this cold dark time of year. I think we’ll light it tomorrow, because we haven’t done so yet tonight.
And I’ll say a little personal prayer of thanks to people who are putting their lives on the line, like the Arctic 30 did, trying to guide a better future into being– and let myself feel inspired and empowered by them to be ever more active and vocal.