Monday, 21 December 2015


It’s hard for us not to smile when hearing this carol. The line “most highly favoured lady” from the Basque carol “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” which on the lips of many choristers becomes “most highly flavoured gravy” has the same effect.  Christmas is a time of amusement, excess and fun. The pagans stuffed themselves in the hope that this would help get them through the vile chill of January. And looking at the old Brueghel paintings of typical Dutch weather one can see that need. Yet today in Amsterdam it’s 13C.

In this fast moving world, Christmas is a time for nostalgia, for remembering Christmases past. I recall three evocative smells from my own childhood Christmas: tangerines, the shiny pages of the Eagle Annual and the rich aroma of Macanudo Cigars. It was the only time of the year I recall seeing my father slightly pissed and being the comedian we never normally saw. I remember a brief sense of plenty and unlikely confections like Green Chartreuse. It was when people let their hair down and the Queen’s speech was a must-listen-to event.

As our doorbell rang today at 7am - Parcel Force with more Amazon parcels, I realised the brutal Christmas crushes in the shops were things of the past. Last week was like any other week in London thanks to e-commerce.  Meanwhile the Christmas Turkey has been getting a bad press. Johnny Ray of the Spectator described it as a” dire bird.”  Well ours is hand reared in Kent and was probably called Gwendolen. We’ll meet her in her glossy coffin - a neat box - on Wednesday. She had better not be dire.

Ours will be a family affair aged from 93 to 1 ½; it will be Christmas as it’s been for over 150 years. But what has changed, and it’s ironic in what I’ve already called this “fast moving world”, is that Christmas now lasts from December 18th to January 4th.  And we don’t really regard this as holiday so much as a time of “no one else is going to be in anyway.”

But are we this year just a little more imbued with Christmas bonhomie than in the recent past as a friend of mine tentatively suggested? I think we are. We are living in (for now) a reasonably stable country. London rocks, the Northern Powerhouse is more of a reality than ever - Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and the others are doing brilliantly. Ghastly events are happening elsewhere but for better or worse Britain has become a cosier place than I recall in the recent past.

Here’s Dickens on Christmas:

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.

I love that idea of Christmas as a “noble adjustment of things.” Drink deeply, eat well and laugh a lot and Happy Christmas.

1 comment:

Nick Fitzherbert said...

Happy Christmas Richard!