When I grow up, I'll do Christmas properly


FIFTYSOMETHING:Could any of us have predicted a world where you know it must be Christmas because the driver behind you has furry reindeer antlers growing out of the sides of her SUV and a big furry red nose attached to her bull bars. Touching, the lengths people go to in an effort to bring a bit of seasonal cheer to the drab city streets. I keep expecting one of them to burst through the sun roof in their duck-down quilted jacket and give us a blast of Jingle Bells.

I’m not too hot on the holiday season. I try, honestly. I stuff tangerines into socks and clean the windows and drive around in circles looking for parking outside the supermarket and generally partake in the season’s rituals, but it doesn’t come easy. I envy those for whom Christmas is a familiar friend, a well-loved refrain, a safe harbour in a stormy year.

There is nothing I like better than walking away from the detritus of the old year’s clapped-out resolutions and throwing a fresh batch of optimistic promises at the year to come. But before you get there, you have to cross the Christmas Rubicon.

I have a theory that, like larks and owls, there are two kinds of Christmas people in this world: revellers and recalcitrants. The revellers have cherry-red polo-neck jumpers and Michael Bublé Christmas albums and sharpening implements for the carving knife. They are people with furry ear muffs and reams of shimmering wrapping paper and plenty of Sellotape; people who become, in fact, genuinely excited by packaging; people who never run out of batteries or patience; people who buy patent-leather booties for their toddlers and bed socks for their grannies; people who leave cinnamon sticks in decorative bowls in their hallways and always, always, have spare selection boxes in the bottom of the wardrobe for other people’s drooping offspring.

These are often the same people who find time to clean out the car and hang little pine-scented trees from the rearview mirror and even sterilise the wheelie bin, and whose angel stands poker-straight on top of the symmetrical Christmas tree, tiny wings aflutter. These are people without frayed and knotted fairy lights, not to mention threadbare nerve ends. These are people who remember to buy stamps. Who book a blow-dry. These are people with ice and lemon. And antiinflammatories for the morning after. People who mulch and floss and make gravy with the pope’s nose and can offer you home-made mince pies and a variety of herbal teas. And they are calm and charming and can recommend an obstetrician or a restaurant or a tree surgeon or whatever it is you are crying out for, because these people remember things and take note of things and jot things down for future reference.

These people are balanced and organised, and when I grow up I’m going to be one of them. I’m going to be balanced and organised too, and store my summer clothes in airtight plastic bags, and remember to worm the cat, and never go to sleep on a cross word. I’m going to grow up and stop my nonsense and be like them: festive, happy, well-balanced and controlled.

Control. I am going to be controlled, a person for whom Christmas is a joyous time of year, a time to roost among loved ones, baste well-timed turkeys and indulge in trifles and tipples and the wearing of matching gloves and hats.

Tolerance. That’s the other thing. Essentially, these people are tolerant: tolerant and open and controlled and charitable and even mildly charmed by the chaps behind the butcher counter wearing Santa hats. Truth be told, these beacons of forbearance don’t actually feel nauseated in shops where Cliff Richard’s warbling rendition of Mistletoe and Wine is being played, rapidly followed by Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime.

These sainted, restrained, moderate folk don’t object to queuing up for the cocktail sausages while an elderly boy band threatens to raise you up so that one or other of you can stand on a mountain and walk on stormy seas.

And you know that frozen nanosecond of despair and self-loathing, somewhere between chorus and verse, when you ask yourself why, if there truly are so many countless galaxies out there, you happened to end up in the same one as Westlife? Well, they don’t do that, those nice, cheerful, merry old souls, those tender revellers. They hum along.

And the recalcitrants? Well, they’re just parsimonious old bags who shouldn’t be allowed vent their spleen all over the rubbery sprouts.

Happy Christmas. Happy holiday. See you on the other side, hopefully without the window antlers.


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