David Storey, otherwise known as Scrooge, spreads some Christmas cheer.
I’m sure you’ve had your ears worn out lately listening to people tell you that it doesn’t seem like a year since last Christmas. Yet here we are again rushing round the shops buying woolly socks in packets of three for grumpy ungrateful elderly relations who won’t be afraid to tell you that last year’s purple socks didn’t fit them either. Bumper to bumper we tear into town to fill up our cars with useless junk, for people we don’t even like, just so that we can have a clear conscience at the Christmas dinner table. Even those who have irritated us all year and who are as much use to us as a leaky pair of boots in a slurry pit, will get their annual gift simply because it’s the time of year when its illegal to be unpleasant or spiteful.
Our faces wrinkled from wearing forced synthetic smiles, we’ll visit the draughty houses of obscure relations displaying the same artificial enthusiasm as we would were we entering the orang-utan cage at Dublin Zoo. Clutching small packets of after-eights we’ll drag along our protesting children whom we’ve bribed to behave by suggesting to them that Santa will be back to recover any presents he may have delivered, in error, to bold children.
On pain of a cokeless Christmas we’ll force our offspring to sing trite and tuneless national school songs for the benefit of deaf grandaunts in return for their annual tenner and the future prospect of being left all their shares. Twenty-five verses of the excruciating ‘Little Donkey’ will be followed by that repetitive funereal ditty about some child and his drum. Hopefully grandaunt Primrose is not so deaf that she hasn’t heard of the Euro. Otherwise, the inheritance under her mattresses will be worthless even if we manage to outlive her and get our grubby hands on it.
Our lips will be raw from kissing people whom at other times of the year we’d be prepared to do anything to avoid let alone engage with a sloppy peck on their powdered cheeks. We’ll mouth ‘Happy Christmas’ to people whom we have no wish to see happy and whom we regret are still sufficiently alive and well enough to cast a blight on another so called season of goodwill. People we find dull, mean and unpleasant and upon whom we regret ever having set eyes, will be promised a visit in the New Year despite the fact that we’d rather go to jail than darken their cheap imitation teak front doors.
We’ll sit on our neighbour’s pink leather sofa accepting cheap sherry and rich fruitcake as their overparented darlings run riot around us zapping us with flashing electronic machine guns and drowning us with bed wetting Barbies. We’ll even let the smelly creatures crawl all over us and wreck our good Christmas clothes without protesting because Christmas, like every other time of the year, belongs to the children. With our throats parched for a real drink we’ll smile hypocritically and agree with their proud parents that the whole commercialised season of bank-breaking overindulgence is worth it just to see the pleasure on the chocolate- smeared faces of the ‘little darlings.’ After all, what is a savaged Visa card compared to the pleasure of a smile from a little angel whose face is as soft and as round as a McDonalds hamburger?
Then, suddenly, like the last whimper of a cheap Christmas cracker, the season of sentimental backslapping will be over. No sooner will we have overdosed on the unfortunate turkey and drunk ourselves into another new year, then it will be a roller coaster ride into Patrick’s Day, Easter, a couple of bank holidays, Halloween, and surprise, surprise, – the evenings will be drawing in again and the whole wretched process will start all over again. Next time be prepared. It won’t seem a year till next Christmas either.
Written by David Storey
Published here 28 Jul 2023 and originally published Winter 2002