Wednesday, 5 January 2011

'tis The Season...

'tis The Season

So, here it is, Merry Christmas.

It’s always a strange time – standing apart from the rest of the year – and this year, for me, it has been particularly strange. People rush to imbue it with meaning, trying to create their own perfect Christmas scene – whether that features giving, family, the little baby Jesus or just a damn good excuse for a drunk. Whatever else it is, it’s not usually cheap. For many, it’s about spending; this year, I am not.

Party season has taken its toll. November clocks off, December steps up and the invites come rushing in. I tried to offset some of the cost with a party prep hair cut procured from the freebies section of Gumtree. I’m not sure my boss appreciated me taking a two-and-a-half-hour lunch break to get it done, but then nobody at work knows I squat* (I think. It’s a very nice, middle class charity; the Queen is our main patron, for chrissakes). In the meantime, I’ve had to graciously gulp down acceptances to various Christmas meals and parties, and wince through colleagues saying, ‘I think I’ll have a starter, actually.’

Saturday afternoon was spent stood outside Vodafone, reading a book in the snow and protesting against, among other things, the widespread closure of libraries, whilst the mega-rich telecommunications company avoids a 6bn quid tax bill. After four and a half hours, an inspector came over to plead with us to go home: ‘C’mon, it’s nearly Christmas… or are we against that too, sir?’ I could see why he might think this: he was, after all, in the process of placing us under a Section 14 for impinging on people’s right to do their Christmas shopping.

But I understand the impulse entirely, and have done some agonising myself. It’s the greed and grasping I’m not so keen on, not the giving. I recently met a highly beautiful, highly creative girl who is making embroidered jam jars for all her loved ones, and filling them with home-made jam. Thoughtfulness abounds – who could help but have their heart warmed? I’m not so good with a needle, so for my friends I’ve bought books that I want to read. Normally the cardinal sin of gift buying, my idea is that they read them, then I do, then we meet up and discuss. If they’re lucky, I may even buy them a coffee; but really mine is the gift of time, and conversation. For my sisters and brother-in-law, I’ve got Midland Mainline train tickets for a weekend in London – again, the gift of shared experience.

Whilst I am a boringly over-enthusiastic atheist and arch anti-capitalist, there are parts of the festival I enjoy. Sure, Santa’s a sham, and how’s about goodwill to all men all year round, actually? But you can’t deny the joy, and you ignore the shared experience at your peril. You’ve just got to do your best not to let it be bought…

“I hope you like it…”

Ps. Apologies for the lateness of this post: a lengthy period stood in the snowy slush in my converse left me in a state of head-pounding delirium. I felt like I was in Crime and Punishment, and spent the last three days writhing in bed, trying to figure out whether I’d murdered someone or not.

*It’s not that I’m ashamed, it’s just that squatting has some negative connotations – from a general lack of cleanliness to junkydom – that aren’t true but would be too difficult to explain away just now. Some time soon I will come out and bust these myths, but I’m new, and I want to get to the end of my probation period first.

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