Thursday, 10 December 2009

Christmas schmistmas

Though still a relative newcomer, I am fast realising that we bloggers blog for a variety of reasons.  My love of the whole process of writing is one of my main motivators, as is a constant need to entertain and be the centre of attention: I've been like it since I was about three and long since learned to stop feeling worried or guilty about it.  As the late actor Robert Morley once said (on Parkinson, I think): "People are always telling their children to stop showing off.  I say don't.  Showing off could be their only way of earning a living." Amen, Bob.

I've also blogged to vent my spleen (over the inadequacies of First Great Western's train service), to profess my love (for Birmingham and my Auntie Vera who lives there) and for a bit of self-psychoanalysis (why must I cram my life with busyness?).

Today, however, I'm tapping away for a different reason; procrastination.  I'm avoiding writing my Christmas cards.

I hate it.  I would rather clean a stranger's toilet.  I would rather queue up in a particularly downmarket branch of Argos on a manic Saturday afternoon.  I would rather be stuck in a lift with a right-wing, chain-smoking homophobe with an unusually large selection of holiday snaps.  I would almost rather eat offal, but not quite.

It's not that I don't care about the cards' recipients.  I'm really pleased to keep in touch with most of them even if I don't see them from one year to the next, although I wish I could get the numbers down a bit; I send and receive over 100 every year.  In the past, I've tried to trim only to get concerned or hurt phone calls or notes in January: "We didn't get a card from you this year!  Are you well?  Have we upset you?"  It's sweet that they should notice and care, of course, but how can anyone notice the absence of one card?  Anyway, back onto my list these handwringing acquaintances have to go.

No, the three things that make writing Christmas cards torture are the mind-numbing repetition, the mind-hurting attempt to avoid that repetition and personalise each one and, more than anything, the realisation that Christmas is now well and truly upon us and there is no escape.

You see, it's not just writing cards I can't stand, it's the entire crassly-commercialised, bank account-emptying, wearying, worrying, anticlimactic, bloody kaboodle.  Somewhere around mid-November, a fog of gloom descends.  I've been like it ever since I was seven or eight.  I've got to be careful how I express this next bit just in case young eyes should ever see this: I think it's because I never got over my parents' confession that a certain munificent, corpulent, hirsuite geriatric with a penchant for scarlet was fictitious (are you with me?).  Or that they had lied about it whilst constantly drumming into me that lying is wrong!

Let's stop pretending for once; Christmas is full of stuff that's just so rubbish!  For a start, turkey is the driest, blandest meat known to Man.  How many cooks have devised elbarote wheezes over the years to attempt to give it some life?  Everything from draping the wretched thing in butter-soaked muslin to cooking it upside down.  You don't have to bother with all that palaver when you're roasting a chicken or a leg of lamb, do you?  You just bung it in the oven!  Turkey's not even British or traditional, it's a hideous American important that replaced goose, the juiciest, tastiest flesh your grateful tastebuds are ever likely to encounter.

Then there's the overall menu.  At no other time of the year would anyone advocate following a mountainous roast dinner with the richest, heaviest and most alcoholic of puddings (which hardly anybody likes).  And let's not even get onto the torture of a dozen people, all of whom have consumed sprouts and some of whom are elderly, being trapped together in a modestly-proportioned room with well-sealed windows and doors.  Or being dragooned into playing games.  Or having to pretend your five-year-old nephew isn't getting on your nerves.  Or that terrible, four o'clock anticlimax when every present has been opened and thoroughly examined and dinner consumed, yet it's still hours before there's anything decent on the telly.

I could go on and on and, believe me, I'd love to but it's time to get the cards out and get down to it.

I'll be working my socks off over Christmas and New Year - I've seven radio and TV gigs between the 25th and the 1st with a couple more pending.  I'll be doing what I enjoy, earning good money and avoiding a bloated stomach, sore head and short temper.  You know, somewhere deep inside, you want to be me. 

(Picture courtesy of

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