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December 2001 - Lots of Humbug

I've been having a quiet chuckle to myself recently, having looked back at previous editions of Comment. I see that a year ago I was writing about never being ready for Christmas and the pros and cons of writing the cards early or late.

Regular devotees with elephantine memories will remember that I used to be the one who sent out the cards on the last possible day, having hastily scribbled them all the evening before.

Not so any more! I seem to have been totally organised for once. The whole lot were written, stamped and ready for the post box on November 16th!

And a few of you, more privileged of my readers, will have noticed that the writing's become a whole lot more readable than it used to be.

That's because, having failed at the more normal forms of motivation, 'er indoors decided that the best way to get me off my backside was to write them herself; and simply leave me the computerised task of struggling with mail merge to produce a load of address labels.

I've never been so far ahead with the Christmas season in all my life. I've actually been feeling quite festive for weeks. Mind you, that's probably because every time I walk into the lounge I trip over the piles of ready wrapped presents all over the floor.

Yes, cards done on November 16th, so wrapping started on the 17th!

My goodness, in the middle of November I haven't normally even started to think about WHO to give presents to, let alone decided WHAT to give, bought them and wrapped them.

I can't help feeling that by the time we get to Christmas week it'll be feeling like a complete anticlimax with no last minute rushing about to do.

I've always felt that the best part of the season is the last minute rush round the shops on the day before Christmas Eve, barging your way through the crowds of other disorganised people, trying to get your hands on the last of Harry Potter's owls on a skateboard, or whatever it is that's in short supply THIS year.

Looks like I'm going to have to find some other form of entertainment for this year's Christmas week.

Although I suppose I'll always have the option of spending most of the time hunting for the faulty bulb on the Christmas tree lights.

With Christmas only coming once a year, you get just a bit out of practice at all those wonderful little maintenance jobs which come along at the festive season.

Do you fix your streamers to the ceiling with sticky tape or drawing pins? It doesn't seem to matter which you use, the daily maintenance is just the same.

Why is it that every morning when you get up, one end of a streamer is lying on the floor having detached itself from where it was attached? I'm sure somebody comes round in the night to pull them all down.

I mean, they rarely seem to come down round your neck in the middle of the day do they? You pop off to bed having checked that they're all okay, but by the time it's morning, it's a case of out with the steps again to re-affix an end to the most difficult corner of the room to get to.

I reckon I'm going to use six inch nails the next time it happens!

And then there's the tree itself. I Hoover about once a month in normal circumstances, the day before I write this load of old cobblers, but all through the festive season it's at least once a day to pick up all the pine needles.

If you've got people coming round in the evening it's twice a day, as you daren't let them see that you were too tight to pay out for one that's been treated so it doesn't moult all over the place.

And not wishing to appear like Mr Scrooge, I didn't dare to put up a plastic one which doesn't drop any needles in any case.

Christmas trees seem to bring out the worst of one-upmanship in some people. Why on earth do we have to have bigger balls than everyone else in the street and a far more flamboyant fairy?

The whole thing appears to revolve around the fact that tradition dictates that the tree has to be positioned just inside the window, so all the neighbours can look at it and be jealous as they pass by.

If your ceiling's eight foot from the floor, you're expected to have an eight foot tree, so everyone can see that you bought the most expensive one to fit in the room.

The practicalities of such a tall tree, necessitating that pair of steps coming out again every time the fairy looks a bit crooked, seem to have nothing to do with this totally illogical tradition.

And then there are the lights! If you're to be seen as anybody important in your neighbourhood, then the minimum requirement is a second hand set from Blackpool.

From the moment the erection of the damn tree is completed, you need to allow at least ten hours to get the lights working. And don't let yourself be fooled, once they ARE going it'll only be for a day at the most.

You need to allocate a couple of hours each afternoon to finding out which bulbs have decided to blow today.

Let's face it, ONE bulb never blows does it? They always go in twos or threes so you can't use the simple trick of changing them one at a time till you find the dud.

Most afternoons you'll have gone round the string at least five times swopping at random before you get them going again. Christmas really is a time of hard work for all if you think about it!

Having started on the subject of cards, it's time to return there. They're a bloomin' nuisance aren't they? There's no way 'er indoors is going to cancel the dusting rota while they're up, especially at the time of year when so many visitors are expected.

So what do you end up doing? Yes, a daily cycle of taking them down, dusting, then putting them all back up again!

And what I want to know is who was the idiot who designed those awful horizontal ones with the fold at the top, instead of down the side?

If the fold's down the side, you just put them up in place and they stay there. Those with the fold at the top wait till all the visitors have arrived and then suddenly decide to flatten themselves out of their own accord.

However, they never just flatten themselves out on their own do they? No, as they collapse they knock against the next one along the shelf which then decides to join in and collapse itself.

It's like sitting there with vertical dominoes all round you, just waiting for the moment when the first one goes, and takes all the rest with it.

There's one other odd thing about Christmas decorations, though. Have you ever noticed that when you put them up they never seem to make the room look cluttered; but come Twelfth Night when you take them all down again, the room suddenly looks incredibly bare?

Perhaps the answer is just to leave them up permanently to save having the problem.

After all, if you left them all up, then more people would have the chance of admiring them wouldn't they? You must have lots of people who only visit in the middle of the summer and currently never have the opportunity to see your trimmings.

I think that's the answer I'm going to suggest to 'er indoors, then WE can fully appreciate them all as well.

That's the daft part of it you see. We've put all these decorations up in the sitting room, but we're not going to be here very much to take advantage of them.

For large chunks of the festive season we'll be out and about, appreciating the trimmings put up by other poor males under the orders of their respective females; rather than those I've struggled to keep attached to the ceilings here.

Seems to me like a total waste of time and energy. And just think how many dozens of tree bulbs will have blown every time we get back! I'm not looking forward to sorting out that particular problem one little bit.

Never mind, tis the season to be jolly as some idiot once said. I'll keep smiling from the top of my pair of steps through the whole business. I hope YOU keep smiling too.

The next edition of Comment will appear on New Year's Day, 1st January, so I hope you'll join me then. Have a very good Christmas. Right, I'm off, where's me 'olly?

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