Saturday, 21 December 2013

Six ways to make your Christmas more like one in a film

1. Be a bad parent!

Not a terrible parent, obviously – don’t go forgetting to feed them or buying them Robin Thicke CDs. But to capture the particular breed of magic favoured by the mid-90s festive oeuvre, you need to practice a bit of low-level neglect. Work too hard, fail to turn up to their nativity play because you’re doing a Big Presentation to the Big Boss for a Big Contract, then shout, “I AM TOO BUSY” down the phone when they call to tell you a Robin Redbreast has just eaten marzipan from their outstretched palm.

And then, THEN, have a heartwarming epiphany and spent Christmas Eve in a madcap adventure finding the perfect toy/travelling halfway across the country in a series of unsuitable vehicles/actually being Father Christmas for the night, thus bringing the family together again and earning your kid’s love and admiration forever. This bit really is quite key. If you only do the first part, you’re just ruining Christmas on purpose.

2. Have an almost implausible disaster!

Continuing on the bad parent theme, you could leave an eight-year-old at home and fly to France by accident. Or your Christmas lights could cause a power cut across the whole city. Or a grotesque creature from a rhyming world could try to steal Christmas. Or you could leave the same eight-year-old (now nine) at home again and fly to Florida by accident.

Whichever you choose, be sure to fix it by midnight on Christmas Eve or it’ll be stuck like that all year.

3. Have some eggnog!

I’ll leave you to make your best guess as to what eggnog might actually be. Or just make a glass of Bird’s custard and put some rum in it.

4. Do a dance!

This is an especially prudent one if you’re a) the Prime Minister, b) a cartoon skeleton or c) Lindsay Lohan.

5. Go to a department store!

If you can get accidentally locked in, sleep in the bedding section and do a montage running riot in the toy department, all the better.

6. Become a better person!

You could sit round waiting for ghosts to turn up and lead you by the hand through the shadowy reincarnations of your past misdoings – or you could speed things up by doing the modern equivalent: flicking though your Facebook albums.

Once you feel suitably repentant, make a big donation to charity and buy lunch for someone who really needs it. Then dance through the snow in a nightshirt while the end credits roll.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thank you for the Days

Image: Save the Children

Happy National Pigs in Blankets Day! How many have you eaten? I’ve had eight. It would have been more, but I misunderstood the title and spent half the day trying to get a quilt to stay on a British Saddleback.

It’s actually the UK’s first ever Pigs in Blankets Day, and this I know because along with half the other sarky journalists on Twitter, I’ve had a press release about it. I’ve also learned that in Scotland they’re known as ‘kilted sausages’, and in America they’re wrapped in dough instead - a rare example of us being ahead of our Stateside cousins when it comes to putting bacon on stuff.

Some might say there are too many official days now, that the calendar is drowning in half-baked marketing exercises dreamt up by Tedious, Predictable & Twee PR Ltd. But to them I say, never! For what is a National Something Day if not a reason to make merry, wear something novel and exceed your recommended daily calorie intake?

Tomorrow, if you didn’t know already, is Christmas Jumper Day. Which makes this Christmas Jumper Eve, the day when all the children across the land iron their non-scratchy undershirts in the hope that the magical flying knitting needles will bring them a creation high in warmth, colour AND kitsch.

In recent years it has been adopted by Save the Children UK as a fundraiser – donate £1, go to work wearing something Cliff Richard might reject as a tad too ritzy, and help “make the world better with a sweater”. I’ll be taking part, mainly for the good cause but also because it’s our office Christmas party tomorrow too, and spending the day wrapped in Primark woollies can only serve to make me look better by comparison come evening time.

I’ve been fond of supremely tacky Christmas sweaters ever since the year I unearthed Ol’ Faithful in an antiques shop in Lewes, covered in shiny beads and sequins and authentic 80s dust. It comes down past my bum, meaning it can double as a sort of jolly disco nightshirt when the heating won’t suffice.

This year my boyfriend and I have taken things to the next level, paying the ultimate tribute to our jumpers by wearing them for a photo, turning it into a Christmas card and sending it to all our relatives.

“Does it look enough like a joke?” I asked, as he Photoshopped a border of snow-capped holly round the edge. “I don’t want people to think we’re doing it seriously. I don’t want to be like Ross and Mona in that episode of Friends.”

“People will know we’re joking,” he said, with a look in his eyes that said we weren’t actually joking at all.

Monday, 9 December 2013

What do we want? Christmas! When do we want it? Earlier!

For something that has been happening with pretty dependable regularity every year since at least 1988 (and for a fair while before that, I’ve heard), Christmas doesn’t half sneak up on you.

I’m two days late getting my advent calendar, have only bought three presents so far and I don’t know where my novelty antlers are. I feel like Prime Minister Hugh Grant in Love Actually when he has to fight off America and go to every house in Wandsworth trying to win back Martine McCutcheon.

The mistake we make every year, of course, is to start doing Christmas too late. Whingers the world over will tell you it’s the opposite, that everything comes too early and costs too much and smells too good and oh isn’t it awful, but they are wrong.

If anything, we don’t let it come early enough. They have conditioned us to ignore Christmas until it lands square in our laps like a needy cat, mewing and shedding and demanding attention*.

Then we don’t have time and space to savour the season as it deserves. We just take a deep breath and launch ourselves through each festive hoorah, gathering pace, being loaded up with items like a pack mule, gift receipts and Lindor wrappers crunching underfoot, until we eventually fling them all off in a frantic Buckaroo manoeuvre and land on the sofa, December 27th, face-down in a trifle.

Wouldn’t it be better if instead, we revved up Christmas on about November 6th, free from judgement or mutterings? As the last firework fades in the sky, we could give Noddy Holder a megaphone to kick off proceedings and take it gently from there.

Then there would be plenty of time for lots of nice sitting around, in between all the ice skating and queuing and singing and travelling and wrapping and cooking and high-kicking with Weird Brian from HR. I honestly believe it would be more sensible, like warming up our festive muscles with some light stretching before the marathon.

For example, I found out today that the average person in the UK eats 27 mince pies every Christmas. TWENTY SEVEN. Stuffed with a clammy fist into the space of three short weeks, that’s probably enough greasy pastry to make your insides go see-though like a paper bakery bag. But distributed across a much longer period – six weeks, let’s say – it becomes just another healthy way to achieve your recommended butter and sugar intake!

As I’ve already missed this year’s early deadline, it’ll have to wait till Christmas 2014 - or extend the whole thing to the third week of January. Either way I’ll be dealing with the needy cat of Christmas the way that works best with all cats: putting a silly hat on it.

*I don’t have a cat, can you tell?