Picture the scene…. A frosty Christmas morning, a 14 year old wakes up oddly excited. He looks to the end of his bed to see a small pile of perfectly wrapped gifts. He springs out, unusually athletically and bounces towards the presents. Without opening a single gift the teenager runs to his older Brother to spread the good news….
“He’s been Dan!!….He’s been!!….Father Christmas has been!!!”
My brother was a poor riser and so I was not unduly concerned by the initial silence prior to being verbally attacked.
“…what the fuck is wrong with you?….you’re 14 not 5… now piss off you prick…”
Welcome to Christmas.
I shouldn’t have been too shocked by his outburst as he had generally stopped laughing and smiling at some point in the previous four years and as far as I’m aware has continued this tradition for the last thirty three but was this really necessary on the greatest of all days?…. That’s right…the Greatest of all days, during the greatest of all times of the year….. No….No it wasn’t…
Fear not dear reader, I would have my vengeance in the shape of a ‘Shakin’ Stevens’ album which he was due to imminently open…. Cock…
Christmas is it for me. You can stick my birthday up your arse….I don’t care. Easter? Ha!…Shite… religious undertone… fuck it. New Year’s Eve?….don’t get me started… fake hugs in packed boozers with non-professional drinkers you neither know nor like…
Look at the word… marvellous. Not ‘Xmas’… ‘Xmas’ is for the filth of the planet, it’s for those scared of Jeebus and for those who don’t want to offend. Say ‘Seasons Greetings’ if you wish but never ‘Xmas’…
Let’s start at the beginning.
My childhood was a frantic affair but those stories will be a different blog. That will be the last blog, the last blog ever. My childhood Christmases’ were outstanding and filled only with joy and happiness. No expense was spared, everyone smiled at some point and the fun factor was high. The tree, the coloured lights, the tinsel and the smell of tinsel, the inflatable father Christmas, the silver goblets, the food, the Astispumanti, the crates of Holsten Pils and the gifts.
There was no red and green Victorian Christmas poncitude that I now love, oh no, it was tack, it was flammable and I loved it. I still find myself sniffing tinsel to this day and I am transported back to that time.
I was never left wanting at Christmas. I got everything I wanted, we all did, whether my parents had the wedge or not. Snooker tables, Action Man, Sony Walkmans, Hot Wheels, Matchbox Le Mans racing set (which I used to hide porn playing cards in…unfortunately my Mum took it back to the shop without telling me and the cards were found by the assistant in the presence of said mother). I remember it all and appreciate every small fragment of it. Glorious times…The best of times…Always.
Of course at 14 I realised Father Christmas (never Santa Claus) wasn’t real but when I woke up that morning, the morning of the tirade of many Danny delivered tirades, I still wanted to believe it.
I was caught up in the moment, I knew the score but I didn’t really want to know that score as knowing the score was the first turning point in your relationship with Christmas. The Father Christmas myth is the magic and anyone killing that for their kids in the name of ‘reality’ needs to take a hard look at themselves in my view. If you want kids to have reality then start explaining that their soft toys aren’t real, running with your hands outstretched doesn’t make you an airplane, the News is the only TV programme they require and the old man at number 54 needs to be avoided. See? Reality isn’t always necessary…
My parents were the Christmas heroes. They delivered the goods on every level and created the template for my Christmas future.
My Mum was the driving force. All fun, all the time, particularly at Christmas.
A couple of examples of ‘the crazy’ include when I once came home to find her lying on the stairs on her back pointing downwards, arms splayed, eyes rolling, and tongue lolling. I was with Bunny, our man in Hong Kong, at the time and like true professionals we simply stepped over her and continued up the stairs.
“I could have been dead” she said from her prone position.
“Well you ain’t are you…?” I replied.
We moved up the stairs, she remained holding the position like David Gower delivering a classic cover drive.
Another time when I was alone in my parents’ house I ventured downstairs in nothing but my pants for a glass of water and was confronted by her springing out from behind a door with a bag on her head with the eyes and mouth cut out screaming. I screamed like a girl. You’re always vulnerable in your pants so it was potentially an unfair fight. My scream fuelled her laughter to fever pitch…. Mental…like a horror film, the stuff of nightmares.
My Dad was and remains a big character. Anyone who is happy to tell someone to aggressively ‘Shut Up’ in the lobby of a church at midnight mass deserves some kind of award. He is fiercely brutal when faced with what he decreed to be stupidity or God forbid ‘disrespect’. He loves Christmas and made it great till I left home. He taught me how to lie under the tree looking up through the lights, tinsel and baubles where I would imagine I lived in it like a London based Chip from Chip ‘n’ Dale. My kids do this now, they love it.
He also once gave me and my mates an ice cold crate of Schlitz beer prior to us departing for our first Christmas out on the lash. I still remember the moment and the taste and occasionally I’m transported back to that time when I have cold lager at Christmas…. A great memory… He was a generous bloke when it came to fun..
He was great with us as kids but not so as teenagers and adults so unfortunately all bridges appear to be ash due to unequalled stubbornness on all fronts by all parties.
…Anyway all that shit can wait for another time….
In my mid to late teens Christmas became a hunt for female companionship. It was essential to get hold of someone to share the Christmas experience with.
No one wanted to be the loner, the ‘Tom McCarthy’, the ‘too cool’ yoot who would turn up late to all the parties as he’d been ‘hanging around’ somewhere else on his own. He hadn’t, but that was all he had. He missed great laughs in order to create a mysterious persona enabling him to drift in late doors. It wasn’t cool, he looked like a cab driver and he missed out on the fun.
In the late teens we were in the trenches. We were existing in dark, damp football clubs making pricks of ourselves for a Christmas snog or the chance of a Christmas snog. We were fearlessly walking into pubs in the hope that that specific barman, that fucker in the Torrington wouldn’t ask for ID and then chuck you out in front of the ladies thus scuppering any chance you had of interaction whilst holding a manly pint. Women never had this problem as they we always welcome and encouraged into pubs by slimy, too old barmen.
In order to properly entice women, ‘Argos’ was visited and high end, ‘Elizabeth Duke’ yellow metal jewellery was purchased usually in the shape of a wishbone or a Teddy bear. These were the love bullets waiting to be delivered at Sixth form Girl School common room parties where the teacher on the door was bribed with Kestrel Super to allow entry into the inner sanctum. Good times with top women, they were and remain Legendary….
All those girls played their part in the good stuff at Christmas. They were responsible for the buzz of receiving the card from any one of them. What followed was hours of forensic examination where you would stare at the simple greeting within, where you desperately try to read something, anything into the one kiss at the bottom. Was it a sign? A trigger? A nod and a wink? Was it a mistake? What was it? Is it Pity? The written version of a hair ruffle followed by a tilt of the head and an ‘Awwww’, it was as sexual as a hairy cheeked kiss from a piss smelling old woman….Pathetic. I was Timid… I’m no longer timid. ‘Say it, don’t think it’ is my motto as it’s better to get an answer, good or bad than to wonder what it might have been….No regrets now, plenty at the time.
So, Christmas as a child and then a youth was everything you remember. Festive, cosy, warm and hilarious….and then you leave home and move in with a girl.
Adulthood. The despair of Adulthood.
In pre parent adulthood you spend most of your Christmas time on the lash in tinsel heavy pubs shouting over Slade, The Pogues and Wizzard until midnight when all hell breaks loose and you engage in mass hugs with strangers. This was the time of great Christmas laughs…
I used to run a football club bar. It was always out of control. If we weren’t fighting the punters we were dragging them through windows where they had got stuck trying to gain entry after being chucked out.
The most out of control moment involved a barman of mine, a half Irish, half Maltese pretty boy punching the birthday boy in the face over the bar after he had clicked his fingers at him. As the punch was delivered I looked at the other barman and we all just closed our eyes in resignation.
This was a tad awkward but as we were in charge we rallied, blamed the recipient of the blow for antagonising the deliverer and threw him out temporarily from his own do. We allowed him back in for the sake of the till however at the end Franco decided he wanted another crack at him and walked toward him with the now legendary line of:
‘Ho! Ho! Ho!…the rain is coming down and here comes trouble’
The bloke didn’t know whether to run or laugh… he ran…we laughed.
On one occasion I made the mistake of allowing a booking in Christmas week for the ‘Young Rotarians’, a bland bunch of young conservative types who needed a good hiding. They wanted the place for 40-50 people so it was a small gig, trouble was I could find no one to help me run it. As ever, up stepped Bunny. We had drank enough that Christmas and so both fancied an easy night…
We got there early for no apparent reason and as there was little else to do we started drinking. This was fatal as by the time they started arriving we were beyond ‘nicely alight’ and were heading into ‘well oiled’ country. Christmas was about to hit the Nigel and Clarissa’s right in the face.
The trigger for the mess we were in was a trophy I found kicking about behind the bar. The trophy in question had been won by Bunny and I a few years previously. We decided that this would be our drinking vessel for the night and so we donned tinsel headbands and got involved. It was the definitive ‘cup of a carpenter’ and we had, indeed, chosen ‘wisely’. We named it ‘The Cup that Cheers’ and we filled it with a cocktail of Kronenborg and a run through the top shelf and whenever we drank from it you would have to shout ‘The Cup that cheers….Cheers!!’ while raising it in the direction of the non-drinker. As you’d imagine this was a great idea when only two of you were in the club but not so great when you have 40 oddbods in cardigans and pristine side partings drinking lemonade staring at you.
Anyway, we made it through the night even after the ‘Why the fuck aren’t you drinking you ponce… it’s Christmas’ remark to one particularly irritating stroker drinking his fifth tonic water… he didn’t see the funny side but we were having a good time so who cares eh?
Another Christmas barman was ‘The Rash’. A very funny man.
We worked another Christmas do with a ginger barmaid surprisingly called ‘Ginga’ who loved a laugh. At the end of the event we stayed on a played pool and drank as a wind down.
I’m quite good at pool as I’m sure two polis in Manchester will testify so I’m winning easily against The Rash. I’m lining up the final shot for victory and I look up from the cue to the pocket and see a blockage, a blockage in the form of a large pair of testicles attached to The Rash.
I looked up and he was standing there doey eyed, looking between me and his hairy brains saying ‘Helllooo’…. What do you do? Well, you smash the ball as hard as possible. I never saw the Rash’s bollocks again and that saddens me greatly.
Most Christmas nights out during this period where like some ex-girlfriends, great at the time yet forgettable now. Nothing of real note happened other than drinking, again like some ex-girlfriends. Some nights still stick in the memory though.
One Christmas Eve I found myself in a Wetherspoons Pub. This normally goes against every principle in my drinking head. Terrible pubs selling low level beer to the toothless, thick and urine soaked. I once saw a work colleague get refused service in a Wetherspoons due to being in a state of advanced refreshment. This is the drinking equivalent of climbing Everest carrying a rhino…. It shouldn’t be possible.
So I’m sitting in a Wetherspoons with a group of mates in couples. It’s getting towards midnight and so we are ready for the struggle cuddle with assorted strangers in our festivity arc. I’m in the company of my missus at the time, The Bowman and his wife The Queen of Gin, Googan with possibly Miss Curtis, the lounge lizard Breen with his, at the time, hostage and some others who I’ve taken the time to forget. The clock strikes midnight and we drunkenly celebrate. Happy days…
It was at 0004 hours that the problem started when a surly little fucker started hanging around our table. Initially he was merely watching but then it became evident that he was some sort of ‘staff’ twat. Then he got involved and started aggressively picking up empty glasses that were lying about…
….and then it happened….
For some reason this bloke was unaware of two things. Firstly, taking a Gin ‘n’ Tonic from the hand of the Queen of Gin isn’t going to end well…. If she don’t get you then The Bowman certainly will. I can still see her ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ incredulous smile as it was whisked away by the bravest idiot on the planet.
Secondly it’s close to fatal if you aim a punch at a man capable of firing a longbow unless you too are a longbow man. He wasn’t. His only association with anything remotely archer like was activating a Schnapps optic.
In the inevitable melee that followed I was punched in the face resulting in a Christmas black eye and a thick barman was given the ‘bad news’ by The Bowman before being arrested for his own safety…. Apparently he was in the middle of a nervous breakdown and so had lost his mind which was clear from his attempt to wrestle some juniper from the hands of the Gin Queen.
Fancy dress played its part on Christmas Eve on three occasions however only the first time was fun.
On the second occasion I found myself dressed in full Musketeer garb sitting in the palatial Highgate abode of some kind of posh Dublin born, city boy type while The Rash seemed to be oiling him up for potential business. I was not impressed as I was supposed to be on a pub crawl in the rain which was infinitely my appealing.
The third time was really a bridge too far as we walked around Crouch End in full Lederhosen… dull, dull, dull…
As usual the first time was the most memorable. Nuns. Four Nuns and a Priest to be precise.
The plan was to do a pub crawl of Highgate after going bowling in the afternoon. At the bowling the nuns sat obediently while Father Googan arranged the shoes.
The rules were that we could only drink Guinness (black and white), religious based alcohol (Bishops Finger, Abbots, white wine), travel by bus everywhere and we had to enter MacDonald and ask for ‘Fishes and loaves’. It was as very funny night with the best mates and will never be forgotten. It’s amazing how good you look in a wimple if you have had a shave… you become sexless just like a nun….I was liberated…free…
I recently read Nick ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Frost’s biography and there’s a part where he describes snogging a girl on a bus on Christmas Eve 1999 in Finchley while being watched by a man dressed as a nun…. That could only have been one of us.
We ended the night returning to a local pub where I stumbled into Mildred out on her first Christmas since I left her. She was in the company of the half of what I once called mates who believed that I had treated her badly… Fuck them…. My memory is long and nasty and in my head they will remain… rotting.
Mildred was teary. It could have been me turning up on the plot but equally it could have been that the ice had melted in her drink, or that the lights were too bright so it was hard to be completely sure. I didn’t care. She had ruined my last Christmas and I was pleased that she was upset…. Nasty I know but t’was the way it was.
And then I changed jobs and joined an organisation of such festive debauchery that even I was quite shocked.
My first interaction with this organisation was being invited to their Christmas party prior to joining. I was told to attend the O’Neills in Soho where they would be.
I had never seen or met any of them and my only instruction was to be there at 1300 hours. I got there at 1230. They didn’t get there till 1500. I was so nervous that I had consumed 6 pints of Stella for Dutch courage…. I was mangled. I pulled myself together and managed to drink and eat my way through the lunch before leaving via a soho sex shop where I purchased some porn DVD’s.
I got home and Jen look me up and down in disgust and said:
‘So…It’s going to be like this is it?’
…Yes….Yes it was….
Back in the day, my job effectively closed down from 1st December till the New Year. Unbelievable levels of festive hedonism, it was a festive dream come true. I’d been to Christmas parties before in my previous employment and on occasions things went out of control. The smarties, the Vodka and the liquidizer in the office spring to mind but those were one-off moments. They were organised events not random out of control frantic drinking because the pub had tinsel or it was the 1st of December or ‘Christmas – Day one’.
The drinking was relentless. You could easily find an event from 10th December onwards every night if you fancied it. If there wasn’t an event then one was created by me and my Chief conspirator and friend for life The Horse. It was easy.
We were once in a pub in Camden for a couple when the faintest of snow storms started. We ignored it and it got heavier. We kept looking at the window at the snow, then we looked at the tinsel, sniffed the tinsel, looked at the Guinness and continued drinking.
This went on for hours and the snow increased. London ground to a halt due to rapid snowfall but we couldn’t leave because it wasn’t deemed festive enough until ‘Fairytail of New York’ could be heard in the pub while you were holding a Guinness. Those were the rules. Horse lived in Essex, The Yorkshireman lived out West and I lived 7 miles away. We were snowed in due to Christmas Drinking Rules. I ended up walking home.
Due to the snow, half way I found myself exhausted and had to stop off in a pub for a rest. I opened the door in a blizzard like Captain Oates had he made it back to the tent. In the pub I found single men sitting alone drinking. These idiots had similar rules and were also stranded by their own festivity….they all smiled. We all knew the score.
When you have kids it all comes flooding back and you can relive all the great Christmas stuff you were forced to put on hold on the name of trying to be aloof about Christmas due to the pressure of the mid to late 20’s.
You now have the partner who can tolerate you and your ways and you have the children. You can be what you want to be and revert to a childlike state of excitement at the prospect of the tree, Father Christmas and the Magic. I see it as my job to instil all this crud into my kids so they can pass on the unrivalled joy of it all.
Personally I only want a good time at Christmas, I don’t want gifts because if I wanted it I have probably already bought it…. I’m 46 years old. Anyone telling me it’s too commercial or is a religious event can go fuck themselves as I’m not interested. Similarly anyone using the outstandingly annoying expression of ‘I don’t DO Christmas’ can also jump on the ‘Get Fucked’ bus. Get with it, get on it or get in the Bus…
To me Christmas is about Joy, children, fun, laughing and friends. Mostly laughing. Of course we remember those who have gone but it should be we Joy of the people and nothing else. Remember the Person not the End. The smiles, the laughing, the stuipidness, the warmth…..The good.
I attempt to see everyone I love at Christmas. It’s my thing. I start planning the diary in October and I scatter the events as much as possible. I rarely don’t turn up and will always explain why I’m not coming if I can’t. I don’t get this back though and am becoming more disappointed with turnouts as the years go on. I need to ignore this and focus on the proper people, the ones that match my festive desire. ‘Never judge anyone by your own standards’ my polis mentor said to me once and as he was never wrong I’ll endeavour to take that on board in the future.
And so we stand on the cusp of another Christmas Eve, the best night of the year. The kids will be frantic so I need all my skills to exhaust them. The magic will be at its peak in this house please ensure that it is in yours.
You’ll be relieved to hear that I barely drink over Christmas…. Wine isn’t drinking is it? Jeebus loved so it must be ok however raise you glass to Christmas and sniff the tinsel.
Merry Christmas to you all….see you on the other side.
Go. Mental. x