I’ll open by wishing my reader(s) a Happy 2010 and adding that I hope Christmas wasn’t too awful.
I say that because enforced family gatherings, gift exchange and a general spirit of goodwill can get to even the most sane. It’s not that you don’t like or even love these people, it’s just that you’ve made a conscious choice not to live with them. An hour or two here and there is fine, but anything above becomes a chore. Six centrally-heated hours of confinement can turn the question of who ate all the purple ones from a tin of Roses into an issue on a par with the Northern Ireland peace process.
The other thing about the ‘Season of Goodwill’ is that you have to stop being the grumpy sod you’re allowed to be at any other time of the year. You’re obliged to buy a copy of the Big Issue and smile warmly at groups of kids singing carols outside supermarkets.
For many years, I thought I was alone in not feeling the warm glow while darting from crowded store to crowded store trying to find unique gifts for friends and family. But this year seemed to act as some kind of watershed for many around me.
Coming out of the Christmas closet
One by one, colleagues and acquaintances came out of the Christmas closet and admitted that – given any kind of choice – they’d like to have a few days off work to sit in their pyjamas alone. They’d happily eschew eating rubbish food. They’d love to avoid watching extended versions of TV shows that at any other time of the year manage to be entertaining.
On the subject of telly, this year, one of my comic heroes crashed and burned. Victoria Wood churned out the most pitiful excuse for comedy. To be fair, all the signs were there in advance. No sooner had the show been announced than Ms Wood was doing the rounds, telling anyone who’d listen that the BBC had edited the show beyond recognition. Whether this was compliance gone mad (likely) or piss-poor raw material remains to be seen. To my eyes, it looked like someone took the scissors to every original thought and joke.
Christmas in hospital
I spent much of the season in Russell’s Hall hospital. Ever been there? I advise against.
Imagine if you will a motorway service station – not one of the good ones – think of the hellish places like Keel or Sandbach. Add to that walls painted in various shades of bodily emission – sputum, blood clot, vomit and pus.
Then there are the lifts. They talk to you like you’re missing a chromosome.
“Doors opening … Please select a floor by pressing a button … You have selected floor two … Doors closing … Lift going up … Lift stopping … Doors opening … Please check around your immediate area and ensure you take all of your personal possessions along with you on exiting this lift, as the management cannot be responsible for any loss or injury incurred.”
What’s happened to my homeland?
And it isn’t just hospital lifts that have lost it. During my visit back to the homeland, I discovered Britain has become a nation where industry quakes in fear of legal repercussions. Bottles of cloudy lemonade confirm they contain no nuts, were produced in factories that contain no nuts, but insist they cannot be considered 100% nut free. Drive down a road and cameras follow you, signs light up if you so much as dare approach the speed limit. If you exceed it, I imagine your vehicle is vaporised on the spot. Ready meals advise that upon removing from an oven or microwave, the contents will be hot.
Finally, I’m back and to anyone who knows the Fanning family, thanks for your thoughts, good wishes and prayers. I hope that soon enough I’ll have good things to report.
In closing, please support the upcoming ‘100 Stories for Haiti’ project. I’m privileged to have had a short story selected for the book. Please buy it as soon as it comes out either as an eBook or a week later in the shops. Every penny, cent, dollar or squido goes to the Red Cross,