Monday, December 24, 2007

Cheese made from larks' milk

IS IT just me, or is there a groundswell of thought that we’ve all had enough of the crude commercialisation of Christmas and that this year, at least, things are going to be simpler and cheaper?

Maybe it’s the ‘credit crunch’ bandied about by the newspapers that has hundreds of impoverished families thrown out of their homes and onto the streets each day. (Do you know of one? No, neither do I.)

Maybe it’s the thought of the Marks & Spencer luxury crab mousse; followed by a four bird roast with potatoes cooked in goose fat and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon; followed by a Christmas pudding containing cherries, rum, chocolate, crushed-up Toblerone, Bailey’s and heroin; topped off with cheese made from larks’ milk and cream crackers woven out of gold leaf and moistened by the tears of baby calves – maybe that’s what turns the stomach. It’s just all too much.

What’s wrong with prawn cocktail (half tomato sauce, half salad cream), a simple turkey the consistency of cardboard with a few chipolatas scattered about, soggy veg and a Tesco Value Christmas pud with a few five pence pieces stuffed in it? It really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.

And don’t bring me so-called ‘luxury’ crackers containing solid silver mouse-trimmers and gold toothpicks for frogs. All I want is a decent bang, a plastic moustache and a joke: “What do you call a chicken in a shell suit? An egg.” Thank you and goodnight.

I can see this new abstinence moving into the area of present-buying as well. People are getting fed up of buying – and receiving – meaningless trifles that will lie around the house for a week or two before then migrating to the back of a cupboard and eventually ending up in the charity shop five years later. Ask yourself, does your other half really need a tin of chocolate body paint and a golf tee that glows in the dark?

And that’s why organisations like Oxfam are cleaning up by offering middle class tree-huggers the opportunity to send ‘ethical’ presents to poor people abroad. The donor gets the warm glow of self-satisfaction, the person who should have got the present gets a card telling them how wonderful they and the gift-giver are, and some poor bloke in Botswana gets a shovel and instructions on how to dig a well. I can’t imagine that they’re entirely happy about it.

“Dear Diary, it’s not been a great Christmas. Some do-gooding Guardian reader sent me two skinny goats, a Deal Or No Deal game with the £250,000 card missing, and three pairs of used spectacles. Meanwhile the woman in the mud hut next door got a Playstation 3, a radio-controlled Dalek and a Christmas pudding containing cherries, rum, chocolate, crushed-up Toblerone, Bailey’s and heroin. It’s just not fair.”

CHANGING ATTITUDES to Christmas are evident in the greetings card shops as well. (Where did they come from, anyway? They’re like candle shops. Ten years ago they didn’t exist; now they’re infesting every shopping mall from Bodmin to Bannockburn. How many stuffed Garfields and heart-shaped balloons do we need? Why can’t we just buy our greetings cards from the limited display next to the jars of sweets in the local newsagents, just like we used to do? With the price written on the back in pencil, which we always forgot to remove?)

Anyway, I was in one such shop this week when I saw a Christmas card inscribed: “To Dad and Partner”. Says a lot that, about the way we live our modern lives. There’s an understated anguish; the years of childhood angst caused by separation and divorce, made real by a bit of pink cardboard scattered with glitter.

On the surface, it’s a heartfelt sentiment. Underneath is a maelstrom of confusion, bitterness and tears. I don’t know why they just don’t be honest and make cards dedicated “To Dad and that Slut with the Loose Knickers from Number 62”.

Or, to be fair, “To Mum and the 25-year-old Somalian tribesman whose mud hut you fled to last year. Enjoy the goats. And the used spectacles.”

AND WHILE we’re talking about Oxfam, do we really need Helen Bonham Carter doing that dreadful fake laugh on their latest TV advert? It’s so obvious it’s painful. In fact, there’s more than one Christmas telly ad that’s getting my back up.

How about Alan ‘Captain Scarlet’ Hanson pretending that he always buys his Scotch at Morrisons? Stephen Fry trying to convince us that sitting in a lonely room buying stuff online is in some way festive. Nadine Baggott, Celebrity Beauty Editor, discovering something called ‘pentapepptapaedophiles’. (And what is a ‘Celebrity Beauty Editor’ anyway? Is she a celebrity who is beautiful and also happens to edit? Clearly not. And that name … it’s a bit like naming a top model Pigswill Pestilence.)

Step forward dear Lulu, enthusing about “turkey wrapped in bacon”. You don’t fool us, love. We can all see that four miserable rashers of streaky don’t equate to “wrapped”. And then there’s Davina McCall, mugging to camera and pretending to chat to her mother about her hair, when in real life the two haven’t spoken for years. And don’t even get me started on Julie Walters trying to be common with Asda employees in the most flesh-crawlingly patronising way.

FINALLY, IT’S a sad day when one of the nation’s key cultural institutions has to look to foreign shores to find a man to act as its figurehead. Was there really no Englishman who could do the job?

I mean, that Santa Claus, well he’s from Lapland, isn’t he?

Merry Christmas.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Satan Claws is from Crapland.
Very Greedmas and a crappy New Year!

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Grobian said...

Goodswill to all men. I'm having beans on toast with lashings of Dutch lager.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think Little St Nick's actually from Turkey. Which is at least festive. I may need to get out more.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous skydog said...


The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his ''concern for sailors and ships.''

No surprises there then eh? ''Ahoy there Jolly Jack, fancy a short time then big boy?'' o|--)

1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More than a quarter of a million people are to take part in Boxing Day hunts, according to the Countryside Alliance.

More than 300 such events are planned on the busiest day of the hunting year.
That should be a good day out for you Bazza.

5:07 AM  
Anonymous Owld Billy said...

Ferretting is the traditional pastime for the working man on Boxing Day.

Bunny stew! Delicious - so much more tastier than fox.

4:01 AM  
Anonymous Mr Cliff said...

Oh dear Barry, you’ve grown old. Christmas is for children, remember when you were young? You didn’t have to go to school, a mythical being brought you toys, and everyone around you was happily revelling in the Christmas spirit.
As you get a little older the mythical being is gone, but as Christmas means giving presents as well as receiving them, material greed gives way to mutual respect and appreciation.
As one gets really old the magic is gone, it seems to be too much trouble, why can’t Christmas be like every other boring week?
Fortunately I am not as old as you, Santa no longer exists but Christmas means more than prezzies, turkey, Christmas cake and mince pies, it is a time when everyone is off work, it is the only time when families can meet no matter how far individual family members have travelled for work.
And the week’s celebrations end with a great big pub crawl with the intention of meeting many old friends who drink less than they used to
Christmas is still magical to me, time off work, meeting family and friends, prezzies, over indulgence of both food and alcohol.
But I hate those bastards who try to drag religion into christmas.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous the green man said...

Agreed. Christmas was a pagan winter festival long before Christ was invented. I doubt the drunken merriment and banter was much different 3 millenia ago notwithstanding Rome's attempt to harness the fun.

2:04 AM  

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