Christmas Cheer


‘Christmas is going to be just like any other day in this house – dead miserable.’

Tony Hancock

As I’m lying in bed with a stinking cold and thinking about cancelling Christmas, Hancock’s ghastly yuletides past, from a time that knew about real austerity, spring readily to mind. There’s a goose being cooked somewhere with my moniker on it, but all I’ve managed to eat in two days is a spoonful of something called ‘Yorkshire Provender’ which is like soup with all the flavour removed, and containing the surprise reveal of boiled potatoes at the bottom.

Reading helps a little but perhaps I should be trying something lighter, Ben Schott’s ‘Jeeves’ homage perhaps, rather than Dorian Lynskey’s ‘The Ministry of Truth’, about totalitarian regimes and the writing and aftermath of ‘1984’, a fascinating and much needed volume. (I should have guessed that George Orwell was depressing company.)

My movie viewing isn’t cheering me up either. I’ve seen ‘The Lighthouse’, about two men going mad in a lighthouse, (monochrome, academy screen, Popeye accents) and ‘The Vanishing’, about three men going mad in a lighthouse with Scottish accents. I suppose I could rewatch ‘Cold Skin’ (selkie-type creatures attack lighthouse, ‘Tower of Evil’ (murderer in lighthouse) and ‘The Day of the Triffids’ (climactic fight against killer plants in a lighthouse) to complete a full day’s viewing of going-mad-in-lighthouses.

Now, I like arthouse movies far more than most but today I’d pick any SF film where spaceships bash into each other over watching another Armenian-flautist-undergoing-a-moral-crisis-after-the-death-of-an-autistic-child film. The Queen’s Speech is always a highlight because HRH is entirely unflappable, so that even Armageddon would become another ‘bumpy year’. I like to think that hysterical Millennials watch her and calm the f**k down.

So if you’re looking for Christmas cheer here, hop it. The sun is shining so brightly it might be Midsummer’s Day outside. Christmas confuses me and always has done. It’s usually mild and wet in London. Plus, I associate it with family accidents (my father twice ended up in hospital on Christmas Eve), arguments and disasters, like the time when the dog ate the turkey while it was resting in the kitchen and my mother burst into tears and said, ‘Why is Christmas always this awful?’

And while I’m not quite prepared to Rees-Mogg it and suggest turning back the clock to a time when you got some walnuts and an orange in an actual sock, I don’t think buying someone a new mobile phone is very ‘Gift of the Magi’ either.

Luckily I have this blog to cheer me up. Although you lot don’t really need me here, do you? I spend more time reading the comments than writing the articles, which is just like journalism feature writing without pay. The comments are where it all happens. It’s like some hilarious exclusive club for enquiring minds, managing to leap across topics from quantum mechanics to toast. The entry fee to this club is simply an infinite curiosity.

So, if you ever glance at this blog and think about commenting before changing your mind at the last minute, don’t. Write it down here, join in and have fun with us all in a space where you won’t be judged, where comment is freedom and where you may end up arguing about Dickens, how to fold a bow-tie, where the comma comes in ‘God rest ye merry gentlemen’ or what’s in kedgeree.


28 comments on “Christmas Cheer”

  1. Brian Evans says:

    I made kedgeree once. Never again-“What a Performance” as the late great Sid Field used to say.

    Sorry to hear you are feeling rough. Look on the bright, at least it’s at Christmas so you can get both awful things out of the way at one and the same time.

    If I need cheering up. Will Hay in the immortal “Oh Mr Porter” always hits the spot.

    Hope you feel better soon. Best Wishes, Bri xx

  2. SteveB says:

    Hey cheer up Chris life could be worse you could be me!
    Gute Besserung. Start watching some happy movies!!! Enough lighthouses. I’ve seen The Producers (original Zero / Gene version natch) 100 times but still guarantees a smile. Or one of Ben Hechts comedies, Nothing Sacred or the like.

  3. Brooke says:

    Poor, poor Admin. You don’t do sick gracefully and I feel for your spouse.

    Rather than torture your eyes with reading, sci-fi movies, etc. try an audiobook with a narrator you like. The voice makes a huge difference! As you well know, I cannot abide Christie. But last night I listened to Joan Hickson reading 13 Problems and actually enjoyed the stories.

    Presents, horrible Victorian custom, are the real problem with these holidays. A new phone is a thoughtful gift, given your track record with technology. Compare to 7 acrylic gray scarves received by a friend, an expert fabric designer, from her brother. Or a client who received a call from the manager of a high-end women’s store, asking what she would like for Christmas. Her husband was outside the store, closing a deal by phone, smoking his cigar and waiting to pay for whatever she chose. How’s that for personal and loving.

    Looking forward to HM’s speech. But much to do before then…including a walk along the river.

  4. Ian Mason says:

    Well, if you’re in a house with boisterous children, as many will be this day, it probably reads: “God, *rest* ye merry gentlemen!”.

    Surely you have a Jewish Mama somewhere in your address book? Phone and beg for a delivery of proper chicken soup; although there’s every chance that turkey will be substituted for chicken I’d bet it’ll still do the same job.

    Hmm, and a hefty sock full of walnuts with a large orange sounds like just the right ‘gift’ to give, with gusto, to the Rt. Hon. Rees-Mogg. Not fans of his here, as you might well guess.

    Get well soon Chris and a merry Christmas from me and Sal.

  5. Ian Luck says:

    Rees-Mogging it – oranges, and nuts (steel ones) put in a sock which you use to club Jacob Rees-Mogg round the head, whilst shouting loudly: ” Who’s the Pater? Who’s the Pater?” That, right there, says Christmas cheer to me.

  6. Jo W says:

    So sorry you’re feeling glum, chum. It probably won’t cheer you to read that I’m here, ‘enjoying’ the season with a lot of other ‘oldies’ in what is known as God’s waiting room. ;-(
    On the bright side, I didn’t have to shop,cook,wash up or make beds,so perhaps I should be grateful.
    P.s. Father Christmas didn’t visit with a present again this year,so I’m happy to say that I’m still on his naughty list. 😉

  7. Rachel Green says:

    Ah. I watched ‘The Lighthouse’ yesterday. Can’t say I enjoyed it, but I didn’t hate it, either. I never like the cop-out ending of ‘Day of the Triffids’ either. |Definitely a case of the book being better.

  8. Brooke says:

    Re: J R-M. Response to his tweet are a hoot. Btw, only the relatively well-off received oranges and nuts; these were (are) expensive treats for most people.

  9. Ian Luck says:

    Admin – If I feel ill, but bored, then a book – any book, read by Anton Lesser makes me feel not better, but far more relaxed. He is the master. Hope you feel better soon. I find it very difficult to follow films or TV when feeling below par.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Definitely go for the chicken soup- it is soothing and comforting (two very different things). Who on earth came up with the Yorkshire Provender?
    Movies and television are not helpful to a scarified mind, which is what a sick one is. Turn over and have another nap. We’ve just had a program of French seasonal music, mostly of the Ho, Ho, Ho variety, which was nevertheless very low key and pleasant.
    I hate people who greet one’s whinging with a “never mind, look at what I’m enduring.” Still, we’re going over to my sister-in-law’s for a short visit with her husband who is waiting for a report on the brain biopsy they did last Friday and no matter what happens it’s none of it going to be fun. Come on, a cold is over in 7 days or a week at most, eat that goose (really?) and get better.
    Geese weren’t the most expensive meat in Victorian times and after you’d eaten it there was lots of fat to smoor on bread for days later.
    If nothing else have a hot rum and nap on the fumes.
    Looking for better things in the new year.

  11. Martin Tolley says:

    Anyone want to swap unwanted chrispers pressies? I have an old thruppeny bit made into a key ring. And I still have a VHS tape of the Sound of Music which I was given three years ago.

  12. Roger says:

    Dorian Lynskey’s ‘The Ministry of Truth’
    The sort of book you want to have read without actually reading.

  13. Martin says:

    I enjoyed Ministry of truth a lot although it didn’t sell nearly as well as I thought it should. For comfort reading have you tried Tom Sharpe? Happy Boxing Day.

  14. Richard says:

    Get well soon! If only so you can go out and see more cheery entertainment. I hadn’t thought of Lighthouse horror as a genre, but even Doctor Who had a go at it, so it must be. We’re having out first ever xmas away, visiting friends on Gibraltar. It’s been a nice change, as it’s genuinely pretty multicultural and cheerfully optimistic compared to home. The lighter atmosphere and more open, on street chattiness of the place has highlighted how dour things are back in the UK at the moment. Plus, the hotch-potch of foods from all over is fun. We did go and see Star Wars too, which wasn’t so positive. Great cast, great quality, but the story leaps about then fizzles out. My 7 year old self was disappointed not to get his fix of straightforward swashbuckling; and my current self was disappointed that Poe and Finn didn’t get to resolve their smoulder, some great characters got sidelined, and Dennis Lawson’s cameo was so tiny. It needed to be braver, and not try to keep everyone happy. Anyway, happy Christmas to all!

  15. admin says:

    Some wise advice here along with the cheerful advocations of violence.
    Geese always make me think of Conan Doyle. Isn’t there a Holmes scene in which someone buys a Christmas goose on Tottenham Court Road and carries it around his neck like a scarf?
    As The Spouse has now also become a linctus-chugging plague-pit we have called off all social events, flights, meals etc. until recoveries are effected.
    Normal service will be resumed etc.

  16. Peter Tromans says:

    “The Blue Carbuncle”? That could be a nasty complication following a cold. Decades ago, we had two weeks in Sardinia in August. The first week, I had a terrible cold, a nose that passed no air, but litres of liquid. The second week, I had bronchitis. I sometimes think that there’s something inside us that says, “You are not allowed to enjoy life. You must suffer.” The only good thing about a cold is that, like a horror story, it will end; normal life will return. In the meantime, squirt saline up your nose, pour whisky down your throat and let manuka melt in your mouth.

  17. Roger says:

    One of the best lighthouse horror shows:
    I remembered id over neaely sixty years!

  18. Peter Dixon says:

    I once worked with a Glaswegian sub-editor whose remedy for a cold was ‘A fat tart, a bed and a bottle of Bell’s’ but that doesn’t work for everyone.

    For soup I’d prescribe Mulligatawney.

    For SF I’d recommend Netflix ‘Lost In Space’ now in series 2 that beats everything Star Wars by several light years.

    Hope you both get well soon, certainly in time to enjoy New Year.

  19. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    That kedgeree looks delicious.
    Hope you both feel better soon.

  20. Davem says:

    I’ve felt crap all Christmas too … little food and no vino.

    Feels so strange when everyone else is having fun … or at least giving the impression they are.

  21. Davem says:

    Watched Stan and Olly last night … must admit, even not feeling at my best, it was thoroughly enjoyable.

  22. Trace Turner says:

    Great. Now you’ve made me look up what goes into kedgeree for what seems like the twentieth time. Sounds terrible. But at least I’ll forget it again like the other 19 times. Some information refuses to stay in my brain, like the meanings of jejune or esoteric. Please excuse me while I look those up again…

  23. Wim says:

    Jeeves and the Yule-Tide spirit, always a good read!

  24. Ian Luck says:

    I like Kedgeree – but I can never face it as a breakfast dish; the thought of it, early in the day, turns my stomach. Odd that – Devilled kidneys on toast – now that IS a breakfast dish, I could eat until it came out of my ears, as is, and I speak from experience, a dish of Whitebait.

  25. Helen Martin says:

    I’ve made mulligatawny soup and thought it was really good, probably cure anything germ caused, but it’s a lot of work.

  26. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – my dad always claimed to dislike anything curried, and yet he adored Mulligatawny soup, buying tins of it, and heating it up and eating it whilst watching ‘Sportsnight’ on TV.

  27. Jan says:

    Tell you wot does work if you’ve got a bad cold/flu. Hot and Sour Soup. Clears the sinuses.

    Loads of protein in it. good for you like chicken soup but.. Well…Hot + Sour.

  28. Helen Martin says:

    Ah, but my mulligatawny involved a chicken and quite a number of unexpected things. Dads have all sorts of ideas about what they like or not. Mine claimed he hated onions yet he had a second helping of my spaghetti sauce which was full of onions. My house believes that the smallest amount of onion to use is one smallish onion, but usually it’s one big one or two small – or three – but definitely no “one quarter cup minced fine”. My mother was disgusted privately to me.

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