Christmas is so darned complicated these days. It used to be a straightforward one-day event. Morning, breakfast, eat entire selection box, except the Spangles, natch. Tangerine? May be consumed, but only whilst reading the Victor christmas annual before your wee brother, specifically to leave a sticky but festively-scented residue on the pages.
Mid-morning, more chocolate, sourced locally, of course, and by that I mean from behind the living room sofa, where my brother stashed his selection box. Same place he hid them the year before. I told him an elf, separated from the sleigh, had taken his chocolate buttons to fuel that epic walk back to the North Pole. Sometime in the afternoon, a mammoth dinner involving sprouts and clootie dumpling.
Then, more food and Top of the Pops, followed by The Great Escape, since nothing says season of goodwill more than being Steve McQueen caught on barbed wire. This would inevitably be followed by the grown-ups arguing whether or not the Scottish lad played by Angus Lennie was Wee Shuggie, the cook in Crossroads (he was, I’ll save you a bit of time there). Later, shortbread, tea and Morecambe and Wise. That is a full-on day, especially with sprouts in the middle.
Christmas was a tinselly great white whale that breached the surface explosively on December 25, then slid back gracefully below the waves for another 12 months.
Of course, that was the child’s eye view. As you grow, you discover Christmas involves roughly the same level of secret planning that tunnels Tom, Dick and Harry required, especially when your own kids are small and Santa is still the top man.
There is a certain irony in the fact it’s usually the women who do the festive heavy lifting of gift choosing, buying and wrapping, only to have some fat bloke sweep in and take all the credit. So everything Christmas has become more complex, even wrapping presents. It was so simple once. Purchase paper and sticky tape and wrap the present. Turn a sort of margin, creating a white edge to inscribe the name of the well-behaved boy or girl or non-binary individual who deserved a Moving Eye Action Man or Growing Hair Sindy.
Presents now require glitter, tinsel and little labels, co-ordinated with paper so finely folded that a Japanese master of origami would weep to see such precision and destroy his skillfully crafted 1000 flying cranes in despair. Earlier this week I spotted a window display that promised to give your gift wrapping the WOW FACTOR. I thought the pressie was the WOW FACTOR. If the paper’s that good, why bother with the present?
Of course, I speak from a position of bitterness. I loathe gift wrapping. The minute sticky tape and paper get onto my fingers, I turn into a drunken sailor wrestling a hyperactive octopus.
Paper cuts slash my hands to ribbons. I look like Janet Leigh having that shower in Psycho.
Believe me, nothing says WOW FACTOR Christmas present quite like a badly-wrapped box boasting more bloody fingerprints than a Taggart crime scene.
Should have had Rudolf, not a satnav
Thursday night, off to Dunfermline, never been there before, thus dependent on satnav to find venue. Just for a laugh, the said satnav switched itself off just as I entered the city centre. Not surprising. Everyone knows technology bunks off the minute the going gets tough.
Did the crew of the USS Enterprise ever get their blasted communicators to work? No. I rest my case. Clearly the Federation signed up to O2. Hope they got refunds every time they couldn’t get through to Star Fleet.
The techno failure gave me a fabulous tour of the one-way system. Eventually, I spotted a little car park. I figured the venue must be near, so I dumped the motor and walked into the street, and was immediately confronted by a lady elf. To be fair, it was a lady, dressed as an elf, in the regulation workwear of green tights, jacket, funny wee hat, accessorised by light-up earrings, Asda carrier bag and an anorak.
“Have you seen Santa?”, she demanded. “No”, I said, “Not since last year. Jenners window, if that helps.”
“Ach”, she said, “the satnav went funny. He got lost.”
“What about Rudolph with his nose so bright, can’t he light your way tonight?” said I. She laughed, bitterly, which makes me think there’s been a falling out.
“We’re doing a children’s party”, she said. “We can’t find the hall.”
“Ah” I said, “so, you’re not the real Santa and elf?”
“No, Women’s Institute,” she said. “Well,” I said, “hope you find him.”
“Yes”, she said. Then she reached into her pocket and gave me a packet of chocolate Buttons, just like the ones I used to know, and steal, from my brother’s selection box.
Merry Christmas everyone and let no one steal your Buttons.