Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 17 November 2012
I have a friend - now in his 60s - who is beginning to dread Christmas. Both his parents have been dead for quite some time, but he feels duty bound to stay with his sister and brother-in-law for the duration of the festivities. They probably feel duty bound to invite him, because he lives on his own. So the sorry cycle continues.
When I think about it, I know many people in his age group who still - after all these years - think that they have to go through the same ritual each and every year, and it seems as if nobody enjoys it at all, so why do they do it?
The people I am thinking about have no children - and no grand-children - so they cannot use that as the excuse. After a period of about 20 years hardly thinking about Christmas, I now quite enjoy it, even though the grandchildren have turned into official adults. At the end of one particularly torrid Christmas spent with my biological family, everyone quietly took me to one side and said that this was the last Christmas they were spending together, but I was the only one who actually stuck to that resolution.
I spent one Christmas in the huge, Norfolk family home of a girlfriend's mother some years ago, and amongst the party was a lone American woman who had a sort of nervous breakdown over a cooked goose, not knowing the correct way to behave when starring in an English period drama involving ancient, belligerent aristocrats who cannot afford servants. We should have told her that the correct way to behave under these circumstances was badly, but she was not very popular and we all wanted to see what would happen when she burst. Besides, that - as it turned out - was the only real entertainment we had over the three-day period.
I have never been involved in a Thanksgiving dinner actually in the USA (but I was involved in one in Paris, France), although I get the impression that it is much more to do with counting your blessings and counting members of your extended family than it is about the baby Jesus, and this - as far as I am concerned - must be a much more real celebration, but only because British Christmases were hi-jacked sometime around the 16th century, when the Twelfth Night was the most important one of the lot.
Up in the frozen wastes of the North American continent, they are continually thinking up different ways of stopping themselves going mad in the -30, long, dark evenings and days, and I have helped a little by suffering some of that coldness and going over to Canada to entertain them for a couple of weeks.
So, charity begins at home, they say, and we have been forecast a freezing winter beginning on December the first. The kids will be coming around again, as they have been for twenty years. The difference is that we don't argue, we all smoke and nobody complains if the cheese is too cold.