What I Did For Xmas 2011

Having done my present shopping early, avoided shops, turned the TV off and made plans to not travel anywhere, I found myself spending the Christmas weekend largely on my own in my cavernous flat.

It’s amazing what a difference the ‘No TV, Travelling or Shops’ thing makes to the whole experience of Christmas. I actually had a splendidly refreshing long weekend completely free of any kind of pressure to do anything. It was almost like having a week’s holiday.

Joolz and Mr Ian popped by on Christmas Eve, and it was lovely as always to catch up with them and set the world to rights about life, the universe and everything. After they tootled off I went back to my study, and woke my PC up to do a bit of gaming.

A while back I had downloaded Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and had got quite a way into it. After a good solid play through, I finally finished it at 1.30am on Christmas eve. And so to bed, a bit bleary, and still playing the game in my head. Boy I had some funny dreams that night…

Christmas morning I managed to get my guitar hooked up to my music software, Orion v8, meaning that I can now record live guitar playing through a variety of effects on to my tracks. I’ve yet to try it with vocals, but seeing as I cannot sing (and so tend to leave vocals to the Dogsolitude_uk Singing Robots) it’s a bit of a moot point.

I cleaned the kitchen and tidied up a bit, and did some weeding in the front garden.

I also went for a bit of a bike ride up past one of the country-ish areas near where I live. This is where I learned that a Barbour Moorland Jacket may be wonderful for dog-walking or generally traipsing around in the drizzle and wind, but it’s bloody dreadful on a bike. After a couple of miles I noticed a bit of a chill, and noticed that the jacket had started coming undone from the bottom as my legs pedalled, thanks to the two-way zip. I also accidentally reset the numbers on my bike computer.

Most of my relatives, when I called them, seemed to want to know if I was having Christmas dinner, and if so what I was having. I ate plenty (a quiche, honey-roasted parsnips and potatoes, a hot apple-and-blackberry pie were the more sensible things I consumed) but there seemed to be something a bit Samuel Beckett about making a Christmas Dinner for one, so I waited for ms rhapsody9 to come back before doing any stuffing etc.

Later in the evening, being a bit too full and rather too physically fatigued to do anything strenuous, I watched Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, the Father Ted Xmas Special, and a few episodes of Family guy. Later on, I booted up Steam and bought a sort of expansion for Deus Ex called ‘The Missing Link’. A bit of shooting and sneaking later, I tootled off to bed.

From what I can work out, a lot of people find Christmas to be a terrible time to be alone, and it truly must be dreadful if you want to be with your family or other half. However for me it was a much needed respite from the demands of the rest of the world, and a wonderfully refreshing opportunity to rest and recuperate that generally left me feeling cheerful and well-disposed towards my fellow wo/man.

Which is sort of the whole point, IIRC.

How I dealt with Xmas 2011

I finally, after many years, discovered that Christmas is actually quite easy to deal with, and need not be the turgid cauldron of stress that it’s often made out to be in the MSM. It only takes a few small adjustments to one’s behaviour over the period, and suddenly everything will be swimmingly easy.

1 – Avoid shops

Shops and shopping centres around Xmas are a Dantean circle of hell, full of the sharp-elbowed middle classes, wailing children, the elderly (who for understandable reasons move at restricted speed), people with buggies (FFS) and the generally lost and bewildered who dawdle and stop, gawping, at window displays at random moments.

The solution here is to order stuff online and give our postal service a much-needed boost. If you’re prone to getting the Red Card of Absence due to being at work, catch your postman and come to an amicable informal arrangement about dumping stuff in the recycling bin or something. Alternatively, have it delivered to you workplace, or the home of an understanding stay-at-home friend. Or just get on your bike and cycle to the depot. Or drive if you have a car.

If you really must go shopping, minimise your exposure to the commercial arena by planning purchases beforehand, working out which shops to go to, and doing a quick hit-and-run job during your lunch hour. This approach has the added benefit that it’s easier to think about someone and what to get them from the comfort of your sofa with a notepad in hand, than amidst the throngs of consumers.

2 – Avoid Xmas Music

Another reason to avoid shops at Xmas is the wretched music. The crowds are bad enough, however in an inspired attempt to make everyone happy, every single retailer in the land is playing the same selection of roughly twenty ‘Xmas’ songs. From November onwards, you can hear sleighbells, churchbells, children’s choirs and various other noises and lyrics commanding you to be happy (and, by extension, buy more tawdry crap for your loved ones).

Well, most Xmas songs seem to be musical instructions to make merry, apart from the John Lennon song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” which somehow makes me feel like opening a vein with it’s sickeningly mawkish attempt to make you feel guilty for not having had your house bombed and your family shot (“Hey guys, it’s Christmas, and I hope you don’t, like, nuke each other, glass each other, stab each other, plant landmines on each other’s territories, bulldoze each other’s homes, commit racially aggravated assaults on each other, torture each other, carpet-bomb cities or generally be nasty ‘cos, like, life’s really tough and that, for old people and kids too, so stop being scared and I really, really hope you can overcome any negativity for just this one day a year, oh and I’ve got some kids singing to really make you feel shit about being a monstrous warlike creature who through slothful inactivity is directly contributing to the growth and influence of the military-industrial complex, you dig?”).

3 – Turn the TV off

Again, this measure gets rid of the ‘forced merriment’ thing. If you avoid shopping malls and turn the TV off you need never hear bloody Slade for the entire duration of the season (I’ve heard ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ precisely once this year, and that was because someone in the office thought it would be great to use it as their mobile ringtone. Mercifully the resulting ridicule forced the poor chap to change it).

Killing the TV also means you don’t have to put up with the seasonal adverts that stations put on, the seasonal trailers for seasonal programming, endless graphics of snowflakes, santas and reindeer, and earnest Celebrities urging you to have a ‘very merry Christmas’ every fifteen minutes.

Instead of the TV burbling away in the background, I’ve had the radio on, and Radio 3 have been broadcasting various classic and devotional works throughout Christmas Eve. I may be one of those odd agnostic types when it comes to God and whatnot, but give me the Westminster Choir belting out ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ over ‘Mistletoe’ by Justin Bieber any day (or worse still, Little Mix singing about oral sex – for crying out loud you don’t have to do it if you don’t like it, and FYI Polos are available from most streetcorner shops).

Please, don’t get me wrong: I’m not a ‘grinch’ or a ‘Scrooge’ or any of those other thought-terminating cliches. I’d hate the thought of banning Christmas, I just think it gone too far. Rather like Football around the time of the World Cup, it invades everything from the end of October onwards in a desperate attempt to claw as much money and attention from us as possible.

I’d far rather people were given the option to switch off and opt out of the apparently socially-mandatory, media-prescribed festivities. This may seem rather difficult to do, until one recognises that the source of much of this festive stress and ballyhoo really just comes from two sources: shops and TV.