Sunday, 21 October 2012

The 'C' word, and other horse-shit

In the early hours of last night, 'they' put up the Christmas decorations outside our compact but adorable city apartment.

One good thing about the current and on-going recession is that (earlier) each year, the decorations become more and more simple and austere. This year's muted display consists of a simple series of spiral armatures with what appear to be equally simple, white LED lights wrapped around them, and - with a bit of luck - they won't even flash.

In previous times of artificial glut, the decorations were covered in green leaves, fake snow, fairies and multi-coloured, high-voltage lighting which strobed away all night until about three in the morning. Of course it did mean that we saved on lighting in our own living room, and there was even a point when I was tempted to lean out of the window and unscrew one of the bayonet bulbs, replacing it with a socket in order to steal some of the voltage for our own domestic purposes but, aside from this being illegal, I don't think it would have been in the spirit of things. What is 'the spirit of things', though?

We don't really 'do' Christmas, but in another way, we do. I hate anything fake, but I seem to like many things which are pastiche - for instance, if I had a front porch worth receiving guests beneath, then I would get an old lantern and install one of those 'flickering flame' electric bulbs which are so convincing these days. If we had a big old yew tree outside, I would cover it in those tiny little LEDs which softly undulate and twinkle, and I would leave them on all night, from December 1st, right through until the Twelfth Night. One of the things that I loved about 'Harry Potter' was the way that all of Hogwarts celebrated Christmas without once mentioning the baby Jesus - much to the horror and dismay of fundamental Christians who tried to get the films banned.

As I prepare (mentally and physically - I had my new Armani suit altered the other day) for Sis's send-off tomorrow, I think about her attitude to Christmas, and I was reminded about it the other day by niece, who said that Sis tried her very best to emulate the old Christmases we had in the huge house in Surrey as children, which she described as 'magical'.

Well, she must have conveniently forgotten the awful family rows which simmered away beneath the surface for a whole week, and were only shelved temporarily upon the arrival of one particular set of relatives who came every year without fail, all the way from Brighton, to spend the time with us six.

Being the youngest by ten years, I could only watch in fear from a corner of the kitchen, or retreat to my far-off room to listen to the screaming and shouting between my two sisters, as it echoed down the corridors. I remember one particularly vehement row over the washing-up (Sis one washing and Sis two drying) which - because both parents were absent at the time - culminated in Sis two throwing a large carving knife which she had just finished drying at Sis one, and it stuck about an inch into her arse and limply hung there until being pulled out before the Band-Aids were brought out of the cupboard.

Another time, Sis one completely lost it and punched a hole through a glass window, almost severing an artery and leaving the area awash with her own blood.

Of course, it wasn't always like this - we weren't that dysfunctional - but the things which stick in the minds of children are always the most shocking and dramatic. Most of the time it was quite pleasant, with Uncle sitting around blabbing about his WW2 exploits which involved throwing grenades in  neutral Egypt - I couldn't get enough of these, as Dad himself was reluctant to talk about any of his exploits.

If, as a smallish child, I was ever to cry on my birthday, one of the sisters would say, "You can't cry on your birthday!" I would think 'Why Not?' What better day could there be?

The trouble was that older Sis spent the first ten years treating me as if I were her own beloved child, and deceased Sis would do pretty much the opposite. When reminded of this, she always said that allowances should be made for it, because she was extremely unhappy at the time. No boyfriend, etc. It was around this time that she was diagnosed with the rare condition which eventually killed her, but she lasted a lot longer than the twenty years that the doctors gave her.

I knew how to make her laugh though. One day, whilst walking home from school, I came upon a great heap of horse-shit lying right in the middle of the pavement, very close to a crab-apple tree which had shed a load of it's brightly coloured fruit nearby.

I knew that Sis would be taking the same route home from work a little later, so I selected one of the little red apples and pushed it right at the top of the pile of manure, making the whole ensemble look like a roadside culinary offering, or some fiendish, inedible cup-cake.

When Sis walked through the door, she was almost crying with laughter and described the decorated horse-shit which she had just walked past. "Someone must have done it deliberately!" she said.

It was years before I told her who had.


  1. A man after my own heart. There's something wonderful about a decorated pile of shit; isn't there!

    1. There certainly is, Cro. You are a past master.

  2. I think we can connect your post together this time Tom, between decorated horse shit and Christmas LED's.
    Hey, I hope tomorrow goes alright for everyone ...

  3. Nice story Tom. I hope all goes well tomorrow. Jx

  4. I know that feeling of retreating to my bedroom with my hands over my ears at Christmas...

    Hoping tomorrow brings some comfort to you and your family.

  5. If you can make them laugh, you can rule the world :)

    best to you and yours tomorrow.

    1. As I said to a young woman friend once, if you can make them laugh, you can fuck them up the arse. Luckily, she thought that was funny.

  6. I hope that it won't all be sadness tomorrow. I'll be thinking of you.

  7. Sadness and laughter - never far apart Tom - two sides of the same coin really. Good luck for keeping it all together tomorrow.

  8. Lovely story about your family Christmas gatherings, I think we've all had similar ones at one time or another, but not sure that I've ever had knives pulled from our posterior(s).
    Good luck tomorrow, my thoughts are with you as you say goodbye to your sister.