Not your average travel blog
This recent Christmas I witnessed a man having an ear-battering argument in the supermarket. Normally, a small disagreement and well structured case can often bring around a final decision in a jiffy, especially when over whether to buy pre-chopped or whole tinned tomatoes. The beauty of this argument was that he was on his mobile phone. He was attempting to be calm (failing), raising his voice well over the electronic, monotone, elevator music that is only acceptable in supermarkets (and elevators). He was livid and even though I’m sure he left the house full of confidence, thinking he was genuinely trusted to do the Christmas shop, whilst he stood in the middle of aisle seventeen he clearly had no idea what he was doing. His wife would have to come out and do it all over again after he’d screwed it up.
Festive moments like this really confuse me. He had a list, he had a trolley, he had money, he had originally thought he would succeed, he was doomed. His wife truly knew how to spread that genuine Christmas spirit but if the argument now, was over whether he needed to buy chopped tomatoes or whole ones, in my mind there was only one thing that this poor guy was going to do over Christmas. Ruin it.
I sympathise with his wife, of course. She has a husband that was clearly out of his depth in the mist and fog of the Christmas shop. It was like an episode of Bear Grylls that had gone wrong and there was actually no survival handbook that could help him. The only way to stay alive was to simply avoid the shopping in the first place. I can’t help but think that it was her fault for tossing him out of the helicopter into perdition in the first place, with just a scribbled shopping list and a mobile phone to make sure he got out alive. This man had no chance. He should have been turning on the immersion boiler for extra guests, bleeding the radiators, checking the gas, fixing the wonky bathroom door handle, shaving that millimetre off the table leg to stop it wobbling, chopping the firewood and preparing himself, alone in a quiet place for the colossal amount of washing up that he would have to do. She should have known that the supermarket was no place for her man.
At Christmas, I’m normally at the markets, shops or on public transport (occasionally dressed as an elf or other Christmas themed allegory). To argue in those places both infuriates me and amuses me. People should just understand what they are good at when Christmas comes around, what their job is, what survival skill they need to bring to the table, and stick to it. Do not, under any circumstance, try to do someone else’s job. You will ruin Christmas.
The best and most obvious example of this is when you see all the presents under the tree. There are gifts that look like they have been packaged (note, “packaged” and not wrapped) by a drunk mouse, helped out by a blind horse whilst enjoying the dodgems together. Then, there are the presents that were wrapped by a lady. My point is not that men are useless at Christmas, thats just crazy talk. Just KNOW YOUR JOB!
Have a job at Christmas
I’m trying to relate this to the skills I might need when I’m in North America. I know at the moment what I am particularly useless at and in the same breath; I have a vague idea of the things I am fairly competent with. I don’t need to admit them…you’ll find out when I tell how much trouble I’m in later in the year.
I’m 30 going on cynical old codger when it comes to Christmas and although I’m not quite on the level of my Dad’s humbuggness, I couldn’t care less about what Christmas seems to have become on the TV. Far too many of us worry and stress over the wrong things at Christmas. Food quantities, party outfits, the correct cutlery on the table, arriving on time, presents, sprouts, whether the bird fits in the oven (Mother Wolfrider definitely didn’t worry about this when we had to hack the goose up to get it in), festive fake tan, sticking to a military driven timetable of parties, sit down meals, boozy gatherings, wrapping paper, the fact that shops will be closed for a whole day (even less than that if you live somewhere near certain 7-Elevens) and a plethora of other wintery worries. We shop like the world will end if we don’t have enough food to last one day. Oxford Street is quite possibly the most grotesque place in London during the lead up to Christmas. It’s like malfunctioning, robotic sheep are given credit cards. Viewing the Christmas shoppers in London was only topped by the experience of being manually directed around motorway services on December 27th. This was upsetting, because after the two days of indulgence, too many people needed an overpriced, stale sandwich, sweets and a burnt coffee. I actually had a headache trying to leave.
As for my Dad’s humbugness, I’ve never known anyone that wants to leave every party, including his own, before 9pm. Enough moaning. Christmas is brilliant.
Sadly not my normal walking style
I had a wonderful time last week. I was given less than 6 presents. They all fitted into a carrier bag, they all cost (feel free to throw something at me if I’m wrong) less than £10, and I had one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. Not all the plates or cutlery matched on the day of the feasts, we didn’t turn the TV on once (except when I watched the extended edition of the Hobbit with my cousins son, starting it at 10.30pm…note to self, it’s long..), we didn’t argue, we didn’t go hungry, nobody was cold or bored or alone and when the car broke down, we simply made do, gave each other lifts, carried things for one another, had another cup of tea (or shot of fireball whiskey). When we thought it was time to relax, all 27 of us had a sing-along karaoke session for seven hours before some of the family had to go to bed. The rest of us reluctantly watched the Ashes at 2am. No comment on the cricket.
There are too many people at Christmas that don’t have indulgences and many of us forget this by being over concerned with our own perceived identities and the commercial way of keeping up with the neighbours. There is far too much about Christmas and New Year that I just find hard to rationalise.
A time to remember, forget, to plan, to make promises, gather around friends and family to ponder another year behind or in front. I love New Year…no truly. But what happens at New Year? Bankers get a holiday….except they don’t really, and it’s the busiest night, worldwide for thieves.
One of the best New Years Eves I think I have ever had was playing scrabble. I am being literal. I didn’t dress up, I didn’t stay out till 9am, I didn’t spend a stupid amount of money, I didn’t wake up in strangers bed, I didn’t injure myself dancing and I didn’t lose my trousers, and I didn’t wake up in a rowing boat or the bath tub…all of which may or may not have happened at the start of other January’s. I just played scrabble and ate my favourite chocolate cake with friends. Then I had an awesome eggs and soldiers breakfast at a bakery overlooking the sea, in the rain followed by some top shelf whiskeys (it had gone past eleven). If I had unlimited options, I would still want that chocolate cake and that breakfast.
A few years ago, I gave up mayonnaise thinking it was going to improve my year ahead. It didn’t. Another year, I gave up cheese; Worst decision of my life. One year I decided to give up ale; Again, pointless.
I have, in the past decided to take up things that I had either not done since school or things that I had never done; painting, cricket, juggling, learning to windsurf, drink more milk, eating something new that I’d not eaten before at least once a month for a year, to try to scare myself each month for a year (that was interesting) and to grow a beard. Why? I’m not sure. I have now come to the conclusion that I can make these decisions at any time – and I do.
This year some work colleagues and I are resisting alcohol in January. I’m a dry athlete for cancer research. Sponsor us if you like.
In March I’m going to start navigating across the United States.
I hope to be home for Christmas in 2014 so I can just enjoy Christmas again with family. I wasn’t lying, Christmas really is Brilliant. I guess it depends on America and everyone there to decide what happens before then.
I listened to a little Lana Del Ray recently. She said a few rather poignant things that I enjoyed. “Be wild. Have fun. I believe in the country America used to be. I believe in the person I want to become, I believe in the freedom of the open road. And my motto is the
same as ever: I believe in the kindness of strangers. And when I’m at war with myself, I ride”.
Kudos to Lana, I’m a fan. I believe in the human spirit to make life interesting. I believe in simple humanity. Along with some favourable weather, I trust it will be enough this year.
Happy new year