Happy New Meh

I don’t wish to go all bah humbug on you, but I have to confess that this has been the most meh Christmas and New Year that I can remember.  I don’t know why; I suspect it’s personal rather than anything to do with the zeitgeist, but although I can remember Christmases when I was sad or depressed or hung over (besides the Christmases I can’t remember because I was permanently drunk) I can’t remember a season when I was so – well, unenthusiastic.  I guess this is what children are for: just when you become jaded with the idea of getting drunk every year, you get married and have your own children – and so now that I’m bored with it all I’m ready for some grandchildren.

It wasn’t always thus: Christmases in my childhood were very traditional.  They began with an Advent calendar (the windows opened on pictures which you could enjoy every day, not a stupid chocolate which was gone in a second) – no, I tell a lie, it began in the summer with the creation of home made Christmas puddings and cake: my mother would no more have dreamed of buying these items than of dressing up as an angel and flying around the kitchen.

We awoke to the traditional stocking presents; then after breakfast we would go to church.  Then the sherry would come out and the lunch preparations would begin in earnest.  Everyone came to us as we had the largest house; the food was cooked in the vast, high-ceilinged kitchen and brought through to the large dining-room table.  After lunch we always watched the Queen (who, then as now, had practically nothing to say) before having our pudding and mince pies.  Puddings were set alight in a darkened room by dousing them in brandy.

After the clearing-up (and not a moment before) we would open our main presents.  Not for us the children tired of presents before lunchtime: we had to wait almost the whole day for ours.  After this the adults (I kid you not) would go upstairs to dress for the evening (my mother had a long green velvet skirt which always came out at this time of year) and then we would settle down for games.

As a child I always wanted to have the TV on since in those days if you missed something you’d missed it: we must have foregone more Morecambe and Wise Christmas shows than anyone in the entire country.  Mind you, they’ve all been on a thousand times since, along with biopics and documentaries and reconstructions of how they came to be made.

But the games!  Charades was a staple but we had loads: one was a version of Blind Man’s Buff called Squeak, Piggy Squeak! where a blindfolded victim was turned round and round while everyone changed places.  He or she then had to approach someone in a chair, place a cushion on their lap and chant the immortal words, ‘squeak, piggy, squeak!’  The person would then squeak, disguising their voice as much as possible.  If the blindfolded one guessed their identity then they were blindfolded in turn, and so the game went on.

As well as these we had cupboards full of board games such as monopoly and ludo, card games such as cribbage (my grandfather made the boards himself) and a net, ball and bats which could transform the dining table into a ping-pong table, albeit one whose fluted edges made the balls ping off at impossible angles.

New Year, by contrast, was pretty much a non-event: my parents rarely stayed up to see in the New Year and when I was old enough I either did a shift at the pub where I worked or went up to Trafalgar Square with friends.  One memorable year I met friends in London and we all got totally hammered (come to think of it, that must have been a great night, since I don’t remember it at all…)

Nowadays Christmas is very muted; just a handful of us gather with a mix of veggie and turkey breasts; we watch the Queen and light the pudding in a desultory sort of way, drink a fair amount of wine and then go into a slump.  And as for New Year… well, this time we went to bed early, like the pathetic old people we are.

Like I say, it’s all been very, very meh.

Kirk out

Merry Christmas to All

Before the sun dips below the horizon and before I dip below the sofa, I shall take this opportunity to wish all my readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year.  This afternoon I turned the radio on and realised it was time once again for the Nine Lessons and Carols, which always starts with the announcer saying:

‘And as the sun dips below the horizon a single voice begins the service of Nine Lessons and Carols’ (or words to that effect) and then a choirboy sings the first verse of ‘Once in Royal.’  There’s a great power in the annual repetition of these carols: this afternoon I went to an open-air carol singing next to the Carillon, a famous bell-tower in the centre of Loughborough, where the choir had to synchronise carols with the ringing of the bells.  I like carols: they’re atmospheric, poetic, cheerful and above all they link every Christmas back to my earliest childhood.  I usually find I know all the traditional ones by heart, having sung them so often.

When I was a child Christmases always followed the same pattern: church in the morning, Christmas dinner around one o’clock (the full works, usually with ten or twelve of us round the large dining-room table: this was used as a lumber-room for the rest of the year and only cleared out for Christmas).  There would be a rest before a Christmas pudding which would be set alight in a darkened room; served with custard, cream and home made mince pie, after which the adults would go for a lie-down and we kids would play with our presents.  At around seven the adults would dress (I kid you not) and we would assemble in the living-room for parlour-games until about nine when we would eat a buffet supper of rice salad, cheese, ham and other savouries.

But I forgot the Queen!  How could I forget the Queen?  At three o’clock precisely the entire family would settle in the lounge, the TV would be ceremoniously switched on and silence would prevail for the ten minutes or so of Her Madge’s address, after which the TV set would be returned to darkness.  At no time either before or subsequently was the TV watched on Christmas Day.

As a child I chafed against this: all my friends were watching the fabulous array of films and seasonal programmes which were only available at this time of year: and we were missing them.  As a teenager I thought it was unutterably lame to play parlour games – but I have to admit we’ve reinstated some of these traditions in our own Christmases, so that Holly and her boyfriend were yesterday subjected to charades.

They seemed to enjoy it, though I did discover it’s extremely difficult to mime ‘Minority Report.’

Anyway, at the risk of sounding too much like HM herself, it’s been a pleasure getting to know all my readers and followers.  If you follow or even comment I will take a look at your blog and I’ve come into contact with some really interesting life stories.  So keep it up; keep safe and warm and have a fabulous Christmas.

Love, Kirk