Jingle Blogs

In last week’s entry, I revealed that one of my favourite things about the festive period is the good old-fashioned Christmas song. This is despite the fact that they are all, without exception, crap. But, if you can look past the poor tunes, terrible lyrics, and appalling outfits, there is a great deal of fun to be had.

If you don’t agree with me, then let me explain why, in my opinion, Christmas songs should be embraced in all their camp festive glory.

You see, Christmas is a magical time of year, when even the terrible things in life – like sprouts and Cliff Richard – are suddenly tolerated, and, indeed, widely-accepted. Once December hits, we immediately do all sorts of strange things purely because, well, it’s fucking Christmas isn’t it?

For example, we will inexplicably start drinking hot wine, even though it is so obviously disgusting. At any other time of year, if someone offered you a cup of hot spicy wine, with all manner of shit floating around in it, you would immediately grab said cup and insert it into them, big end first. But, at Christmas, you will politely smile, graciously accept the drink, and try not to choke on a cinnamon stick as you force the rancid contents down your gullet.

We also move trees – you know, those big wooden things commonly found in gardens, parks and forests – inside our houses, and then try to make them look pretty by hanging bits of glass and metallic paper from them.  It’s not like we suddenly need the extra oxygen, so why are we doing this? At any other time of year, unnecessarily felling millions of trees would be frowned upon, but not at Christmas. It’s lunacy. You wouldn’t divide your kitchen up with a privet hedge at Easter, or plonk a topiary swan in the corner of the bedroom for Valentine’s Day, so what made Christmas so obsessed with inappropriate indoor foliage?

It’s not just any old trees, either, it’s specifically ones that will drop razor-sharp needles all over the floor, within a day of being positioned in your living room. If you’re lucky, you can spot these needles and dispose of them, but more often than not they vanish into the carpet, only to re-appear several months later, painfully embedded in your arse when you happen to sit in that exact spot on the floor. This, along with the added danger of broken baubles and prickly holly, means that your house suddenly becomes more hazardous than an SAS training facility.

Oh, and rather than have a nice box of chocolates, we stick twenty-four of the tiniest, plainest ones into a cardboard box called an ‘Advent Calendar’, then restrict ourselves to just one a day, as some kind of homage to the little Baby Jesus. You have to work for them too. Even if you manage to get the badly-perforated paper door open (without putting your fist through it in a blind rage), you are often faced with an additional wall of tinfoil to get through, before the challenge of prizing the damn thing from its plastic mould. Both of these latter obstacles will invariably end with a clump of chocolate lodged firmly under your fingernail. Worst of all, we do this twenty-four times, for a total haul of chocolate less than you would get in one fucking Freddo.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Sorry, I think I might have become distracted there. Basically, what I’m trying to say, is that Christmas is a time for embracing the most ridiculous shitty things in life… and there is nothing more ridiculous and shitty than a Christmas song. Which is precisely why we love them.

You might have noticed, however, that in my opening paragraph I referred to them as ‘good, old-fashioned’ Christmas songs, and that is because there hasn’t been a properly decent one since about 1987. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be fair to dismiss Christmas songs because they have poor tunes, terrible lyrics, and appalling outfits, because that simply was the 1980s.

Everything that was terrible/great about the 1980s, is everything that is terrible/great about Christmas songs. They go together like mince pies and sherry. Who was going to record one in the 1990s, Oasis? How about Scissor Sisters for the ‘00s? Give me strength. Nowadays, the charts are ruled by people like Adele and Sam Smith, and they’ve already fucked up doing Bond themes, so don’t let them destroy Christmas too.

No, we have a great back catalogue of Christmas tunes as it is, and that should not be messed with. Sure, it means every Christmas compilation album is more or less identical (but with a slightly different track listing), but that just means you only have to buy one of them, and it’ll last you a lifetime.

‘But, if you had to compile a list of your ten favourite Christmas songs, in descending order, what would they be?’ I almost certainly don’t hear you cry. Well, tough. This is happening.

However, please remember that these are my own personal choices and preferences, so don’t get your jingle bells in a twist if your favourites are missing, or you don’t agree with my order. There are, after all, quite a few to choose from… and they’re all gorgeously shite.

10. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York

This is the choice I have agonised over the most.

My top eight or nine songs were easy to select, and relatively straight-forward to put into order, but that final tenth song to make the list has caused me some trouble, and I changed my mind countless times. Ultimately, I have opted for Fairytale of New York (which I know would be many people’s overall favourite), not because it’s any good – it’s really not – but because it is now so synonymous with Christmas, and always gets played at the end of a Christmas night out (when, coincidentally, everyone is so pissed they end up sounding a lot like Shane MacGowan). It’s basically the Yuletide equivalent of New York, New York.

And speaking of Sinatra….

9. Frank Sinatra – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

This song has been recorded by dozens of different artists – seemingly every few years – since its first release in 1934, but Frank Sinatra’s version remains my favourite, and is arguably the most instantly recognisable. It’s all that is lovely and warm about Christmas, and it features at the end of my favourite festive film, Elf.

8. Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody

Everything about this song screams total disaster, and if it wasn’t such a festive institution I would utterly hate it. It’s essentially a group of Brummie Cocker Spaniels being tortured, but oh my how we love it. “It’s CHHHRRRRIIIIISSSTMAS!!”

7. Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

And this one is no better. Roy Wood is simply terrifying in this video, and whoever thought that a Christmas song should begin with the sound of a till being opened, followed by a high-pitched creepy voice and someone farting, should be banished to the fiery pits of Hell forever. Bizarrely, we have taken this song to our hearts, and frankly no Christmas compilation would be complete without it.

6. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

It remains a mystery how Bob Geldof could organise tying his own shoelaces, let alone a global rock concert and massive Christmas song, performed by some of the world’s best-loved artists (plus Bono), but organise it he did. Either that, or Midge Ure did all the work, and Bob was just the loud drunken man shouting about it. Thank God Shane MacGowan wasn’t involved too, or it would have been completely incomprehensible.

5. Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas

I’ll admit that, up until a few years ago, if someone had mentioned this song to me I would have stared at them blankly. I had no idea what it was called or who it was by. But, as soon as I succumbed and bought my first Christmas CD at the ripe age of 32, I listened to this song and was immediately transported back to the Christmases of my childhood. And that’s as good a reason as any to include it in my top 5.

4. Chris de Burgh – A Spaceman Came Travelling

If you think Cliff Richard is creepy and nauseating (which you do), he is positively charming compared to Chris de Burgh. His surname even sounds like someone vomiting. However, this song, like I Believe In Father Christmas, is another more relaxed and classy selection to counter-balance the brash noise of Slade and Wizzard. It’s ace.

3. Elton John – Step Into Christmas

And the creepy men keep on coming. Elton, in contrast to his two predecessors in my list, does have some other excellent songs in his repertoire, but this is Christmas camp-ness at it’s very finest.

2. Chris Rea – Driving Home For Christmas

I don’t care what my wife says, she clearly has no taste whatsoever, because this is a superb Christmas song that makes you feel all warm inside (even if Mr Rea wasn’t, when he wrote it stuck in traffic). It takes something truly special to top this…

1. Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone

Ok, I know my favourite Christmas song will differ from most people’s choices, and I am liable to receive some abuse, but this to me is Yuletide perfection. It has the cheesy video, a very ‘80s fade out scene (00:52), the ‘dad dancing’ in a gaudy jumper (01:59), and above all else it’s actually got a really catchy tune. I love it, and I couldn’t have Christmas without it.

‘It’s the season, love and understanding. Merry Christmas everyone…’ (Ba-da-bum-bum).

Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas x

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Yule Blog

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…

  1. 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.Gluttony
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.Xmas party
  5. 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.Boys 1Boys 2
  6. 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!”
  7. 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).Sherry
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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….

  1.  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….
  2. 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.
  3. 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”.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.  Christmas jumpers
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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….

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