‘Tis the season to be grumpy. No, really. Ever since Charles Dickens invented the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, we’ve delighted in repeating his catchphrase, “Bah, humbug!” when Christmas excitement is getting out of hand. But I reckon all the “stuff” around New Year gives greater cause for being grumpy.
I admit that some aspects of Christmas do get me down. Take all those saccharin-sickly, derivative TV adverts, so boring and repetitive. On the other hand, I hardly saw them this year: the run-up to Christmas was busy. Besides, at my time of life I find the commercial break furnishes opportunities to go to the loo, or make tea.
As for people going all gooey over Christmas parties and carol services, I lived with them in schools for four decades, and find excessive sentimentality (not to mention boozy staff dos) more amusing than repulsive. So not much Bah, humbug! from me on that score.
Come the New Year, though, it’s all change! The fun’s over: we’re painfully conscious of need to break the cycle of overeating and drinking; the days are short; the weather’s cold: no wonder someone like Peter Mortimer writes as splendidly grouchy a piece for VOTN as he did this week.
He should complain! I’m presently coming to terms with the reality of leaving the North and returning to work next week, having thought I was retired. So I’m searching the house for a reliable alarm clock to get me up in the dark – instead of relying on daylight to tell me when to stir.
Dickens was wrong. It’s not Christmas that should render us Scrooge-like. Save the humbuggery for New Year.
Newspapers this week are stuffed with dietary and health advice. Editors reckon we’re so hopelessly weak-willed that, after the Christmas binge, we require tedious experts to instruct us on drying out and getting the weight off.
But we don’t need clever carb-based diets to help us slim, nor dodgy fruit teas or super-food smoothies to detox, while Dr Mark Porter’s advice in The Times that taking exercise would help was particularly bleedin’ obvious. We know what to do! We just hate doing it.
Even children are no longer exempt. New Year brought with it a government admonition to parents (how useless and feckless they must appear to policymakers!) that they must limit their kids’ school snacks to 100 calories. That’s one finger of KitKat – though that product fails the excessive-sugar-in-chocolate test.
Fortunately, the same papers also furnished some amusement. I liked the story of the New Zealanders who described as “heavy-handed” a drinking ban imposed to reduce teenage drunkenness over New Year. Shrewdly observing that the problem was one for parents to deal with, in protest they built a small sand island in the middle of the Tairua estuary on the Coromandel Peninsula, complete with picnic-table and icebox, and partied.
I was intrigued by a headline heralding a device designed to remove toxic air from cars, but disappointed to discover it referred to engine emissions in heavy traffic. Having been in trouble once or twice over Christmas, I fancied for a moment that it might shift beer fumes when blokes like me are picked up from the pub: so we could (for once) get away with that old excuse, “I’ve only had a couple, dear.” Wishful thinking.
My favourite news story appeared just before Christmas, however. Failing to catch some twenty known villains at home when they sought to arrest them, one police force adopted a neat sting. They wrote to all twenty, announcing that they had won a mystery Christmas hamper: but they had to be at home to take delivery. Opening the door in eager anticipation, some two-thirds of the wanted men discovered not a Christmas treat but a rozzer with the handcuffs already. Top marks to South Yorkshire Constabulary.
Finally, here’s my advice to counter the season’s grumpy-making humbug. Read Voice of the North regularly, take a modicum of exercise – and keep laughing.
Happy New Year!