I thought I’d better write something about Christmas. Keep it topical n’all.
I’m not exactly the most enthusiastic about the festive season. That may or may not surprise you. I can’t help but feel it’s more about consumerism and spending shit loads of money more than the original religious aspect and just the idea of getting together with family. It’s rammed down our throat on tv and in the newspapers. It’s just social culture that Christmas is a time to spend spend spend!
I may not have the same enthusiasm as a children’s tv presenter but I’m far from the Ebenezer Scrooge league. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve got kids then great! You get to spoil them and make them believe in the magic of Christmas whereby a fat bloke visits every house in the world and empties his sack. The science and logic of it is impossible but who cares because the one thing kids know about Christmas is that they get toys! That’s all they really care about. I don’t have little Grumps yet but if I ever do I’m sure I will no doubt look forward to Chrimbo. To see the joy on their little grumpy faces as they are playing with their new onion and mop head.
It doesn’t help that contrary to the popular Christmas song there aren’t just twelve days of Christmas any more. Christmas starts in October according to shopping centres. At that time, I’m already cheesed off that I’ll have youngsters knocking on my door dressed as ghosts or vampires or as specifically experienced in Dudley, just with their hoods up, blackmailing me into giving them some chocolate or other sweet confectionery otherwise there will be a “trick” which will probably involve petrol bombing my car. “Here…have a chocolate log. Just don’t damage the car! What? Crack? No I don’t have any crack! How old are you? Seven!?” So as I’m preparing myself to handle Halloween, lurking in shopping centres are the not so subtle hints that Christmas is coming! If Christmas was just for December then I wouldn’t be that bothered, but by the time it comes around, I’m fed up of it before it’s even supposed to have begun.
Then you’ve got to put a tree up. With glitter and baubles and lights. Mrs Grump wanted a tree up this year. That’s our tree above. I left her to decorate it which only took about five hours and then some of the lights became temperamental. So I decided in the interest of health and safety to take them off and replace them with new ones. Mrs Grump was not very happy about this. I was about to destroy her masterpiece. There is after all, a method to Christmas tree decoration apparently. Then this cumbersome unstylish man is going to come along and ruin it! Still I bought the new lights, Mrs Grump took pictures of the tree to remember what her masterpiece looked like and solemnly went upstairs so she didn’t have to watch the tragedy that was about to take place. She didn’t need to witness this massacre. However, being a bloke, I didn’t exactly mess about. I also had no intention of removing any of the decoration. I just unwound the lights that I wanted to remove and then wound on the new lights. No tinsel or baubles were harmed in the light switching operation and the relief on Mrs Grump’s face was a picture. But it’s no wonder I don’t have much care for Christmas trees. My Grumpy parents had a large tree when I was about Five. Our lounge looked like a tacky grotto with decorations galore. But as I got older, the tree just got smaller and smaller until when I was a teenager, they had the equivalent of a twig in a pot. Any more that two baubles and it would have snapped. It was pathetic. So my feelings towards Christmas are more than likely genetic.
Then you’ve got Christmas cards. What a tedious task that is. Especially in this modern age. It’s quite a funny little tradition really. Here’s a piece of paper that says, to you, from me and in between a printed message that I haven’t really read. Please accept this card and stick it on the mantle piece in your home and clog up every flat surface you have in your home with more ornate cards that in the new year, will be thrown away.
Of course if there’s a nice sincere message inside from a family member, good friend or loved one then it means so much more. It’s always nice to receive a heartfelt message from someone. To see that they have invested some time and effort to write you a personal message and to send you their love. I’m always grateful to receive such a card. There’s so much more thought into it but otherwise, when it is obvious the card has been sent with, “To you, from me,” inside, I cant help feel it’s a waste.
But equally, if you didn’t send a card to some people who sent you a card you know they’d be offended. Offended because you haven’t sent them a piece of paper with the same robotic insincerity written inside that they sent to you. How about having a pre-typed card that literally says, “To you. Merry Xmas. From me.” When you receive this card from someone, you thank them and then hand it straight back and then they thank you for it. Eventually, people wouldn’t be bothered about giving out the same cards to receive them straight back again and it would just cancel out. Ok so the Christmas card industry would crumble but hey, think of the trees. Besides, can’t a text give the same message, seem more personal without the clutter and threat to the environment?
But still, I have to send cards to avoid offending people. Thing is, I rarely write anything by hand nowadays. Writing cards makes me realise how shit my handwriting is. It then by default hi-lights to anyone receiving a card from me, how shit my handwriting is. There are young children who don’t know all the alphabet yet, but they can still write better than me. I imagine a relative opening a card with their husband or wife asking who it’s from. “I think it says Don! But I don’t know any Don. This writing is appalling. Obviously it’s been written by a child!”
Christmas shopping. Oh my God! What a ball ache. In Dudley, we have a large shopping centre nearby called Merry Hill. With Christmas being a Merry season it seems like the ideal place to get your gifts for people. It isn’t a merry experience. It should be called Unmerry Hell. Before you even start to wander around aimlessly with a list of names and rough ideas for presents written down (if you’re organised) you’ve got to find a parking space which will probably end up being 3 miles away on a trading estate because you’ve already spent three quarters of an hour driving around the full car park trying to find an empty space. You even start to follow people who look like they might be leaving. Can’t say I’ve ever been stalked by a Vauxhall Astra before. But they cut through some parked cars and you then wish your car was the Delorian in Back to the Future II so you could hover over and stay hot on the tail of the person you’re following. Inevitably you can’t keep up with them because you are behind many other cars in exactly the same situation as you.
When you eventually arrive at the shopping centre you make your way past a false ice rink that has been created with overplayed Christmas songs blaring out. Screaming children and teenagers sliding around and shouting. Stalls of over priced confectionery surround the plastic rink, one of them being a hot dog stall harvesting over cooked sausages that are only a few minutes away from disintegrating into ash. The spotty teenager turning them over with a sad look in his eyes. A look that screams, “Help! No one has bought a hot dog today and I’ve had to listen to I wish it could be Christmas Everyday by Wizard 367 times since November 20th!!”
When you eventually get into the shopping centre, avoiding the large inflatable Santa, Merry Hell is filled to the brim with a swarm of Dudley folk, mullets aplenty and many with the fashion sense of Eastern Europeans all scurrying around looking stressed as they’re trying to find something for their brother/father. Masses of people descending on Boots pharmacy to take advantage of the 3 for 2 Christmas offer. But it’s all you can think of and that way you might get something for the secret Santa you’ve been lumbered with at work. It’s a very tiring affair this Christmas shopping jazz. Hot, flustered, frustrated and fed up are emotions I have experienced whilst queuing with a present I’m undecided about but feel committed to buying because not only am I deep into a queue and don’t want to lose my space, I just want to get out of here. Thank the lord for internet shopping.
When you eventually get your gifts, you’ve got to wrap them. Mrs Grump, being a woman has the specific dna strand in her genetic make up linked to the two X chromosomes that enables women to be good at wrapping. The Y chromosome that men have somehow removes this natural skill and replaces it with the ability to spot cleavage from up to 400 metres away. Men who practice and develop the skill will be able to wrap well but it takes dedication and many years of study. Please see my attempt below.
But I’m not quite sure I see the point of buying wrapping paper. Of course I do it but only because I would piss people off if I wrapped their present in old wallpaper or newspaper. It does the same thing! It’s recycled. I grew up watching Captain Planet damn it! I’m a planeteer, you can be one too, cos saving our planet is the thing to do. Anyway, despite your best efforts to save the planet, do that and be labelled a tight arse. It also doesn’t help if your newspaper of choice is the daily sport. The confusion of Granny when her present is wrapped in some strange breast covered wrapping paper.
Earlier I briefly mentioned something. This is something which pisses me off. I’m talking about Secret Santa. I’m sure you know how this works but just in case you were cared for by Josef Fritzl, it’s where you randomly pick out the name of a colleague and have a budget of £5 or maybe even £10 to buy them a gift. It’s just a bit of fun. Yes harmless fun. Ha ha haaaaa chortle chortle chortle. NO! I don’t know Doris in accounts. I don’t want to know Doris in accounts. And all I do know about Doris is that she smells of cats and urine. What am I going to get her for Christmas? I’d like to take the opportunity to get her some Cillit Bang and a loofah but when she opens it in front of everyone I fear the subtle hint may offend. But at least she might understand why the nearest person in the group remains a comfortable 3 metres away.
It’s a right pain in the arse trying to wander around the shops to buy something for someone you don’t know, don’t really want to know and when at the end of the day you know the present you’re going to get is shit! Last year I was given port. Nice gesture, but I don’t drink. Although I’m almost driven to it sometimes.
But regardless of how shit it is, it’s the discomfort of faking the joy and gratitude in front of everyone when it’s your turn to open your present. All eyes are on you to see what shit you’ve been given but one pair of eyes is watching for your reaction. Being British, we are rarely honest to the point that it may cause offence. So we adopt an Oscar winning performance ensuring we look around the group as we say, “Oh my God! I don’t believe it. This is awesome. I was actually looking at buying some of these. I know, that’s unbelievable. It was only last week I mentioned to Mrs Grump that I was looking for a set of wine stoppers shaped like genitalia. Thank you, thank you so much.”
But you can alleviate the worry of having to buy something that the person will actually like. How? By buying something that you know they won’t like just for the comedy element. This is something that one of my best friends, Sam, did when we worked together on the same team a few years ago.
He had to buy a gift for our manager, Karen. I suggested that rather than buying one present for £5, he should buy five presents by visiting Poundland. I think that he did very well with what he got for his money.
A couple of days later, we all stood in a circle and eventually it was Karen’s turn to receive her gift. When she realised that the bag contained not one but five gifts, she was delighted. “Ooooh I’ve been spoilt,” she said grinning.
Then she opened the first present:
A doily. Her face changed from excitement to peculiar confusion as she held it up. “Something ornate for your home,” said Sam.
She moved on to the second gift unwrapping it with inquisitive driven enthusiasm rather than excitement.
It was an audio documentary cd about a boy band I’d never heard of called 98 degrees. Karen looked at the cd somewhat perplexed. “I know you like your music,” said Sam.
Next she opened the third gift. It was obvious she was getting the idea now.
It was a pack of extra large rizla. “For when you want to roll a fat one,” said Sam. Karen wasn’t really the type of lady to dabble with the herb.
The fourth gift, clearly a dvd. Perhaps the previous gifts were jokes but this is the proper gift?
No. It was a dvd on canal fishing by Dickie Carr. “I know you like your sports,” said Sam. Karen lived by a canal but I doubt she’d even walked along it let alone contemplated fishing there. You wouldn’t catch any fish anyway. Probably catch a few used condoms and an old bike wheel.
Finally, Karen started opening her last gift, residing to the fact that she was getting crap gifts this year.
It was a giant pair of knickers way too big for Karen. “That’s more for your husbands benefit,” said Sam.
Karen really didn’t know what to say. Disappointed is an understatement. I, however, was on the floor, tears rolling down my face from laughing so hard.
Whatever you’re up to this Christmas. Have a good one.