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

My Mushroom Valentine Part 2: A Weird Proposal

After our first meeting, Mark and I met from time to time in the company of our respective partners.  Then in the autumn of that year I went to live in Spain.  I didn’t think about Mark much; I was too excited about living and working in Madrid, but I did correspond with my German friend.  At some point she told me she and Mark had split up, though amicably: then that summer when I came home she’d gone to Germany, so in her absence Mark and I met for a drink.  We got on well and from then on met every time I came back.  We were becoming friends, though I didn’t think about it much; I was too focussed on life in Spain.  Above all I didn’t consider him as a Prospect as he wasn’t at all the usual kind of guy I went out with.  I normally went for more extravert, more dynamic blokes, and Mark was shyer then than he is now.And then a lot of things happened at once: my granddad died and left me enough money to travel round India; my work in Madrid dried up, my work permit expired; and all of a sudden I was on the crux of a different life.  I was thirty-five but had no desire to get married or have children, and I could see a future where I just kept on travelling; maybe stopping from time to time to teach English somewhere and make enough money to keep on travelling.  I honestly thought that was what I wanted.

But sometimes things conspire against you.  I was in London that New Year getting my visa for India: Mark was in London on a demo.  What could be more natural than to meet up?  I found him at the tail-end of a small and rather obscure demo and dragged him off to the Tate where according to his diary I impressed him with my knowledge of art.  Blimey!  Then it was lunch-time: we went to a pub nearby and settled down with a beer and a sandwich.  And that’s when it happened: all of a sudden it came upon me that what I wanted was not to travel forever but to marry Mark and have his babies.  And without a moment’s pause I blurted this out right then and there, causing not only Mark but the people at the next table to jump several feet in the air.  There was a horrid pause.  Oh God, what have I said? I thought.  Mark considered the proposal (such as it was).

‘I don’t know what I think about marriage,’ he said.

My heart sank. Oh, **** I’ve blown it now, I thought.

‘But I do know I want to be with you forever,’ he said.

I sank back in my seat in relief.  Thank god for that! I thought.

And, reader, I kissed him.

All Quiet on the West End Front

Yes, New Year is a time for looking forward but let us not forget that January is named for Janus, the Roman God of Doorways, who is shown looking BACK as well as forwards.


I was hoping that would turn into an image but it hasn’t.  Ah well… anyway, in the true spirit of Janus, Mark (the English God of Geeks) last night made a New Year video in which he asked us to name one thing we were proud of, one thing we wanted to leave behind and one thing we wanted to accomplish.  Mine were, in order, my Tomatoes pamphlet, this house and being properly published.

Last night was a quiet New Year’s Eve for us: we went to the Western for an hour or so where it was sizzlingly – though not uncomfortably – busy, with a log fire spluttering and giving off waves of cheery heat.  I wanted to see the New Year in at home but since I’d woken before six and not managed a cat-nap, I’d had it well before eleven, so went to bed.  I was woken at 12 by fireworks and cheering in the street, which I half-wished I felt like joining in – but I didn’t.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions – mainly because I believe in changing your life at any moment, and particularly when it needs to be changed.  Still, if you make resolutions I’d like to hear about them.  What are you resolving to do?  Or not to do?  Is it about achieving a long-desired goal?  Giving something up?  Taking something up?  Whatever it is, please comment below and then let me know how it works out for you.

Happy New Year!