One afternoon I was just dozing off in my cuddle chair when this loud mouthed b*****d woke me up by yelling at the top of his voice “It’s Christmas” before banging on about me hanging up my stocking on the wall. He scared the shit out’f me.
And you know what the worst thing about it was? It was bloody September! The kids had only just gone back to school, the ghouls hadn’t been bloodied for Halloween, Guy Fawkes hadn’t finished drying off his gunpowder and… and here was some ginger haired tosser in a top hat banging on about bloody Christmas which was months away. I mean, what the hell’s all that about?
How often do you hear people moaning miserably, “oh, I don’t know, it doesn’t feel like Christmas this year”? Well no, of course it doesn’t, how could it? There’s nothing to look forward to anymore, the whole thing’s been diluted into months of tedium. At one time, there were seasons of the year, Easter would be in spring and Christmas would be in mid-winter. But not anymore, no siree, once Boxing day has gone you’re not going to be able to move in Tesco’s for Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies breeding like… well, like rabbits… until the shelves are full of the damned things.
Just thinking about it was giving me a headache so I decided to take a couple of paracetamol. And as I washed them down with a wee dram of single malt, I found myself wondering why Christmas couldn’t be more like it used to be when I were a lad.
Back then, nobody would start thinking about Christmas until early December and throughout the remainder of the month it would be a steady build up to that most joyous of days, Christmas Eve, the day when, just before they closed, rampant hordes would rush to the shops for their last minutes shopping.
Outside, the skies would be dark and grey and the streets would be teeming with people full of Christmas spirit, usually a few tots of piping hot mulled wine. It would be snowing and a scruffy old man would be yelling festive innuendo about his nuts or the consequences of brass monkeys being caught out in the freezing cold, as he drummed up custom for chestnuts roasted over an open fire – usually an upturned dustbin lid balanced precariously on a brazier. Health and safety wasn’t such a big thing in those days, the premise being that, should you be unfortunate enough to catch fire, you could always roll yourself in the snow to extinguish yourself. Across the street the Sally Army, accompanied by a rotund, ruddy faced man playing a tuba, would be belting out Christmas carols, the volume cranking up as they tried to outdo a choir from of the local operatic society dressed in Victorian garb doing their bit opposite them. Smiling passers-by would pause momentarily to join in the carolling before dropping a penny in their collection tin or breaking into laugher when a snotty nosed kid flung a snowball across the street and landed it in the bowl of the tuba causing the tubist to choke and bellow unchristian expletives whilst angrily waving his fist. And it was wonderful, joyous, and magical, all it needed was a kindly copper clipping the ears of scruffy street urchins picking pockets and the whole thing would have been picture perfect.
Inside the shops it would be pandemonium, people jostling and clambering to pick up what was left after the scavengers had riffled the shelves earlier in the day, children proudly handing over their pocket money in exchange for cheap perfume and husbands looking embarrassed or ever so slightly turned on (mostly the later) as they wandered around the bra and knicker counter looking for a present for their wives, cupping their hands close to the breasts of female assistants making sure they had the right size… and all this carried out in good humour and without any hint of sexual harassment (alright, maybe this last one did need to change). Then it was time for home and a good night’s kip… unless, of course, you were a parent when, despite your threats of them being marched down to the police station and placed on the naughty list, or Santa mutilating Rudolph before their eyes if they didn’t go to sleep, the little shits refused to drop off.
They would then be up at sparrow’s fart to see if “he had been”, mothers would dutifully dab on gifts of perfume that smelled like they should be reporting for work in the local knocking shop rather than staying home chopping sprouts (fart balls as one relative used to call them) and fathers would diligently read the instructions of train sets so that they and other male relatives wouldn’t have to waste time figuring it out when they monopolised the thing later in the day, the true recipient (an eight year old me, yes really) having to start blubbing to get a go. And that was late on Boxing Day after supper.
Then it was turkey with all the trimmings before trudging off through the snow to my grandparent’s house and the gathering of the clan. On arrival my grandfather, being an ex-military man, would line up us grandchildren in front of the fire place and present us with our presents (it wasn’t obligatory to salute, or to hum La Marseillaise, but it was considered polite)… and that was it, the rest of the day was crammed full of silliness, fun, laughter, family feuds, bitching and ribald party games designed to convince blind folded female members of the family that a sausage was a man’s appendage … ah, those were the days!
Anyway, gotta go. I’ll be thinking of you all over this festive season when it’s cold and miserable, pissing down and the wind’s howling like a wounded banshee. Me? I’m off to Tenerife again for some winter sun… don’t worry, I’ll be back by the time Easter eggs go on sale in January.
Merry Christmas everyone. Happy New Year.