Tag: Christmas

How many points for Chris Rea?

The boys and I, as we were driving to education one day last week, decided to listen to Christmas music to get ourselves in the mood for the impending festive season. The first song we listened to was ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I’m sure it is common knowledge that this song features on most Christmas compendium albums, Now Christmas Hits and the like.  If you are looking for Gaming Keyboard in 25pc.com you can find all the advises that you need to get the right Gaming Keyboard for your needs.

Woodseaves, near Stafford

After a pause, as we turned into Woodseaves, my youngest son piped up with: ‘How come this is a Christmas song?’

The eldest son asked: ‘What do you mean?’

The youngest son replied: ‘There is no mention of Christmas in the song, it isn’t Christmassy’.

Middle son made no comment. I suspect he had his earphones in.

We all thought about youngest son’s question for a while and then decided that he was making a good point. Yes, it was in the charts at Christmas, but it wasn’t very much of a Christmassy song really. Holly Johnson is a bit sad in the song, he’s in love, very much so, but he’s not in the snow, cooking turkey or unwrapping presents. He isn’t lonely this Christmas without her, he isn’t driving home for Christmas and he isn’t wishing it could be Christmas everyday. So, on what planet could it be called a Christmas song, except that it was in the charts in December?

So, from this conversation we came up with a grading system for deciding how Christmassy a Christmas song is. Our fantastic new system awards points for the mention of certain key terms and for emotions generated. We like our system. It is very effective. This system is set out as follows:

Key Terms (points)

Christmas = 5 (it is, after all, a bit of a give away).

Snow= 1

Glitter = 1

Presents = 1

Tree = 1

Father (Christmas) = 1 (6)

Santa Clause = 1

Turkey = 1

Crackers = 1

Tinsel = 1

Singing = 1

Bells = 1

Sleight = 1

Reindeer = 1

Emotional reaction (points)

A sensation of excitement for the impending festive season = 2

A feeling of gushy sentimentality = 2

Both together = 4 (and this is quite an achievement, we decided)

We graded a few of the songs we heard as we travelled on the rest of the journey. Slade’s ‘I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday’ scored highly with 11 points (Christmas, snow, bells, singing, Santa Clause, feeling of ‘excitement’), Mud ‘Lonely this Christmas’ scored a rather poor 5 (Christmas, no emotional reaction) and Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know is is Christmas?’ scored 11 as well (Christmas, snow, bells, feelings of both ‘excitement’, ‘sentimental’).

A classic

Of course our system might need some more thought before we release it to the general public but it provides a good guide to how Christmassy a song might be. I’m not sure how highly the song that was number 1 during the Christmas of 1971, the day of my birth, would score, which was ‘Ernie the Fastest Milkman in the West’. It might even get a big fat zero. Perhaps just 2 for excitement.

For Christmas the children are going to get old socks and squashed mini-eggs this year

This weird thought occurred to me this morning after the following exchange occurred between my middle son and I.

‘Josh, Josh, come here!’
‘Just come here a minute!’
[Sound of silence.]
‘I have a present for you’.
[Sound of child leaping out of bed and running down corridor towards his mother’s voice.]
‘What, what is it?’
[Eager child appears.]
‘I have something for you.’
[Mother grins, hands behind her back.]
‘Show me!’
[Mother reveals present to child, found in a coat pocket.]

An old, crushed mini egg

[Child recoils in horror and retreats back to his room.]

My weird thought is related to this exchange. I noticed with my little joke that my son felt a strong excitement of anticipation for getting this gift (it got him out of bed at least). He had had high hopes. However, the sensation of pleasure (or in this case, disappointment) on receiving the actual gift was much less significant. That moment of emotion was fleeting. The moment of anticipation was not so. If this little exchange is indicative of most gift-giving scenarios, then the pleasure we feel of anticipation of the gift generally lasts longer, is more heightened and much more joyous than the pleasure we feel on final revelation of gift.

Think of how exciting Christmas is. The build up can last weeks (or sometimes months). I imagine the same is felt for impending birthdays (since mine occurs on the same day as Christmas I cannot relate here in the same way). I know my children look forward to their birthdays about 9 months ahead of the event. As for Christmas, they are prone to frequent exploding with excitement prior to the event (as am I).

My point here is that the excitement of anticipation is always there, irrespective of the gifts received on the day. If we could measure that excitement, I expect that there would be very little deviation year on year. If I look back, I would say I have felt equally as excited for Christmas every year since circa. 1974 (when I would have first been able to register that Christmas was a ‘thing’ of excitement). Yet, I bet most people, as do I, have years of preferred presents and years of shitty presents. I know, not many people will admit it but sometimes we do get given shitty presents. There is such a thing as the ‘shitty’ present. My most shitty was too shitty to write about here and I ought to protect the giver’s identity as I don’t think they meant harm and they may read this, but I remember opening it and being utterly gutted that someone would give me ‘that’ for a present. I threw it away a few years ago, unused.

After my mini-egg gift joke I informed my children that for Christmas this year I would be wrapping up a lot of old socks and crushed mini eggs for them and placing them under the Christmas tree. I told them there were two reasons for doing this. Firstly, frugality. Secondly, as I have explained, the excitement of the anticipation will still be there for Christmas irrespective of the gifts given so in my mind there is no need to go to all the effort of choosing special gifts for them all. Their reaction was one of disappointment.

‘But now you’ve told us, we won’t have the excitement of the build up to Christmas,’ one wise child pointed out.
‘Oh,’ I replied. ‘But wise child of mine, you won’t remember this exchange come December. It is June 1st today, and also you wouldn’t think I’d be so harsh as to carry out this evil plan. Ergo, you will still feel the weeks’ long excitement of Christmas and I will save hundreds of pounds by just wrapping up old socks and crushed mini eggs’.
‘Oh but we will remember!’ Piped up another child.
‘Is that so,’ I mused. ‘Tell me, dear child, what did you get for Christmas last year?’
The children paused for thought.
‘That book over there,’ one replied.
‘I got a book from Grandma Bertie and that old camera from Father Christmas’. Another added.
Therein followed a thoughtful pause. I waited. Then I spoke.
‘So none of you have mentioned the main present you each got last year, the most expensive, and in fact the one you played with the most in the weeks following Christmas, an Alexa each,’ I smugly replied.
‘Ohhhhh,’ they all cried in unison. ‘Yeah! We forgot about that!’
‘My point exactly!’ I responded. The children grunted.

So I think I will carry out my ‘threat’. I firmly believe that the anticipation of getting a gift, which is a combination of the pleasure of surprise, the joy of anticipation, the warmth of feeling that someone has done something for us, is far greater than the reality of getting a ‘thing’ irrespective of whether we will treasure that thing or not. I implore you to disagree with me. Go on, try it. This might have some deep philosophical message about the nature of our relationship to each other, to stuff, and the power of the capitalist economy and Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’.  Think about it.

The Christmas Tree with lots of presents under it – old socks or exciting toys?

I also, cannot now tell you exactly what I got for Christmas. I will have to get back to you on that. I didn’t get any old socks or crushed mini-eggs but perhaps I will this year. And I can’t wait to unwrap them.

Why I like the no man’s land of Between Christmas And New Year

Today is the 28th December. I am in the midst of one of my favourite times of year: the no-man’s-land days between Christmas and New Year.

Today’s weird thought is about why I like these days.  No, correct that, why I LOVE these days.

I like this time because for 362-ish days of the year I am running around like a headless chicken: working, ferrying children, governoring, volunteering, being an art student and being a parent. I don’t just sit. I ride on the wave of anxiety. I don’t watch TV without doing something else at the same time. I flit from Wolverhampton, to school, to home, to school, to Zumba, and back home again. I don’t pause for thought or anything else.

Eat some Christmas pudding

Eat some Christmas pudding

I cope with that level of activity because for four or five days a year, I stop. I might dip in and out of work or my art after Christmas but I don’t do much of it. I mainly do nothing. I relax. Most of all, I sleep. During this time, my body says STOP! And I obey. I stop. I get up late, I have an afternoon nap or I sleep in the car or on the sofa, I doze in the evening, waking only to make the journey upstairs to bed. I am surrounded by family and we have nothing better to do than play with our presents, eat leftovers, drink wine while catching up on Christmas Day TV, ignore the mess building around us, and watch daytime television for no other reason than it would be rude not to.

Pick at the turkey

Pick at the turkey

So it amazes me when people are so keen to get their decorations down and get back to a routine (even those that do it on New Year’s Day – that’s still too early). I see (and hear them) get their hoovers out. Our next door neighbour was hoovering on Boxing Day morning. I say: stop your tidying and embrace the lazy days. Embrace the mess. You live busy, tidy lives the rest of the year. Sit, get fat, hibernate, sleep, do nothing and enjoy. Don’t worry about the mess. Let it lie. There is plenty of time in January for tidying. Just stop and feel proud of all you’ve achieved this year. For once, my advice is: don’t bother seizing the day. Leave the day to pass you by. Be a sleepy teenager.

I urge everyone over these few days to do something indulgent, read a book, lie in bed, drink Bailieys in bed, have long baths, play with Lego, eat pickled cabbage until you turn into a woopie cushion (that is what it does to me), eat it out of the jar with bread and butter, pick off the turkey carcas, and dip into the trifle. Enjoy. Make the most of it. You will burn it all off again in January.

Yum city

Yum city

I love these days. They all feel the same. What day is it? I think it is Monday or Tuesday. I don’t care. All this typing has exhausted me. Time for a sleep.

The older you get, the more boring your presents are

I have to start this blog with a disclaimer: when I say ‘boring’ I mean it in relative terms (i.e. imagine the judgement is being made by a ten year old). I’m in no way saying that I find the presents I got this year as a forty-something year old boring to me as a forty-something year old. I’m saying that they would be boring to a ten year old.

So this is my weird thought:

When you are five, for example, all your Christmas presents are large. They arrive in huge cardboard boxes, they often need batteries, they flash and play tunes. They are bright. They are interesting. They occupy you for hours. The pleasure you feel on receiving these is high. You feel sick with excitement.

Colourful presents

Colourful presents

Then you are ten. Your presents are a bit smaller but they are still interesting. They still often come in boxes. They might contain sheets of paper and words. They are able to occupy you and your siblings for a good few hours. You still get that sick feeling when you open your presents.

Presents for ten year olds

Presents for ten year olds

Once you get to fifteen, your presents shrink a bit more. In fact, they may shrink quite a lot. They probably don’t come in cardboard. They may be clothes or money, which you will probably spend on clothes or games if you’re into video games but this are small too, as you can even play games online as spin oasis and other casino games as well. You may even get some cleaning products (to clean the skin, rather than the sink). You feel happy, but not excited.

For buying those to-die-for boots with

For buying those to-die-for boots with

At twenty your presents generally increase in size from five years previously. They may be decorative and useful. You will perhaps receive things for the house, or jewellery (of course my experience is gender biased, as I am female, I’m not sure what a twenty-year-old man would get) or a new watch. You may still receive clothing and money.

A nice watch

A nice watch

By thirty, your presents will be much more utilitarian: plates, mugs, kitchen utensils, and the odd vase. You will most certainly receive some self-cleaning products. The money-as-present has now disappeared completely. You may get books and DVDs, especially if you are childless at this point. You feel warm and loved, not excited.

The perfect present for a 30 year old

The perfect present for a 30 year old

At forty, especially if you have young children, your presents will be pamper-related: lots of bathing products, lots of scarfs that you might not buy for yourself, and gloves. You may get jewellery (if female) which is again, not something you’d buy yourself. You could also get some wine or spirits (your children drive you to drink, they think). You enjoy the wine, and wear the scarf. You just feel tired.

Perfect for the school run

Perfect for the school run

At fifty, your presents will consist of more scarfs and bath products. You will no longer receive domestic items – you have all you need. You may now get more books and DVDs as your children, if you had them, are likely to be more independent. You have more time to read and watch. You may also receive wine and candles. You are still tired, the dinner needs cooking.

This is what a 50 year old likes to do for relaxation

This is what a 50 year old likes to do for relaxation

When you reach sixty, I’m afraid, you will get lots of scarfs and bath products. You will also receive chocolate. You can sit in your scarfs, in the bath, and eat chocolate. You feel relaxed, someone else is cooking.

Which one to try first?

Which one to try first?

By seventy, see above. You will probably get slippers as well, and maybe a new dressing gown.

A lovely pair of pink slippers

A lovely pair of pink slippers

By eighty: slippers again.

In case you need another one

In case you need another one

By ninety: definitely slippers. I’m sure when I am ninety I will be very grateful for slippers, but my ten-year-old self would not be happy with a pair of slippers for Christmas.

A very comfortable slipper

A very comfortable slipper

Beyond? I don’t know yet.

So my point, next year if you surprise your seventy-year-old great aunt with something colourful and flashy and she won’t thank you. She was hoping for slippers.



The little lies parents tell you

I was thinking the other day about those little lies that you get told as a child to determine behaviour and / or have a little bit of peace. The cat was sitting on my lap demanding affection. I had been the one to feed her that evening.

The lies I was told are as follows:

Whoever feeds the cat, will earn the most love.

This one, may or may not contain some element of truth. I don’t think any scientists have studied it yet. But I can’t say that as an adult I notice any noticeable extra love dished out to the adults in the family because they feed the cat. I think this lie came from parental laziness.

Liquorice, rest her soul, loved us all equally

Liquorice, rest her soul, loved us all equally

If you stand on your head for long enough, your head will flatten and you will get better at headstands.

This was a lie told to me by my grandma. I believed this for many, many years and shortly after she told me this, I spent an inordinate amount of time on my head in an effort to perfect the skill of hand-standing. I do not know her motive for telling me this lie. Perhaps she thought it would keep me quiet for a few hours. If so, it worked.

I'm very good at this now

I’m very good at this now

The shape of your earlobes determines whether you are able to have earrings or not.

This lie was also told by my grandma. The motive is clear. I believed her until I was finally dragged by my best friend to get my ears pierced at the age of 18. The irony of this lie is that I wasn’t actually particularly keen to get my ears pierced. I wasn’t a girly girl.

This person has the right sort of earlobe

This person has the right sort of earlobe

‘Your tea is really delicious’.

This wasn’t a parental lie, but a lie told to me by my elder siblings. I believed this lie for many years and happily made all the hot drinks in the house until I left home. They didn’t confess their atrocious untruth telling until I was in my thirties.

I really thought I made the best tea in Stafford

I really thought I made the best tea in Stafford

‘You need more sleep than other  children’

I’m sure that when my mum reads this she will object to its inclusion in this list, and insist that I did / do need more sleep than other people. But there is a nagging doubt with this one. I was sent to bed after Crossroads for many years, and then that progressed to after Coronation Street and later Brookside. My school friends were allowed to stay up to watch the likes of The Young Ones, That’s Life and Not The Nine O’clock News which to me seemed mysterious and terribly rude, and very glamorous. For years I pretended to my friends that I watched The Young Ones. I didn’t.

If you stay awake on Christmas Eve night, Father Christmas won’t bring you any presents

This is probably a universal parental lie. I remember one year, aged about 9, I had a really bad cold at Christmas. I got into quite a panic about not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve. I did sleep. I subsequently received presents. I firmly believed the two were related.

If you wear high-heeled shoes your feet will be ruined in your adult life

This was another gem from my grandma and I think there is an element of truth in this although I’m not sure this is universal (otherwise most elderly ladies would have bad feet). She had a lot of problems with her feet and used to keep sheep’s wool around her big toes. As a child I certainly didn’t want to suffer as she did with her feet. As a result, I’m wearing Dr Martens at the age of 43.

This lady will have poorly feet when she's 60

This lady will have poorly feet when she’s 60

I would like to know what parental lies other people have been told. If I find out any, I will add them below.

And here are some ‘lies’ told to friends:

Friend One’s first lie: ‘If the wind changes your face will stick like that’. This is a classic. I think most children were told this at some point. I’m not sure that many believed it.

Friend One’s second lie: ‘If you don’t eat your crusts your hair won’t curl’ Another classic. I always wanted curly hair and I ate all my crusts and it never happened so I quickly learnt that this was a complete fib.

Friend Two’s first lie: ‘My boyfriend’s little brother when he was about 12 asked me why I took a pill everyday (referring to my contraceptives) and I told him it was to stop me from growing a beard and that was why women weren’t hairy. I told him all women do this so he asked his older sister if she took a pill everyday also and she said yes!’

Friend Two’s second lie: ‘My mum used to tell me that if I didn’t go to sleep at night the bogey man would get me. I believed he lived in the loft and was too scared to go to the toilet in the night in case he got me. She also used to tell me this to get me to nap in an afternoon.’

Friend Two again: ‘My boyfriend says his mum used to tell him when the ice cream van played music it was because they ran out of ice cream.’ I’ve used this one on my three children. They didn’t believe it at all.

Friend Three’s lie: ‘My partner’s mum would tell him if he told a lie his tongue would turn purple, so if he was fibbing he wouldn’t open his mouth so she knew he was fibbing! We now say the same to our little boy’.

Friend Four’s lie: ‘I spoke to the tooth fairy on the phone when I lost (actually lost) a tooth and was very upset about it. It was YEARS later before mum confessed the beautiful fairy voice belonged to her, speaking from the upstairs phone.’ This is a lovely ‘lie’. I do worry about what my children will say when they inevitably find out that the likes of Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy are not real people who come into the house at night to leave things.




Why I have gone off Christmas

Until recently, I loved Christmas. It was my favourite time of year. After all, I was born on Christmas Day. Christmas to me meant magic, family, Dandelion and Burdock, presents and more presents, chocolates, snow, TV and days off school. I have lots of memories of good (and not so good) Christmases: the Christmas when Grandma fell out of the car a few days before, the Christmases when my mum had to go to work, the Christmas when I received purple velvet peddle pushers, the Christmas when I was given brown suede pixie boots, the Christmases when I was too excited to eat, the Christmas when I was given a beautiful doll’s house and the Christmas I spent in Japan on the ski slopes with a conifer for a tree.

I loved my pixie boots

I loved my pixie boots

As an adult, I still love Christmas. I have three children and they love Christmas. We have our Christmas traditions. We always get a real tree. We always get it two weeks before Christmas. The top of our tree is adorned with a sheep (who else remembers the part the sheep played in the Nativity story?). They hang up their stockings above the wood burning stove. They have their own stockings which they’ve had since babies. They love Christmas. I love that they love Christmas.

Now that is what I call a tree to beat all trees

Now that is what I call a tree to beat all trees

However, over the last few years I have slowly gone off Christmas. Why? I hear you ask. What is there not to like about Christmas? The answer is: I agree, there is nothing not to like about Christmas.  But I also love November. I am also partial to October. But due to the current forcing of Christmas down our throats from mid-September onwards we are not given the chance to appreciate October or, more specifically, November any more. I feel very sorry for November. Nobody loves November. November barely exists anymore. It should be renamed pre-December. It is completely dwarfed  by its more colourful and sparkly neighbour. December lasts for 10 weeks.  Christmas is everywhere throughout November. Christmas starts in September, creeps under the door in October and explodes through it in November. Now in mid-November, a coffee cannot be consumed without the sound of Dean Martin crooning about his lovely warm fire. You fancy as latte in October? Have it with cinnamon. Need to shop for a birthday card eight weeks before Christmas? Good luck with that, the birthday cards will have been shoved to the shadowy cob-webbed corners of the card shop to make room for CHRISTMAS.

There may be people reading this who think I am just being a moany old Christmas Grinch. I am definitely being moany. But I’m not a Christmas Grinch.I love the magic of Christmas. I love the music, the time to rest, the family, the fun of presents. But I’m now getting quite scared that the excitement is being drained out of me. Christmas is just a slightly more important Sunday dinner if you strip it to the bare bones. It’s not really that special unless you are a Christian. Christmas (or the time of mid-winter) is such a wondrous and historic celebration borne out of many different beliefs . It shouldn’t be such a all-consuming shiny, money-heavy cloud that blinds us to the joy of this time of year: early and mid-winter.

I already feel over-satiated by glitter, box sets, the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, cinnamon coffee, bins of sellotape by the till, mountains of Celebrations, ‘the smell of pine trees’ scent, trees outside Asda, tinsel, baubles, lights, red, green, white, flashing, flickering, chocolates, cheese, mince pies, turkey baps, Christmas soup and gingerbread biscuits. And it is still only mid-November. A typical product comparison table gives you a chance to choose what you need for a reasonable price.

Please, world, slow down. Stop looking forward all the time. Pause. Enjoy the moment. Don’t wish the years away. I don’t want to end up as a bitter, sad old lady in the corner. I don’t want to be the one rolling her eyes, while sat looking out to sea, at the sight of the first Christmas tree in July.

We'll be putting our trees up on holiday soon

We’ll be putting our trees up on holiday soon

We need a between Easter and Christmas day off

This is the weird thought I had the other day. From September ist to December 24th we get ready for Christmas. From December 26th to mid-April-ish depending on the moon we get ready for Easter. But we have nothing to get ready for between April and September 1st. We have no special holiday with presents and food. I think we need another holiday / excuse to buy presents or chocolate / excuse to have a few days off to do nothing but watch TV, argue, eat and sleep.

It took four months to get ready for this

It took four months to get ready for this

You can buy these on Boxing Day

You can buy these on Boxing Day

I suppose we could big-up Hallowe’en for want of anything in August or September to celebrate. Hallowe’en isn’t much o f an event and the government hasn’t yet granted us the day off nor do we generally give presents. I think we should. I suggest we have a day off and give each other chocolate pumpkins.

These look yummy

These look yummy