Monday, 9 December 2019


A little while ago my wife was selected to sing that unaccompanied first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City”. The church was in darkness and a long silence descended before her voice rang out clear, confident and thrilling. An hour before she’d stared at me as I wished her good luck and she said:-

If I f*** this up it’ll ruin everyone’s Christmas.

I thought she was being a little melodramatic. as if.

Congregation claim Christmas ruined as soloist sings flat.  ‘My children cried’ grumbles mother of ten.”

But unless things really matter they wouldn’t be worth doing.

The General Election hasn’t ruined Christmas but perhaps it’s dampened it a little.

“You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Our party leaders are coming to town.”

Strange they’re called “Party” leaders –the least festive bunch ever – no party, just gloom and repetition –get this blog done, no shilly-shallying. Blog done and then some fun.

In over half a century of studying elections I’m struck by the scale of venom now that each of the leaders are attracting and the collapse of tribal loyalties. Boris is seducing died-in-the- wool labour voters. Jeremy is winning over Waitrose shoppers with his “nice” manifesto.

As someone noted about the perils of a Christmas election it’s impossible to prophesy who the new Messiah will be, or indeed if he’ll turn up at all, because so many voters voting after work will be pickled and uncertain of their own name let alone their voting preference. However it was reassuring to hear that some returning officers take a favourable view of a drawn penis being a legitimate indication of voting intention provided it was in the confines of a candidate’s box. 

Meanwhile the sound of carols, the hordes of shoppers and Amazon deliveries and the mystery of Christmas create that sense of excitement we felt as children seeping into our consciousness despite our protestations of cynicism and a feigned grumpiness.

Paperchains, balloons, tinsel and tangerines. That’s what I remember most. Plus one other thing. My father – a serious, Scottish banker who most resembled Frazer in Dad’s Army on a day to day basis – transformed into an astonishingly funny stand-up comedian – a Billy Connolly for just a few days a year. Liqueurs like Green Chartreuse and Cointreau appeared and swiftly disappeared down family throats. We became the Music Halls, singing raucously and having fun.

I was in Oxford Street last week and popped into Selfridges. It brought back the awe I used to feel at Christmas. Such plenty, such  luxury, such colour, such good humour, such wonderful smells of Armagnac, perfume, mincemeat, chocolate and freshly ground coffee. It’s Christmas cornucopia, that once a year calorie excess that entrances me.

So you can’t muck up Christmas. Its remorseless good cheer, misted windows, laughter and kissing under the mistletoe (perhaps not now; the mistletoe-too- movement?) are addictive.

No you can’t muck up magic even if you’re party leader.

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