Tuesday, 24 December 2013


As another Christmas creaks into sight it strikes me as strange how little it changes. As I watched ‘A Christmas Carol’ on TV with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge (“beam me up Santa”) Victorian Christmas was depicted with all those same familiar urges I felt when I was small and Britain was poor – the smell of tangerines, of hot mincemeat, the sound of laughter and of singing carols like In Dulci Jubilo in which, momentarily, we all rather self-consciously utter Latin.

Those same familiar urges come back every year. Mulled wine urges. Roast potato urges. Calvados and port urges. Cracker urges…
Q. Why does Santa have three gardens?
A.  So he can ho, ho, ho.
Q. What sort of bike does Santa ride?
A. A Holly Davidson.

Nostalgia, as they say, isn’t what it used to be, except when it comes to Christmas.

Because we now live in radically changed times where life is played to new rules.  Things we no longer do or frown upon generally vary from capital punishment to fox hunting to smoking to applauding having stiff upper lips. And not so long ago many of those were normal.

We were taught to be masters and mistresses of fair play. Tribal loyalty outlawed whistleblowing. We didn’t “sneak”, complain or talk about “it” – which makes the emerging horrors of Caldecott School (gateway to Eton), a poignant example of the scale of change not least in the police’s willingness to become historians as well as custodians of the law. (It also raises a question as to the powers of observation of the seemingly intelligent Mr Clegg, a Joint Head Boy there, who was apparently completely unaware of what was going on.)

There is no such thing as “water under the bridge” any more… stones are no longer best left unturned.

Years ago I was talking to a senior academic about the huge sums paid to the college by a benefactor who was subsequently discovered to be a crook and suggesting we ought (perhaps) to return the money to his victims.

He sighed:  “My dear Richard. If we gave money back that rascals had given us over the centuries we wouldn’t exist or we’d be bankrupt. Don’t be silly”.

That was then. I’m not so sure now.

Because in today’s world the rules have changed.

The rules relate to doing whatever you can get away with to win and whatever looks good. The Charles Saatchi alleged media campaign to “whiten” the name of Nigella would be a classic example of playing a new game of media sledging.

But Nigella’s a lot prettier than Charles (I supposed I’m being un-PC saying that) and like Christmas she’s big, fun and seems just a bit naughty. I haven’t heard her sing but I bet she’s tuneful…. Eartha Kitt meets Carly Simon.

Like Christmas, icons like Nigella are timeless.

And regardless of whatever allegations, is a whole lot more inspiring than the British preparatory school system.

No comments: