Bah Humbug – Part 17

Day 17 – Birthdays

Now those that profess to knowing me in a personal capacity will know that today is my birthday. Now what has this got to do with Christmas you may ask, well don’t ask me….ask the many other people that suffer the unfortunate circumstance of being born in December or during the Christmas period.

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Bah Humbug – Part 16

Hope you’re still enjoying this series.

Day 16 – Time and anticlimax

A weird thing happens. I think it starts at puberty but it could develop later on in life. I’m not talking about facial hair here.

So when you’re little, Christmas day feels like it goes on for a week. But somewhere in your lifetime something happens and Christmas day ends up feeling like 5 minutes long. Yet, in reality, the day is only 24 hours long. It’s really weird. Am I the only one that’s noticed this?

I suppose the old adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun” applies here, but trust me, I don’t always have fun at Christmas and it still feels like five minutes. Maybe it’s the prechristmas build up. The weeks upon weeks upon weeks of “Buy this before we sell out” and “Get your Christmas stuff here” and “ZOMGOMG AM SO EXCITEDZ0RZ @ XMIZ!” that add to the whole “Is it bed time yet? What do you mean it’s only 10am!” thing. Maybe it’s the opposite, I don’t know.

I do know that Christmas always feels like a “Is that it?!” kind of thing. Do you know what I mean? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you do. Either way, I’ll give a comparison. You know them big scary rides at theme parks? The ones where the queue snakes round the park? The ones where you can expect to queue up for an hour before you even get to see the turnstile? By the time you’ve got to the last safety gate you’re like “ZOMG!” and you’re so excited you feel like if you pee you might piss out a kidney. Then you get on the ride and just as you’re opening your mouth to go “Yaayyy” it’s over and you’re like “Was that it?” It can be such a come down.

I suppose it might be because in some places I’ve worked I’ve had the whole work right up to the last minute of Christmas eve then come in again first thing Boxing day. I’ve even worked in places where coming in on a Christmas day went on a rotational basis. But working at the Universities and in the Civil service where you get a nice free 2 week holiday didn’t make the feeling of Christmas anticlimax go away. Those two weeks just felt like a week.

Even one year, 2003 I think, I managed to manipulate my annual leave to allow me a whole month off work because of the way bank holidays fell that year. Even then, it only felt like I’d had five minutes out. I suppose relativity has something to do with it and no doubt the whole “fun” thing too.

But yeah….time at Christmas…where does it go?

Bah Humbug – Part 15

Day 15 – The Fat Man in the Red Babygrow

Let’s say you have children. Let’s say they tell you there’s a weird fat bloke in a red baby grow that comes to them and tells them if they are good they can have toys. They tell you he comes to their room at night and he gets in through the chimney.

You’d call social services.

Well wouldn’t you?

Well I would hope you would. Or call the police at least.

Why is it fine to have a fat stranger with a babygrow fetish come to children once a year, threaten them and give them toys when in normal circumstances this would be frowned upon?

evil corporate santa returns Worse still, he tells them he comes from the North Pole and yet he bares no resemblance to Nanook or any other Innuit tribe member.

Surely this man is deranged. A paedophile, a creep, a suspicious character.

Worse still is when you find out he is financially backed by global toothrotting megacorp Coca-Cola. Surely that should set alarm bells ringing.

I blame him for all the evils of Christmas. The greed, the avarice, the sloth and the lust (have you ever seen them cute students dressed in sexy “Santa’s little helper” costumes? mmmmmmm). And yet people decorate their houses with effigies and portraits of him. He has been slowly crossing the globe like some slow acting dictator from a Consumerist capitalist state. Karl Marx would probably be rotating so fast in his grave that Groucho and Zeppo would be trying to get out of his way

It’s quite simple to break this spell. When you go outsatan_claus and about this week, whenever you see a picture or effigy of the fat man in red, mentally change the image to that of say…Fidel Castro…or…George W Bush….or….Nicolae Ceaucescu…and you’ll soon see what I am on about. Not only has the fat man’s image replaced that of the Christ child and his cosy little pre-nuclear family, the Green Man, the Christkind and the Happy Badger, but he is slowly warping the minds of children everywhere. Promising them items of value in exchange for their very souls….

And people don’t do a thing about it….

Bah Humbug – part 14

Day 14 – books

Getting a good book at Christmas was once one of the highlights of the year. People who bought me books as gifts used to put a lot of thought into buying a book. Some gems I’ve received over the years include timeless classics such as The witches handbook , haunted inns and mysteries of the sea. It was clear that people that knew me knew what subjects interested me and would contemplate which cool would be liked the most.

Of course, as I became older and my hair got thinner my interests broadened and my library became stuffed with books that only held a passing interest. Curious really as bookshops became better stocked and Amazon allowed shoppers more choice.

Of course, since Borders saw off the smaller booksellers and is now going the way of Woolworths I suspect the days of the “christmas book gem” will go the way of the round christmas pudding.

This saddens me, especially as I know the only books W H Smith sell are celebrity biographies and amusing trifles which tend to be read once and then sold at a car boot sale and most of the people I know in RL are intimidated by Blackwells and Waterstones.

So I suppose this entry is more of a lament than a moan about something that annoys me about Christmas. Will my stocking contain Gordon Burns’ autobiography? Or will it have 1001 amusing uses for a spoon? Who knows? What I do know is it won’t contain a pictoral history of Yorkshire pit villages or a guide to making your own steam engine.

Or perhaps it will. One last time.

Bah Humbug – Part 13

Day 13 – Christmas Trees

When I was a kid….wait..have you noticed how most of these posts refer to moments when I was a child? Hmmm…patterns….

Yeah…as I was saying. When I was younger, every year my dad would go up the ladder into the loft and get the musty old boxes filled with decorations. One of those boxes contained a green plastic tree which you would put together bit by bit. It was state of the art. Cutting edge. Made in Taiwan.

There was another tree in the house. This was a silver flu brush, wire draped with silver tinsel. It would be placed in the porch draped with fairy lights. My Nan had a similar one, only hers was green tinsel.

When the exwife and I spent our first Christmas together we had a tree which was one of those put them together ones, a bit like the one my olds had. This tree did us several years until the great cat-astrophic Christmas of 2005 when we considered it wise not to bother putting it up again.

Anyway, trees…now if at any other time of the year someone went out to chop down a tree and bring it into their house you would probably call social services. I mean, why bother? They’re usually full of spiders and creepies anyway and having a whopping great lump of foliage that’s going to drop needles all over the carpet is hardly going to do the vacuum cleaner any good is it?

I mean I can understand the plastic ones and the flue brush ones but why people take real ones in in this day and age I have no idea. “Oh but stegzy it’s so much more than that, it is aesthetic”.  Well what a load of cock. If having to trap spiders and other creepies is aesthetic why don’t you just nip out to the garden and scoop a few up from underneath the rockery and sprinkle them liberally around your front room. Then, while you’re at it, grab a few leaves and pine needles if they are at hand and scatter them about too. You’ll soon have that authentic Christmassy feel.

Bah Humbug – Part 12

Continuing the reposted Christmas series from 2009 for those that missed it.

Day 12 – Midnight mass

Ok, I doubt a lot of you will have experienced this.

Anyway, when I lived in the family home, it was written into the tenancy agreement (the one you sign by being born) that as long as you live under that roof you are to go to midnight mass with your mum.

Now to the non-catholics out there, midnight mass is like ringing someone up at midnight on the day of their birthday just to say “Happy Birthday”. God, is no doubt, very pissed off by this.

Anyway, my mam would say “Right, put down the Radio Times, it’s time for mass. This would always be at about 11pm. It would take half an hour to walk through the freezing mid winter cold and up the slippy icey hill, through the village and into the church which would already be filling with the well to do families keen to make an impression on the omnipotent one that they were there to say happy birthday to the lad.

Since then, well ok, during that time, I began to realise what this annual event was. It wasn’t a sudden need to praise the deity. It was an annual call to parade.

Well-to-do village families would gather outside, dressed up in their smartest having just rolled up in their Jags with those arse warming seats and they would swank about showing everyone how they were guaranteed a place in the afterlife because they were the epitome of holiness once a year.

The parade was just a show of well-to-do-ness and my mother liked to swank about and show them all that she was a council estate girl that had made good. Seeing past the other swanker’s executive statuses and community roles and she would hold her head high, with her youngest child there to back her up and show those toffs that Betty Gnomepants was just as good as them.

After some out of tune caterwauling from the choir and some mutterings from Father Tom Wood, it would end up being something like 1am and it would be time to make the arduous journey back down the slippery hill through the ice and biting fog. But before that, there would be more milling about in the church carpark as the posh and the poor would compete in this show of grandeur.

Them – well my Tarquin has just done his A levels and got straight A’s and is off to Oxfart in his own BMW which he bought through saving up his paper round money.
My Mam – Yes but he still wets the bed doesn’t he?

These days, of course, because I don’t live there anymore I am allowed to not bother going to midnight mass with my mum. Especially as she’s approaching 75 now and I’m living about 80 miles away. But every year I ask how the midnight mass was. Who she saw, what they said and how their children are.

Of course the well to do all sold up when their house prices reached £1mill back in the early-mid noughties and have all fucked off to Barbados or somewhere. But my mam, bless her, she still goes up and down that hill every Christmas eve…just to show off that she’s better for staying round in her semi….the council estate girl that made it good.

Bah Humbug – Part 11

Day 11 – Relatives

Now, I have to be careful here as rellies might one day read this for themselves. Therefore, see the disclaimer at the bottom of this post.

Just who is that mysterious woman?

That’s what I ask myself every year. Every year she is there. Sat in the corner. Drinking the house dry of port and yet nobody else seems to notice her. It’s probably Mrs Edson. Though I suspect it might be the mother of the grinning emaciated man that sits at the end of my bed just grinning. Or perhaps <lj user=”fj_warren”> projecting astrally.

Well it’s not me al mam. She’s always too busy fussing in the kitchen, my grand parents are all dead and unless it’s Cousin Sally or one of the wives of my brothers, she’s probably just someone in my imagination.

Anyway, relatives. They’re like buses really. You can wait all year for one then seven of them turn up on Christmas day.

To be fair, it pleases me to see rellies at Christmas as for most of the year I don’t get to see any of them. To be just, I must also add that they don’t all turn up on Christmas day.

In times past, in the Gnomepants manse, Christmas would be a “relative safari”. We would wake Christmas morn, have prezzies, have dinner, then drive round to the grandparents for Christmas there. Then the following day, we would be inundated with more rellies then we’d sod off to Auntie Pat’s for more relative mixings in her house behind the toxic paint factory. (I can still remember the smell of that factory. Her house has long since been demolished and Pat and her husband succumbed to the noxious paint fumes even longer ago).

Then, as rellies started carking it, Christmases changed. They would be Gnomepants centric. We would just be sitting down for dinner and the doorbell would always ring. You could guarantee it would be a relative to see my elderly grand parents (both my nans, who by this time were widowed would come to the Gnomepants Homestead rather than spend it alone in their respective houses in the middle of council Hell).

So yes. You were just pulling up the chair and there would be Uncle Fred and the spawn grinning and full of cheer. The turkey would be shoved back into the oven and we would have to pretend that we sat around the dining table anyway. And that we weren’t about to eat and by no way would they be disturbing us.

Was this a surreptitious attempt at trying to get a free dinner out of my old mum? Or was there something more sinister? Like dropping off that strange old smelly Aunt that sits in the corner drinking the house dry of port?  I have my suspicions.

Anyway. An hour would pass and I imagine the sound of our rumbling bellies and the sight of eyes that say “Fuck off” caused them to make their excuses and so we would turn our attentions back to the meal that was now dried and withered and resembling something from the night before. Of course, the dinners will have their own post in the next few weeks so let’s not loiter in that area for too long.

The point I’m getting at is somehow, at Christmas, relatives develop this radar and know when to appear at the most inconvenient moment. Worse still, they somehow manage to eat all the chocolates, make dinners go cold and end up drinking more port than is humanly possible.

Of course it’s not limited to immediate family. Sometimes you’ll just be about to nibble a prawn and mum will come in, whisk away your prawn cocktail and then run to the door to welcome in some relative you’ve never even heard of. Ohhhhhh it’s great Aunt Fenella! Oh you haven’t seen me since I was 2? That’s nice. Yes of course I’ve changed I’m 35 now. What’s that? Port? Yes sure I’ll get you a glass. No you’re not disturbing our dinner. We always sit round the dining table…burning? No that’s just the cat…

DISCLAIMER – Names and relations have been changed to protect the status quo of family relations. Some,if not all, of the events in this post are or may be fictitious. If you think anything in this post is about you, then you are probably very wrong and you should pay a penance by buying me a nice pair of socks for thinking I would be as callous as the person you obviously think I am for writing defamatory comments about you on a public post. So yes. Socks. Black please. With coloured toes. Or I’ll tell someone about that thing you did with the thing.

Bah Humbug – Part 10

Reposting this and other entries from this 2009 series

Day 10 – Kids

Yes, I know I was one once. But when I was a kid, you sat in the corner, kept quiet and got made a fuss of by that strange smelly Auntie that sat in the corner getting slowly pissed on port.

These days, I’m told “Christmas is for the Children”.

I’ve got news.

BOLLOCKS IT IS.

Its for everyone. Why do children always get preferential treatment?

When I was a kid, I’d be happy with a hoop, a stick and a sock full of satsumas. These days it’s Wii this, Playstation that, I want this, I want that, Gimme gimme gimme. Whinge whinge whinge. Ungrateful little shits.

They have no experience or love of the TV guide hunt. They’ve never even been sent to bed at 8pm and told if they wake up before 9am their presents will turn to dust. Spoilt they are.

They don’t even have to suffer a thousand pensioners groping their tussled curls and being told they would have girls queuing up round the corner for them. It’s like the Christmas they experience is a pastiche of the Christmases they should experience. Worse still, is when they eat all the sweets and chocolates and end up running round like excitable little wasps for three hours.

My niece, Charlotte, bless her, was the centre of attention at my mum and dad’s house at Christmas until recently. She got to open her presents first. She always seemed to get more presents than me too. She didn’t have to suffer the annual relation safari until Boxing day. She has no experience of the smelly odd looking aunt in the corner either. Instead, her Christmas day is one of presents, presents, food, presents and more presents.

Jealous? Me? No…but, as you will see on the 17th day, I have my reasons…..

Bah Humbug – Part 9

Reposting this and other entries from this 2009 series.

Day 9 – Christmas TV

There was a time when I would rush out to the newsagent and buy copies of the Christmas editions of TV Times and Radio Times.

These were days long ago when in the UK we were so poor we only had 3 TV channels. Of course, when this went up to 4 channels that didn’t stop the annual trip to the newsagent for the magazines. Gosh no.

So, once I had the television listings in my hands I would pour over each day looking to see what was going to be shown that festive period and highlight the programmes I would watch, carefully colour coded so that lime green would be “watch” and hot pink would be “video tape”.

Of course these were the days before DVD, the internet and being able to stay up late (Yes, there was such a time).

I remember being awed at the choice of excellent programming, the dilemma of do I watch this or do I watch that and the awful paradox of having to decide what to do if four programmes were on at the same time.

Those days went in 2001.

Television programming started to suffer in the UK and the choice of “Do I watch the fiftieth repeat of Back to the Future” or “Do I watch that episode of Only Fools and Horses where Del Boy falls through the bar for the 90th time” got tiring. TV listings had lost their sparkle.

These days I don’t bother. A lot of this stems from having to work over the Christmas period and missing all the great films and stuff because I was at work but it is also the fault of TV stations for not showing anything more compelling than the Doctor Who Christmas Special.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the Doctor Who Christmas Special the telly probably wouldnt go on at Christmas.

My brothers still do this annual habit. I’m pleased to say I have out grown it, or maybe I have matured enough to realise that Del Boy falling through the bar is not funny anymore. Nor is watching family breakdowns on Eastenders  compelling enough. Has it really come to this? Has TV really had its day? Will generations to follow simply look to see what the latest government approved Youtube upload is? Or what?

I cannot recall I time when I’ve seen something advertised on the Christmas listings as something I must not miss. Even this year, with the choices of Abba The Movie,  Gladiator, and the thousandth showing of Speed I am frankly underwhelmed.

I suppose there’s always Del Boy falling through the bar….

Bah Humbug Part 8

Reposted from 2009 – Some references may be made to differing circumstances.

Day 8 – Office Parties

Possibly the most loathsome thing about Christmas….is the office parties.  God I hated them. Fortunately being a lazy student (in 2009), I don’t have to suffer “office parties”.

However it was not always like this. My first office party was one when I worked at Halfords as a spotty teen. It was at a hotel in the centre of Liverpool and basically involved getting fed, then very drunk, dancing like twat and ending up feeling £50 lighter.

It was fun. For an uninitiated youth.

The following years were similar fayre. Conveyor belted Christmas food, too much drink and failed attempts at trying to gain the affections of Cheryl Crotty.

There then followed several years of where I worked  Christmas parties. By worked I mean I served at a bar where there were at least 5 Christmas parties a week. That was arduous. Watching drunken proffesionals embarrass themselves dancing and trying to gain the affections of Cheryl Crotty.

Without giving an indepth breakdown of Christmas parties of the past, I soon realised what a hellish thing the office Christmas party was. I would sooner share a bath with twelve randy tramps than go to another office Christmas party.

Office Christmas parties are big money. Sure they’re good for schmoozing and even better if you’re trying to gain the affections of Cheryl Crotty. But when you get under the bonnet all they are are a handy little money spinner for local hotels and function suites.

Remember the mass served often cold flacid Christmas dinner? The god awful cheapo crackers? The urgent need to try and get yourself sat next to someone who isn’t going to talk shop all night or make you wish you’d sat at the other end of the table where they’re always having more fun? Recall the dreadful looped Christmas muzak as Jona Lewis sings about that fucking cavalry again?

Don’t forget the awfulness of having to socialise with a group of people you pray you never see ever again when you finally leave your place of employment. Nor the frightful bollocks you have to put up with when the new starter or office junior tries to cop off with you because Cheryl Crotty has told them to fuck off.

Then the horror of having to find a cab…in the dark…and realising you’ve drunk far too much….

Why do people bother?