20 December 2007 Edition
Philip Connolly: Born Christmas Survivor
SOME PROBLEMS in modern life have few tangible answers. Why does vinyl sound better than CD? Can I wear these very wide trousers again? And for those of us who live in what used to be called the countryside, what is it like having broadband?
Fortunately, there are answers to the vexed question of how to survive a modern Christmas. Here is a list of things to help guide you through the festivities, all the while maintaining your heightened sense of alienation.
All Christmas songs are great. All Christmas songs are rubbish
I remember an Irish pub in Berkshire in a hot July with the curtains drawn and grown men playing The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, over and over. Not just an affront to Christmas and the summer sunshine but even more depressing than the dole queue back home. “Hop on a plane,” lads, I used to tell them gruffly. “It only takes an hour to get home.” I still associate that song with the subsequent beating. Rip-off Aer Lingus has a lot to apologise for. But nothing hurts more than the ruination of a good song. And if you’re unfortunate enough to work in Tesco’s and end up listening to a locally-produced Christmas charity CD playing on a loop for the duration of your shift, may I suggest you wear very visible ear protection and a long face in protest for the rest of the Christmas period. You will find the public to be more than sympathetic.
Mass-going feet crunch the wafer ice, so get off your arse for Christmas
Read Patrick Kavanagh’s A Christmas Childhood to your kids on Christmas Eve. It will take their minds off the fact that there will not be a Nintendo Wii waiting for them in the morning – or any morning thereafter.
Better still, drag them into the car early on Christmas morning and drive them down to Kavanagh’s home place in County Monaghan. You may be placed in an institution for such activities, but the mere threat of landing in Inniskeen at dawn will take the edge off their disappointment with you as a parent for not having more clout with Santa.
If, however, you find that your kids are excited at the idea of going to Inniskeen on Christmas morning, then you may indeed be a bigger disappointment as a parent than they give you credit for and you probably should be locked up.
The last time I drove the short distance to Kavanagh’s home place, I was standing in a T-shirt wondering what the hell I was doing there on a balmy Christmas morning. Now I associate the poem, A Christmas Childhood, with global warming and have taken to living upside down in a tree.
It’s Chriistmaaaas! (Note: Not the start of a nuclear winter)
You know the scene: in the supermarket, 10 trolleys back in the queue with your three boxes of chocolates and gift-wines while everyone else has two trolleys each, mostly filled with boxes of crisps and 10-gallon bottles of Coke.
Listen out for “I can never get them to sleep on Christmas Eve...” This entitles you to jump the queue to the front of the offending remark as people like this are incapable of seeing past their noses and, besides, this is survival of the fittest boiled down to its purest form.
The people around you will not be able to make another purchase for anything up to 24 hours. This effect can lead to untold panic for some ‘individuals’ in the herd and tempers can be pushed to the extreme in this yuletide vacuum.
Avoid queuing for last-minute gifts altogether by informing the intended recipients that you have bought a goat or a chicken for the developing world. This doesn’t have to be true as no one will be bad mannered enough to ask for documentary proof. I sent a goat once which went to the wrong address and the grateful family sent me back a colobus monkey, which now shares my tree and baby-sits the children on Thursdays
Get those feckin’ reindeers off me roof!
Years ago it was perfectly normal to leave a glass of Guinness out for Santa but that has largely been overtaken by a more nutritious glass of milk. I haven’t made the change yet but the children do make a little sign saying: “Enjoy your Guinness sensibly.”
For the authentic effect, before you go to bed, turn the sign back to front, drink the Guinness, and trash the sitting room. I consider it an important lesson for the children on the evil dangers of not having signage clearly displayed.
If you forget to leave out the milk and carrot for Santa then be sure the next morning to grab a yard brush and shovel and carry them into the sitting room, making a furious protest about having just cleaned up the shite from a herd of reindeer off the drive (again).
This Christmas, give them the gift of peace
If any of your children have asked for any of the toys shown on the feckless Late Late Toy Show, then use this to your advantage by buying them without batteries. This will guarantee you a morbidly quiet house on Christmas morning.
You can easily comfort and reassure the children by explaining what callous bastards Santa and Pat ‘Toy Killer’ Kenny really are, and that you will go straight out and buy the batteries as soon as the shops open next week, when you go back to work.
“Mingle Mells, Mmmgu Mells”
If you hear the above line being vaguely sung around your front door, then it probably means that the hoody carol singers are back. If you don’t have a vicious attack dog then don’t despair. Just start to talk like Simon Cowell as you single out the ring-leader. Make a sneering remark like:
“Why are you kidding yourself, coming here singing Jingle Bells when your balls are obviously in the process of dropping beyond repair? Here, listen to this Bob Dylan album from 1994 and come back next year if you think you’re still up to this sort of gig... It’s the best I can do.”
At this point, the offending hooded carol singer will turn into a blubbering mess as his friends rally round and comfort him homewards.
Post early for Christmas
Find out when your next-door neighbours are going to visit their in-laws and advertise their address on jumbletown.ie for a “Giant Christmas Garden Decorations Give Away”, giving strict times for collections to start and finish.
Be careful to advise participants to bring ladders in order to retrieve a giant snowman, a flashing Santa and an unconvincing reindeer from the roof.
Whack a sign in your neighbours’ garden simply stating: “I’m an Arsehole. Please help yourself.”
Box clever this Christmas
In the run-up to Christmas, keep a large box handy.
This will come in useful when John Waters comes on the Marian Finucane Radio Show to waffle on about Christmas being a celebration of the magical and miraculous joy of childhood. When this happens, simply write up a list of the dietary allergies of your two youngest children and pop it into the box along with said children and post it to John Waters, c/o Roscommon.