A Spot Of X Factor, Karaoke Carol Singing
The weekend was a total mash-up. A blend of birthday and Christmas festivities over a driving beat of socialising, singing and sexy santas. Lezil, my wonderfully loving wife, celebrated another year on planet earth which also happened to fall on a working week day with a late finish (9pm).
Having a few hours in between my morning and evening classes I did what any good husband would do – relieve her from her mandatory household duties. (If you believe that, then you definitely do not know me!) As my cousin often says, I’m just like a cat. Fiercely independent but oh so domesticated. And ‘domesticated’ is the operative word. For me, washing up is therapeutic and scrubbing a bathroom clean so it’s fit for a TV commercial are both secret pleasures I cherish dearly.
Quietly tip-toeing up the three flights of stairs to our apartment, I hid a bouquet of red roses and carnations behind my back as I balanced a boxed-up gateau of chocolate and cream with the other hand. “Happy birthday mi amor!” I shouted as a surprised Lezil stood back to let me in. It was just the start of a weekend full of birthday-related activities. Friday night it was down to The Spot – a happening bar/restaurant in Shanghai’s Jing’an disctrict.We were out to support Jamar – the 13 year old son of our friend Shanae from the US. It was the bar’s annual mock X Factor competition and Jamar was one of the eight finalists. I haven’t seen the original UK show since 2009 but reading online reviews on the tired format and falling viewing figures of this year’s televised contest – perhaps the ITV producers could consider a Shanghai expat version? Starting the entertainment for the packed bar were guest performances from a couple of Michael Jackson tribute dancers and a powerhouse singer from the Philippines.
The competition itself went from an Elvis Presley cover, to classic Craig David (‘7 Days’) and a sweet reggae number of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’. As part of Jamar’s fanclub we made considerable noise as he performed a cover of Kriss Kross ‘Jump’.And just like the real TV show, there were emotional tears from Jamar’s proud mom, Shanae, as her son stepped off stage to rapturous applause. The moment came to announce the runners up and winner but as a teaser, a couple of santa’s saucy dancers bounded in front of the audience, booty shaking to Don Omar’s ‘Danza Kuduro’ – the massive 2010 reggaeton hit. Jamar came in a respectable fourth with the singer of the Craig David cover coming first.
Fully recharged after a good night’s sleep, Saturday afternoon saw us celebrate another birthday. In honour of her special day Christina, from Germany, had organised a get together of drinking, eating and carol singing. The food spread was incredible and it was hard to believe that she prepared and cooked it all herself that same morning. The seasoned Middle Eastern chicken rice was particularly appetizing as was her delicious selection of cheeses.
With the elastic stretch band holding her kids birthday hat in place, Christina opened up the food table and it wasn’t long before people were socialising and tucking into their stacked plates of flavoursome bites. Steaming cups of Gluhwein (like the British Mulled Wine) went around, which I was sure was meant to mellow us out for the next part – the singing.A trained musician, Christina is an accomplished harpist. Her arms gracefully flowed as a musical extension of her harp. Her strumming was mesmerising and certainly added that much-needed musical touch, herding in our often out-of-tune singing.
It was like a karaoke carol session as requests came in thick and fast. There was no automated machine to line-up the next tune, but we ran an efficient mental-note service ensuring everyone’s desired song was sung. One of my favourites was ’The Twelve Days of Christmas’ with Christina making sure we all knew the actions for each of the twelve lines. Accompanying her on flute and piano was her ex-colleague and friend Maggie and together, they weaved that magical Christmas sound. The only thing left was for Santa himself to drop through the non-existent fireplace. But then again, I’m not sure if Santa has a high enough demand in a country like China where Christmas isn’t even a public holiday.