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Fuck Christmas

You may not be too surprised to learn that in general, I am a miserable, sour-faced old git. Better living through chemistry helps, but even so, it can’t overcome my contempt for the forced, almost mandated so-called “spirit of Christmas”. Spirit of Scotland, yes, particularly if said spirit comes from the highlands or the island of Islay and is at least twelve years old. But I digress.

This year was particularly egregious in getting the holiday underway, as on a number of occasions I saw Christmas items competing for shelf space with Halloween stuff! Yep, you read that correctly. That really is too much, and it put me in a bad mood right from the start. I really dislike the fact that we’re all supposed to get excited about Christmas regardless of our age. No, it isn’t the happiest time of the year. It’s cold, the sun is gone by 4 p.m. and everyone is stressed out by having only just recovered from Thanksgiving and facing the prospect of plunging straight back into the fray.

In general I try to avoid this as much as possible, wearing earbuds with the volume turned up to eleven, and not doing much in the way of decorating. My house is not only too small to have a tree, I don’t even have the storage space for decorations. I do have a few things: paper decorations made by the kids, some glass balls my sweetie bought that are about the size of gumballs and a two foot tall tree composed entirely of tree ornaments, but that is it.

Not so my sweetie. She  decorates every square inch of her home and takes  great delight in her mid century modern aluminium Christmas tree. My kids take  almost as much delight in assembling it. It consists of three sections that form the trunk and a large number of branches covered in silver tinsel which have to be inserted into holes in the trunk in a specific order. Despite the fact that she is a hard core Seinfeld fan, she insists on assembling the tree so it doesn’t look like a Festivus pole. Admittedly, that would lead to the traditional airing of the grievances, but she usually saves that for special days.

The kids love assembling the tree, as they have for the last three years or so, and it brings out the best in them: my son gets to organise, and his sister gets to indulge her artistic side. Of course, we let them do all the hard work this year and they had a blast, as usual. I really couldn’t have cared less, but did my duty hanging decorations on the tree. I think the kids enjoy the novelty of an artificial tree, as they have grown up knowing only a ten foot Noble Fir in the corner of their living room.

Of course, the big issue is presents. As the kids have grown up, their tastes have become not only more sophisticated, but also harder to discern. This year was a real trial. My son the tech head is impossible to buy for without a very specific list. Thankfully he provided one eventually, but so much of it was pure wishful thinking that my choices were somewhat limited. My daughter was just as difficult – eventually giving me a half arsed list on the 13th. To some extent I understand. Neither of them is particularly acquisitive and both of them pretty much have everything they need.

My sweetie is a different issue in that for her, I was able to pick up things as I saw them, and when she did provide me with a list I was pretty much done shopping for her. I hate to buy only gifts on the lists people provide, so with luck she will be surprised when she starts the unwrapping – pleasantly, I hope.

Another thing that irritates me is the forced jollity. Peace on Earth and good will to all men is a fine sentiment, but why restrict it to Christmas? Shouldn’t that be the policy all year round? Am I missing something? I do realise that this year much more than most has been thin on the good will, and peace has been noticeable by its absence, but surely we can make an effort for rather longer than the last five weeks of the year.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the kids I wouldn’t bother with Christmas at all. It just seems like such a waste of time. I’d rather wait until the spring and celebrate surviving another year and another winter. At least getting through another spin around the sun is something to celebrate, an actual achievement worth acknowledging , much more so than some  Iron Age fairy tale that went unwritten for three centuries. To quote Terry Jones in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” “Creeping ’round a cow shed at two o’clock in the morning doesn’t sound very wise to me.”

I could go on, but if any of you are still reading, you probably don’t want to read much more. Besides, I have a lot to do today: I have to harness Max and remember to make sure to take the last can of Who Hash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Funny Valentine

I’m not the most romantic man in the world. Are you O.K.? Hang on, I’ll wait while you get a cloth or something to dry off your screen and keyboard, because I know how embarrassing a spit-take can be. I hope you didn’t choke or aspirate. Maybe you should take a couple of minutes to recover.

Is it fine for me to continue? Good. Now that you are over the shock, let me elaborate. Valentine’s Day is a con, a multi-billion dollar scam designed to make us spend money we don’t have on things we don’t want to buy. Getting a card from a secret admirer, while potentially creepy, is not unwelcome, but the modern Valentine’s Day industry has removed not only the romance, but also the mystery from the day.

Let’s be honest. If a guy doesn’t buy a card and a gift for his S.O. he is going to be in a world of hurt. For the married man, this is doubly true. Over the course of my marriage my interest in the so-called holiday waned, from the initial enthusiasm of the newlywed to a perfunctory duty as it became increasingly clear that our marriage was nothing more than a domestic arrangement. There was one bright moment, though. When my son was about six, I was sitting at the table waiting for my wife to come downstairs, and he asked me what was in the  box on the table. I told him and explained that it was a Valentine’s Day gift for his mother. Eventually, she came downstairs, and with an air of fake interest asked “I wonder what this is?”, to which my son, in a bright clear voice full of enthusiasm announced; “It’s earrings!” Thanks, son.

Fast forward to this year. My sweetie came over on the 10th, and as we planned our weekend, she said “You realise what Friday is don’t you?”.

“Ah. I was going to talk to you about that”. I explained that I regard Valentine’s Day as a scam and how I resent the societal pressure to express my feelings for someone in a public display of consumption in front of strangers. Much better, I said, to simply prove it to the person concerned on a daily basis, rather than on one particular day, my example being Christmas. Why the emphasis on “Peace on earth and good will to all men” on 1/365th of the year? Why not apply that tenet every day?

“But we’re still doing  flowers and Champagne, aren’t we?”

Which is why I found myself in Costco on Feb 14th, surrounded by concerned looking men who were  enveloped in a fog of desperation and despondency. Yes, I bought roses,and yes, I did buy Champagne. I have always put quality above quantity and refuse to drink sparkling white wine. What I do resent is the 50% hike over the price I paid for a bottle just before New Year’s Eve.  I’d already bought her a gift, so I’m not entirely stupid, no matter what you might think.

She came over on the Friday evening, but timing and circumstances meant that it wasn’t until Sunday that we actually celebrated. I baked a mushroom strudel from scratch, made a salad and provided dessert to go along with the roses and champagne, and I must admit that it was the most enjoyable Valentine’s Day I’d had in a long while. To be honest, it didn’t feel forced at all. I enjoyed the evening, and at least I spent it in the company of someone who doesn’t treat me like a mildly retarded house N*****.

Am I wrong here? should I have said nothing and just gone along with the game?” I’m not perfect, ( sorry, I hope you had the cloth nearby) but at least I know when the hill isn’t worth dying for. It’s not that I don’t appreciate her, it’s just that she’s the only one who really needs to know that, and I can do that in much more effective ways than the production of dying flora and carbonated alcohol.

 

 

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