Well, it’s December, and as far as I’m concerned, that means it is now acceptable to discuss Christmas.
In truth, my wife and I have been in Christmas mode for some time, but that’s partly because she sees Christmas shopping as some kind of sport (for which the season begins in mid-September), and partly because it takes months to plan everything.
I am meticulous when it comes to planning, and I like nothing more than a good list (quick question, does anyone else add things to a list later on, even though they have already been completed, just so they can be ticked off and it looks like you have accomplished more?) but when it comes to Christmas, my wife is like a military general. Her organisation is so impressive, that she not only takes responsibility for the boys’ gifts, but for both of our families too, so I only need to concern myself with her presents. This is not laziness on my part, you understand, but more that she loves buying Christmas presents so much, it would be wrong of me to interfere and take that away from her.
I say that my only responsibility is to buy for her, but more often than not I’m pretty sure she even chooses her own presents, and plants subliminal messages into my brain when she knows I’m only half paying attention. It’s like a Jedi mind trick:
“I had a terrible time with Year 9, period three today. There was this one idiot at the back of the room – I want a silver bracelet for Christmas – and he just wouldn’t shut up for the entire lesson. In the end, I had to send him – it’s the one I said was nice when we passed that shop the other day – out of the room and to the head teacher – I’ve left the page up on your laptop, but you’ll think you found it by yourself – and I’ve had to write home to his parents….”
I don’t mind though, as at least this way she gets gifts she wants, and I can pretend I’m some kind of insightful and attentive husband. It’s win-win really.
So, with the stress of buying the right gifts taken out of the equation, I can get on with enjoying the build up to Christmas, and if you read last week’s blog, you will know by now that this is my favourite time of year.
In fact, I enjoy Christmas so much, I have compiled a list of my ten favourite things about the festive season…
- Unbridled gluttony – As soon as December starts, so does the relentless snacking. You are now in training for the main event (which commences on Christmas Eve and lasts until 2nd January), during which time it is socially acceptable to eat and drink like a fucking pig. An entire box of Ferrero Rocher in one sitting? Easy. A whole tube of salt ‘n’ vinegar Pringles (even though you’ll invariably lose all the feeling in your mouth and get ‘thick tongue’, like you’ve been to the dentist)? Oh, go on then. Dig out those stretchy-pants and get gorging, you disgusting animal. If you don’t end up crying in the bathroom, because you’re too ashamed to look at yourself in the mirror, you aren’t doing it properly.
- Spending time with family – Obviously family is important at all times, but especially at Christmas, when we are lucky enough to spend time with my family in Poynton, and my wife’s family in Norwich. Her siblings both have children too, so it’s nice to get Ollie and Isaac together with their cousins once in a while.
- Christmas football – I cannot for the life of me understand why football over the festive period is so special, when by all accounts it should be awful. You clearly have far better places to be, it’s freezing cold and wet, and it’s usually around this time that the wheels completely fall off County’s season. But so help me, there is something wonderful about being at Edgeley Park on Boxing Day.
- The office Christmas party – Again, these should be an unmitigated disaster each year, and at my current firm we have certainly had some that have been better than others, but they always end up being a good laugh, and it’s nice to get away from the pressures of work for a night out. Plus, there’s always someone who ends up looking like a dickhead.
- The boys – If this list were in order, my sons would be at the top. I have always loved Christmas, but ever since Ollie and Isaac entered our lives, my favourite time of year has just got better and better.
- Christmas films – they’re not all great, obviously, but there is no finer way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon in December, than getting all the family together to watch Elf. “SANTA! I KNOW HIM!”
- Sherry – Once December starts, it’s suddenly acceptable to drink sherry (Harveys Bristol Cream, since you asked). Ok, it’s not, but I’m going to keep telling myself it is, because I love the stuff, and this is the only time of the year that I’m not embarrassed to admit it (much).
- Christmas lights – Not the ones on our tree, hell no, but the ones in town centres. They just make everything look nicer, so that you suddenly forget the traffic and crappy weather, because you have a warm feeling inside – although, admittedly, that might be the sherry (but not if you’re driving, obviously).
- A ‘proper’ break from work – as a family, we try to take a couple of holidays throughout the year – even if it’s just to go to Norwich for a few days – but because the rest of the office are still at work, and more importantly because my clients/opponents are still itching to piss me off, I usually come back to a mountainous shit-storm of abuse. Not at Christmas though. The office is closed, but so are the courts and, to some extent, the insurance companies, so that only leaves my clients to bother me, and even they suddenly have better things to occupy their time.
- Christmas songs – Christmas songs are unique in the music world, in that they are almost universally dreadful, yet we still love them and can’t help but smile when they suddenly reappear towards the end of November. “IT’S CHRRIIIISSSSTMAS!!!”
Of course, because Christmas is such a magical time, it’s easy to forget or gloss over the negatives. So, for the sake of balance (and because I am, at heart, a grumpy middle-aged git), here’s a list of the ten worst things about the festive season too….
- The distance between our families – spending time with both families is definitely a highlight of Christmas, but it does mean a 450 mile round trip, at precisely the same time everyone else in Britain takes to the sodding roads too. It’s a good job we have that three disc Christmas compilation in the car….
- Cliff Richard – my mother-in-law will never forgive me for this, but I don’t particularly like the man. I’m sure he is a nice person really (current police enquiries to one side – ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and all that), but he makes me uneasy, and always seems to hibernate throughout the year, only to materialise in December with one of his Christmas songs. He also tends to pop up during Wimbledon, but even he couldn’t make that strawberry-quaffing toff-fest any worse than it already is.
- It’s over too soon – The same can be said about most holidays, but the build up to Christmas is so prolonged and frenzied, and the day itself so fleeting, that when it’s over everyone is miserable, because it’s nearly New Year’s Eve and time to go back to work. As my Grandad used to say, as soon as Christmas dinner was over, “well, it’s as far away now as it’ll ever be”.
- Sprouts – Evil. Little. Green. Fuckers. I don’t care what anyone says (Mum, I’m looking at you), they are NOT nice, not even remotely, but you feel obliged to choke down a couple of the disgusting little snot-coloured haemorrhoids because “it’s Christmas”. I’m not even convinced the Belgians eat them anymore, despite their Brussels heritage, and they’re probably all laughing at us in that quintessentially Belgian way. It’s a good job they gave the world nice chocolates and Romelu Lukaku, because if their only exports were sprouts and Poirot, I’d be properly angry at them.
- The Christmas No.1 – this used to be something of an event, but the days of a decent Christmas song reaching the top of the charts are sadly long gone, thanks to a certain Mr Cowell. The only thing worse than the winner of X-Factor always claiming the top spot, is someone trying to get a novelty record there instead, because they think it’s funny. Piss off.
- Having to watch the soaps – I don’t watch any soaps, but the concentrated fix I have to endure over Christmas, is enough for me to pick up the storyline from the last twelve months anyway. What really annoys me, however, is that somewhere along the line a television executive has decided that what the British really want to see, as they stir from their post-dinner food coma, is people dying in tragic circumstances. Nothing says ‘Christmas’ like a plucky Northerner getting intimate with a tram, or a cockney wide-boy being mowed down in the street, eh? At least the producers of Hollyoaks have had the common decency to stick with their tried-and-tested ‘bad actors with nice teeth and tits’ formula.
- Christmas jumpers – Christmas jumpers are to the fashion world, what Brussel sprouts are to festive cuisine. They are tacky, itchy, not in the least bit amusing and, above all else, apparently compulsory. If you saw someone wearing a novelty Daffy Duck tie to work, you’d think he was a dick, and I don’t see why this is any different. That said, I own two of them, but it takes a great deal of work to make them look sexy.
- The Christmas advert ‘battle’ – this is a more recent development, which has crept in over the past few years, and it’s getting silly. For decades, we were quite content with Coca Cola’s massive festive truck, but then John Lewis decided to ruin everything. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the charitable connection this year (following the daylight robbery of last year’s penguins), and I quite liked the Sainsbury’s war-time advert of 2014, but there seems to be an element of competition to try and go bigger and better (and longer) than everyone else. What I detest more than anything, however, is that they usually make me cry like a little girl, and that’s rather embarrassing when surrounded by family and friends.
- Untangling Christmas lights – it doesn’t matter how neatly you pack them away in January, because during the year the Christmas light goblin will creep in one night and mess them up into an unfathomable knot again. If someone can develop a genuinely successful way of packing Christmas decorations away, so that they remain unchanged for the next eleven months, I will have their babies.
- The constant lies – it’s bad enough having to feign delight, when an obscure relative gives you the sort of gift that is destined for the bin/charity shop as soon as you get home (note to all my relatives: I don’t mean you, obviously), but to have to lie to my own son about Father Christmas, leaves a particularly nasty taste in the mouth (though that could be the sprouts). It’s a good job kids are gullible.
Right, best get wrapping, only 21 days to go….