Retro Xmas


I’m beginning to think that we might, just might, have a Retro Xmas no 1 this year.

If we do, it looks unlikely to be my dream choice, Kirsty and the Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’, though that’s climbed to no 7 this week. But Mariah Carey and Wham! have both moved up three places, to nos 2 and 3 respectively. All three of these songs peaked at no 2, first time out, and there’s got to be a definite chance of either Maria the Diva or the late George M going that final one better.

We’ll know at 6.00pm on Friday, when the Xmas chart gets announced. Maybe a Retro top 3? Whoever gave that a chance of happening, in the years of livestreams?

Come on you Pogues! (and dear, darling Kirsty).

Roll on Xmas Day


We’re rolling onwards towards Xmas Day, and I’m looking forward to my usual peace and quiet-ful Xmas alone. It’s eight years since I last shared Xmas Day with other people, and that was in a homeless shelter, eating an unexpected traditional Xmas roast, drinking non-alcoholic lager and enjoying a surprising camaraderie with a bunch of strangers.

Ever since then, I’ve done Xmas day in solitude, and I’m looking forward to that again this year. I am prepared: there’s no-one to buy me presents so I have accumulated a pile which I shall unwrap on the day, unwrap here being a word that means tear off the Amazon and eBay packaging.

I have a turkey in the freezer which, on the day, I will cook (having defrosted it for the required period), sticking it in the oven somewhere between 12.00 and 2.00pm, with the aim of eating at about 6.00pm, back-scheduling all the necessary steps with that time in mind.

I currently have the booze in the fridge and the imperishables bought, except for the jam sponge pudding and custard I intend to have for dessert (can’t eat Xmas Pudding/Cake, just can’t stomach it) which I will buy tomorrow, leaving the carrots, brussells, potatoes, bacon (for the turkey breast) and sausages until next Saturday.

Like last year, I will be working Xmas Eve, technically until 9.00pm, even though this is a Sunday, though I expect/anticipate/hope we’ll get out about 7.00pm, or at least whilst the busses are still running.

But once I shut the flat door behind me, whatever time I arrive on Xmas Eve, I go into a pleasurable purdah, undisturbed by other people. I am responsible to no-one, beholden to no-one, able to relax completely and do my own thing. And I like it that way.

Between the closing of that door behind me on Xmas Eve, to the moment on Boxing Day when I decide to go out and buy that day’s Guardian, I will not see nor speak to any other person. On the Day itself, I will probably browse my regular sites and forums, and may make a couple of indolent posts if anyone is about.

But aside from that, this is the extreme of me-time, and I look forward to it.

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed Xmas days in company in the past. A couple of them stick out in my memory. My Mother’s last Xmas Day, only four days before she died, when we were invited to my brother-in-law’s parents, which I recall with pleasure at my gradual realisation that everyone was looking forward to the premiere of the first Michael Keaton Batman film in the evening, the one with Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and that they all thought to was going to be an Adam West/Burt Ward, Biff, Bam, Pow affair and watching all their faces as the truth slowly dawned on them.

Or a few years later, invited to friends for the Day, and in the afternoon playing either Risk or that other strategy game that isn’t called Risk, getting knocked out fairly early on, starting to assist their younger son and helping him to Complete World Domination, with his ex-Army father complaining this was the first time he’d ever lost.

And then the big film was Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves, which I am here to tell you is the very best film to watch on Xmas Day when you are halfway pissed and cannot take it remotely seriously: he lands at the Cliffs of Dover in the morning, sets off to walk to Nottingham and by the evening is camping at Hadrian’s Wall? After that, the film had no credibility whatsoever and we took the piss out of it unmercifully.

But the fact is that I first started to spend Xmas day on my own in the mid-Nineties and did it often enough to coin the aphorism that you should always spend Xmas day with your family every three or four years so that you can understand how much fun you can have on your own.

Roll on Monday week, or rather Sunday week night at some point, where I shut out the world and for the space of a couple of days, it and I can have nothing to do with one another. Bliss.

The Odd Days


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.