I could have easily started with an update on my funeral music, now that I’ve had some time to mull things over (fast approaching pun material intended), but that will have to wait for now. You see the most pressing thing in my life at the moment is Christmas. But I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. People moan about the death of the high street and the all powerful talons of online retailing sinking in deeper but frankly, at this time of year, I couldn’t give a toss. In fact I couldn’t give a toss all year round. We’ve made it this way. The high street is slumped in a corner with a collapsed lung and a prolapsed rectum because that’s what we decided to do to it. Someone offered us a choice – to piddle untold billions on Amazon for instance – and we didn’t even blink. Years ago we had the same choice of propping up old Mr McCready’s hardware store and Dangler and Sons – The Butchers, but we just thought it would make more sense to go to a great big Tesco and kill 87 birds with one wallet. That’s progress folks. Progress doesn’t always go in the right direction or at the most appropriate speed but shave it, paint it and tickle it with a feather and it will still be progress. How profound.
So this Christmas I tried to get it all done well in advance but as usual I failed to reckon with the unstoppable wave of thoughtfulness that is ‘the wife’. I’ve shopped online and I’ve shopped in shops. I’ve driven to our local town and parked hundreds and hundreds of metres from anywhere resembling a shop just to have the privilege of being slightly closer to one than to my own house. I’ve signed for endless parcels and picked up the rest from the neighbours and yet every time I think I’ve finished there’s another Christmassy job to get done. ‘The wife’ loves a bit of Christmas cheer so for every small gesture I have made she has made roughly 5. If I’ve given someone a bottle of wine she’s knitted them a hat, baked them a cake, washed their car and filled in their tax return. And then given them another bottle of wine. Please don’t get me wrong – this is how it works in our house and I am eternally grateful to be happily married – but sadly many an evening has been diverted from watching crap and swilling wine to kneeling on the floor biting off bits of Sellotape and furiously burning calories through all my unhelpful eye rolling and sighing, which is something of a speciality. And you know who I blame? Jesus, that’s who.
And I blame him for our Christmas shopping hell too. You can fire anything at me but in the end it’s his (His?) fault that we ended up in Sainsbury’s on Sunday afternoon to pick up the usual ‘few bits’. We can’t have been in there more that 20 minutes (and probably picked up 20 ‘bits’ too, meaning they were no longer just a ‘few bits’) but by the time we were done I felt queasy and had a headache. I know I am prone to exaggeration (there’s a word I didn’t realise I couldn’t spell on my first 8 attempts) but this time it’s true – I really did feel queasy and I really had a headache. The place was chaos. It’s how I’d expect a supermarket to feel 10 minutes before Putin fires the first missile. Everyone looked stupid or anxious or angry; sometimes all three, and more worrying was just how many people had really, genuinely left it all to the last minute. We made the decision to join the self checkout queue (which is always the wrong decision but then we were already in Sainsbury’s 2 days before Christmas so clearly good decision making is not our forte) and as we waited I looked up and noticed that the big hanging sign that said ‘self checkout’ had been replaced with a festive alternative with a cheery cartoon elf leaning forward and blocking out the ‘s’ so it read………oh you can work it out. It really was massive and made from thick cardboard and it occurred to me that if someone at Sainsbury’s was less of a dick that same cardboard could be used as a supporting wall for a family home in the favelas of Rio. What a waste. The whole thing, the shoppers, the shopping, the shop, the bloody elf – all because Jesus was born. What on earth could a made-up omnipotent God have been thinking?
So there, the next time someone moans (other than me) about the vulgar commercialism of Christmas and all the waste when there are billions starving and the planets going to the dogs simply smile weakly at them and remind them that none of this would be so if it wasn’t for the miraculous appearance of a baby child. Away in a manger. If Jesus hadn’t popped up (or out) then the 3 Kings could have had the night in, the shepherds could have watched their flock, the big star in the sky would have still just been a big star in the sky and Joseph wouldn’t have been riddled with seething resentment that someone other than he had fathered a child with his missus. When anyone mutters that they’re “skint already and I’ve only just been paid” on the 3rd of January all you need to do is shrug, pull a mildly sympathetic face and say after me “don’t blame me mate, it’s fuckin’ Jesus that you want to have a word with”.
That said it’s thanks to Jesus that I can start drinking at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning without feeling guilty and then rip wrapping paper to bits because ‘the wife’ is fantastic. If we’re lucky Miss Hairy Mary Miyagi will join us; she’s like the Christmas star, only much, much dimmer. So that kind of evens things out a bit. Either way – have a very merry Christmas.
G B Hewitt. 24.12.2018