Posts Tagged ‘A Christmas Carol’

“Christmas is for the children”,
It’s a truth I can’t deny,
The presents, songs and snow fall,
On those you can rely.

But adulthood became a chore,
An annual long, exhausting drive
Between the two headline events,
To keep our parents’ hopes alive.

For many years I tried to keep
December’s clutches at arms’ length,
But as each passing year sweeps by
I just don’t have the strength.

Its claws dig deep and earlier,
And pierce my inattentive heart;
No more indifferently immune
To its sharp, insidious dart.

Despite my ears that are assailed
Through October, November long
By Aled, Pogues, Mud, Wings and Wham,
And that infernal Slade sing-song.

Large family revelries now in the past,
Dear parents, and their parents, long gone,
Diluting the shimmer of the show and
Bequeathing a muted and less joyful throng.

But now it is again a welcome treat –
Panto, choral concerts, feasts and plays,
Tours of dazzling lights at Leeds and Kew,
“German” market trips and shopping days.

The season’s music never fails to thrill:
King’s College Cambridge, Ella, Bing and Dean,
Perennial playlist for the biggest day of all,
Soundtrack to a merry Christmas scene.

Vintage movies too take pride of place,
Dusted down from off the topmost shelf,
A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street,
It’s A Wonderful Life, Love Actually and Elf.

So here I am now, two weeks to go,
Already neatly labelled and wrapped tight,
Unlike the presents I have yet to buy,
Far too early yet for that “delight”!

Is it age that makes me reconnect?
A sign that days are hastening on?
A desperate clinging to an ideal past,
Now the future is uncertain, short or long?

Is it my childhood Christian faith,
Gently prodded by my parents’ mind,
That now provokes renewed affection;
No – that has long been left behind.

If it is one thing, it is the music
That still inspires and enraptures me,
Uniting my juvenile and recent years,
Inducing tears to flow from memory.

So I look forward now to Christmas,
The kids, the carols and the theatre live,
The turkey, sprouts, exchange of gifts
And even that long northbound drive.

But one disturbing image still remains –
I won’t be able to suppress a groan
When Noddy Holder clears his throat
And yells “It’s Christmas” to everyone!


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Contrary to my earlier post on this subject ten days ago it’s now 1st December and I don’t feel Christmassy at all! So this post is going to act as a short, gloomy antidote to the sense of childlike expectation that inhabited that piece.

Being English, my natural response is to blame the weather – it remains unconscionably mild, despite dire warnings in September that we would be mired in deep snow long before now, as we were last year. This morning’s intermittent squalls and drizzle add to the cheerless atmosphere that pervades our high streets and shopping centres.

Minor celebrities may have descended to earth to switch on the lights and begin rehearsals for their pantomimes, anxious retailers may be offering ever more tantalising discounts and Dean Martin may be imploring it to snow, but there is a pervading gloom that I have witnessed in four separate Kent towns over the same number of days this week.  The economic situation is, of course, an important factor.  That said, I do not see any obvious signs that people are reining in their spending, with bargains available on so many popular gift items.

No, what is most striking is the grudging, almost resentful manner in which people are going about their festive preparations.  Christmas seems an imposition, and an expensive one at that, at a time when the traditional British approach of “getting by” is what is preoccupying many people.  This is mirrored too in the paucity of Christmas trees, lights and decorations adorning domestic homes.  I cannot recall seeing so few this “late” into the season.

Despite the prompt I gave myself over a week ago, the CDs and DVDs continue to hibernate in dusty ignorance in assorted cupboards around the house.  Billy Bob Thornton will be in an especially foul mood when he is roused to reprise his seminal role as Bad Santa. I have even resisted the blandishments of the twenty four hour TV movies channel too, though that is not that difficult as it generally churns out a surfeit of bland, syrupy made for TV films, interspersed all too rarely with classics such as A Christmas Carol with the wonderful Alistair Sim.

So no wassailing or figgy pudding for me yet, nor have I sampled a single mince pie.  But perhaps it’s just me, running ahead of myself, like those young children singing Jingle Bells under their breath in my previous post.
Kate Rusby’s Christmas concert at the Barbican tomorrow, with its mellow mix of popular and South Yorkshire carols, may well do the trick.  The weather forecasters have indicated that a cold spell will descend upon us at the weekend, which should also add to the seasonal atmosphere.   And next week heralds the customary round of Christmas lunches, dinners and drinks, though they are likely to add more to my waistline and credit card bill than my spirits.

But I should not be complaining.  After all, I began my previous post by lamenting that Christmas forced itself upon me earlier and earlier with each passing year.  I can’t have it both ways can I?

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It is November 21st and the preparations for Christmas are in full swing. Supermarket special offers vie with insurance companies for predominance in TV commercials.  Small children walking to nursery with their mothers can be heard singing “Jingle Bells” or “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” under their breath, though just loud enough to act, they think, as a subtle reminder to Mum.  The cable TV channel Movies 24, renamed Christmas 24 for the duration, is showing festive films throughout the day and night – with a two hour break between 6am and 8am for………….teleshopping! Christmas trees are also beginning to peer from behind curtains.

Much as I enjoy Christmas I have always tried to keep it at arms’ length, at least until the second week in December.  But the date upon which I am sucked into its tentacles has got earlier and earlier. I suppose Halloween now acts as the catalyst for a full scale assault on the holiday season, though the retail world, more desperate than ever to eke every penny out of customers grudgingly trying to resist such attempts, has been playing Christmas carols, Dean Martin, The Pogues and Kirsty McColl, not to mention that infernal Slade song, since mid-October.

So here I am – still a week of November to go and I am already wrapped up in Christmas (unlike the presents I haven’t even started to buy).

Unless we are devout Christians, and I certainly do not claim to be one, I suspect that our perceptions of the occasion vary over our lives.

My childhood Christmas mornings were spent opening the bulging sack of presents that my father, whom, out of loyalty, I had never exposed until now for his obvious mugging and impersonation of Santa, had lain at the bottom of my bed at between 1.30 and 2.00am (how do I know that when I was so obviously asleep at the time?).  At least I had the decency not to disturb my parents before 5am with the revelation of its contents.

After visiting several friends for drinks, we would walk to my paternal grandparents’ house for the traditional Christmas dinner, surrounded by assorted cousins, aunts and uncles, followed by party games, a “good old sing-song” and an elaborate tea comprising such Dickensian delicacies as pork pie and piccalilli.  Once the organisation of such a large event had become too much for them, their children rotated responsibility for accommodating fifteen, sometimes more, celebrants for three nights.  The women and children slept in the beds upstairs and the men sank onto any available floor space downstairs, where the evening’s drinking would be rounded off by the annual world farting championship (which a certain uncle won every year).  Joining the menfolk in this charming ritual became a rite of passage for the boys in the family.

Since leaving University thirty five years ago, the holiday season has, with the exceptions of one New Year in New York and a couple of years where bad weather grounded us, entailed a near six hundred mile round trip between the two events to ensure that both my and my girlfriend’s / wife’s parents were neither offended nor disappointed.  Inevitably, therefore, Christmases and New Years have taken on a familiar and staid pattern.  “Christmas is really for the kids” may be a cliché, but the presence of each succeeding generation of children does enliven the occasion and bring back warm memories of one’s own childhood.

But, in recent years, I have developed a growing affection for Christmas.  For a long time it was an enjoyable if routine experience, which the travelling did little to mollify.  Especially since my disenchantment with football, around which my Christmas diary had revolved, took hold, the lead up to the holiday season has become one long round of social events.

This year alone, I have already booked to see Cinderella, the first pantomime in the new Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury and English folk singer, Kate Rusby’s Christmas Concert at the Barbican Centre in London.  Both of these have become essential annual events.  In addition, we are attending the Christmas Evening Special at Hever Castle and Rochester’s annual Dickensian Christmas and linked German style Christmas market.  We may also be part of the congregation at the Rochester Cathedral Carol Service.  Several Christmas meals are also planned, and there will be the inevitable procession of  shopping excursions, including a visit to the new Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, close to the Olympic Stadium.

And then there’s the Christmas CDs which have been stuffed away in my wardrobe for the past eleven months.  They will need a dusting before my favourite songs are reloaded once again on my iPod to enable me to create the playlists that act as the soundtrack to the “big day”.

The DVD collection will also get an airing with assorted versions of A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street being essential viewing.  Purporting to have a literary disposition, it might be expected that I would cite It’s A Wonderful Life as the ultimate Christmas movie, but I’m sorry to disappoint you – Bad Santa and Elf take pride of place in my collection!

Which brings me to a question that preoccupies me a lot these days – whether my shifting interests and attitudes on this subject, or any other for that matter, are, in any respect, attributable to the ageing process or not.  I have no idea what the answer is. My political views, musical tastes and sporting allegiances remain broadly the same as when I was younger, although they have been subject to some fine shading with the passage of time.  I dare say this phenomenon has attracted scientists who will have theories for it.  Perhaps it will, one day, be the subject of another blog post.

The connection to the Christian dimension of Christmas is a particularly interesting one.  Although I was brought up as a Church of England Christian, and was presented with a bible for 100% attendance at Sunday School when I was nine, any faith that my parents might have gently encouraged me to adopt, has long disappeared.  And I have never been one, unlike my father, to bellow out a carol or hymn – in fact I was only selected for the school choir and placed in the front row because I was a champion mimer.  But, long after those days in primary school when I would sit cross-legged singing (my talent for miming had not been discovered yet) Away in a Manger and Rocking, I remain genuinely touched by the music in particular.  It has the same emotional impact upon me as listening to a reading of the 400 year old King James version of the Bible. I am sure that I am far from alone in harbouring such contradictions.  

So I’m looking forward to Christmas – the social and theatrical events, my father round for dinner and, yes, the travelling to the in-laws for New Year.

But I will not be able to suppress an irritated groan when I hear that damned Slade record for the first time.

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