Not Quite the Christmas – Part 01
I love Christmas and from childhood it’s always been a very traditional affair with the week leading to New Year being a quiet time living off leftovers. In recent years the tradition has been whittled down, but even so this was not quite the Christmas I was expecting.
In our family Christmas has never been about buying a new tree every year, but getting the old one down from the roof and ceremonially decorating it with ancient glass baubles and the old faithful tinsel that has the wonderfully musty smell of boxed family custom. There’s the same bugling angel for the top of the tree, and the old clunky seventies lights that my parents probably bought for their first Christmas together, and this has been a tradition that I have fought to maintain.
As the second law of thermodynamics should have told me – decay within a system being prevalent over time – it was a battle I could not hope to win, and as my own law of physics showed: the increase in the number of cats in a house, over time, is in an inverse proportion to the survival of traditional Christmas decorations.
The linking cardboard reindeer hanging over the fireplace soon became a target, the delicate glass baubles became something to bop, the tinsel and the fairy lights cable something to chew, and the assembled plastic tree became a climbing frame. And bit by bit, despite my protestations, these elements were stripped away until all that remained of any sign of Christmas in our house was a desolate reminder relegated to the new porch as if it were a token shop window display.
And then this year with the porch in use to separate bullied cats I was finally on the ropes and prepared to accept that the days of traditional decorations were over. Punch drunk I was therefore ambivalent as my parents announced they’d been shopping and unveiled a lurid-coloured miniature fibre optic tree, concealed under the fireguard, before the knockout blow when I was led outside to be shown that the wooden trellis arch was now a tunnel of red flashing lights looking like a warning to aircraft.
Despite my incredulity I was so worn down and jaded by the years of attrition that I skipped over the usual responses of “What?” or “Why?” and instead, as this was hidden away in our back garden, I went with “Who? Who is this for?” I’m now guessing that when our foxes turned up during the night we were set to be greeted with a sight akin to a John Lewis Christmas advert.In town Santa’s murky grotto is still decorated on the perimeter by dancing robo-penguins and the only difference this year seems to be that all the Elves were press-ganged into wearing horrible identical pink wigs. Aside from dealing with the grubby financial side of matters I noticed that they were also working at the coalface of mollifying queuing children in the presence of a sign explaining away periodic closures: “Father Christmas has gone to feed his reindeer”.
We all know the man has no reindeer.
We all know it’s a euphemism.
And we all know it involves a man in a fur-trimmed felt suit clasping his genitals.
This little arrangement can only be an improvement from two years back when I clocked the big man knocking off at the end of the day as the shopping centre was closing. Now I can’t say what went on behind the grotto’s velvet curtain, and I can’t swear it was down to him, but as he was mobbed by some older teenagers there was a hefty stench of urine in the air… and somewhere inside I imagined that a two-litre bottle of warm apple juice went unloved.
The most nostalgic Christmas decorations I found this year were in Costa Coffee on one of their Festive Fridays – all Santa hats, woolly jumpers, and glitter – where they had some bizarre mince pie giveaway going where, due to the complicated small print which included the requirement for the purchaser had to be wearing a Christmas jumper, they’d successfully given away exactly zero mince pies.
The best-dressed Barista had carved herself Michael Jackson shoulder pads from a takeaway cup and atop her head she wore an illuminated thorny crown of heavy-duty nineteen-seventies Christmas tree lights. At last I’d found my traditional idea of Christmas.
To alleviate my concern for her health and safety she flashed me a look down the front of her jumper to assure me, somehow, that she wasn’t plugged in, but only on batteries. I later saw the manager handing her twenty AAs under the mistletoe. I imagine that she probably sparks in the misty twilight when she has to go out and clear up after the smokers.