These are the odd days, the last few before the day itself; slow and pointless and in the way.
Sunday will be my seventh Xmas in this pokey little flat, and it will be the a repeat of the previous six. I would call it almost a ritual, except that it is too relaxed, maybe even chilled, to assume such proportions. But at some point on Xmas Eve, hopefully relatively early, I will shut and lock the door behind me, throw off the world and, save for excursions onto the internet, will neither see nor speak to any other person until Boxing Day. And then only to buy the newspaper.
Not everybody could handle Xmases like that, but then I’m not everybody. I have the complete freedom to do as I choose, without responsibility to or from anyone else, and I will exercise that freedom by doing exactly the same things every year.
I will wake when I wake, and I will lie in bed, warm and tired, for as long as I want. When that is done, I shall unwrap my presents, unwrapping here meaning taking them out of the various packets, envelopes and boxes wherein they have been received, from Amazon and eBay, this past six weeks. Books, CDs, DVDs.
Sometime around 2.00ish, or maybe later, the turkey will go in the oven for however many multiples of twenty minutes, turn and turn about, its size requires. Based on that, I will, at different intervals, put in the vegetables, prepare the stuffing and the gravy, to cook for the requisite times so that all will be ready at (roughly) the same time. A massive leg, some slices of breast, the bacon off the wings, a couple of bangers, the plate piled high as I can get it without gravy running off in protest.
I have a hankering for jam sponge pud and custard for desert this year – I have never been able to eat Xmas pudding, or Xmas cake – though I imagine that, as usual, dessert will effectively be my tea, later in the evening.
All the Xmas presents have been bought. All the Xmas food has been bought, apart from the jam sponge pud because I haven’t yet found any that amount to more than two mouthfuls, and those genuinely last minute things like fresh bread.
And that’s what makes these the odd days. Because there’s nothing to do. My regular TV programmes are into their several Xmas breaks. This year’s Festive TV is completely unappealing, nothing – literally – until Sherlock, and that’s after New Year’s Day. There’s no football, no cricket. I am going to no parties, for no drinks. I am working all week, and it feels peculiarly hollow, especially as the day nears, and most solutions are now going to have to be postponed until after Xmas.
There’s no engagement, no involvement, just a handful of days to be passed through on the way to something better. Xmas holds no religious significance for me, and it never really has, for all that I used to believe, vaguely, in God for most of my life. I am now, and for several years have been, an atheist, so really the season is now one of material pleasure – in the turkey I’m going to stiff myself with, the books I’m looking forward to reading etc. – and the pretence, at least and however falsely, that we can be good and nice and decent to each other.
For a couple of days. Until we are let off the hook, and can go back to being utter bastards again, the way we seem to like it (see all political developments in this country, and overseas, in 2016).
It’s just a question of getting there. Which means going through the odd days, the ones with no meaning except the passage of time, from minute to minute and hour to hour.