Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Reasons to be grumpy at Christmas
'Tis the season to be jolly? Not according to Stuart Prebble, creator of the TV series Grumpy Old Men.
In his hilarious new book Grumpy Old Christmas, he lists anything and everything he loathes about the festive season — nativity plays, pantos, presents, parties, shopping, eating, buying the tree, the £65 turkey.
Here, he brings you a selection of his grumpiest grievances to help release your inner Scrooge.
What is it about Christmas that makes us want to destroy a perfectly good tree and bring it into the house? And what has a tree got to do with Christmas? Jesus will never have seen a spruce, let alone have advocated uprooting millions of them every year so that they could shed their needles in your car and in the turn-ups of your trousers. It’s ridiculous. And someone has to choose it. ‘You stand there and hold it and I’ll look at it, and then I’ll stand and hold it while you look.’ So I stand there, on the pavement, always in the cold and usually in the drizzle, with my arm outstretched, while my wife cocks her head to left and then to the right, walks around it and decides that ‘it’s not quite right’. Though he doesn’t have a mask and a gun, the man selling the trees might as well have. It’s as close as you’re going to get to being mugged in broad daylight. And then you’ve got to get it home, fit it through the door — why should it be, do we think, that men always buy a tree that’s far too big for the house? — put it up (straight) and find lights that work…
THE NATIVITY PLAY
When Bob Geldof said: ‘School plays are total complete and utter sh*te,’ it was the end of a mutually agreed conspiracy in which every parent of every child in every school had silently agreed to pretend that school and nativity plays are lovely.
It’s not even the play that’s the worst bit. It’s the other bloody parents and the sea of digital cameras. Competition for which part your kid is going to play is matched only by the size and expense of the broadcast unit with full lighting rig you want to bring to record it.
Panto was better when you were a kid than it usually is now. Then, we might have seen wonderfully comic actors such as Frankie Howerd, Jimmy Jewel, Sid James or Kenneth Williams. Now it’s part-time weather presenters, Neil and Christine Hamilton and, if we’re really lucky, Gazza’s sister.
And what about the scripts? A long time ago, when we were small, pantos were for the kids. The show was full of silly jokes and slapstick and set at the eye level of the target audience. It was loads of fun.
Now it’s all sex, smut and double entendres. Even the phrase ‘he’s behind you’ carries a whole different meaning.
CHRISTMAS NO. 1s
Here's a little test: Which is your favourite record from this list of Christmas number ones?
(a) Ernie, The Fastest Milk-Float In The West by Benny Hill (b) Lonely This Christmas, Mud (c) Mary’s Boy Child — Oh My Lord by Boney M (d) There’s No One Quite Like Grandma, by St Winifred’s School Choir (e) Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid (f) Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin’ Stevens (g) Mr Blobby by Mr Blobby (h) Mistletoe And Wine by Cliff Richard
Wouldn't it be wonderful to receive a round-robin letter at Christmas from someone whose children hadn’t passed all their exams with flying colours, who hadn’t recently had another promotion, bought themselves the new BMW or taken their holidays in St Kitts?
Wouldn’t it be great to get one that said: ‘Another c**p year, we’re getting divorced, the kids are unemployed, on drugs, have turned out to be cross-dressers and have tattoos.’
Let's analyse this. You’ve gone out and worked very hard for a long time to earn this money, have given away a bit less than half of it to the Government and have put whatever’s left into your bank account.
Then, instead of using it to pay the rent, or buy food, or get the car serviced or go on holiday, you buy an item which is probably total bloody rubbish to give to someone else.
They are going to take it from you, unwrap it, say ‘thank you’ and then put it in their cupboard until next year, when they are probably going to give it to someone else.
Unless you also give them the receipt, in which case, you might as well have just handed over the money.
And why are we doing all this at Christmas? If it’s anyone’s birthday, it’s Jesus’s, not yours.
The last thing I want when I get home after a hard day at work is to be told I’m not going to get dinner because we’re going to Lena’s down the road who has spent all week preparing hors d’oeuvres.
Then there’s the whole getting ready saga: do I have to shave? (I do); can I wear my jeans? (I can’t); must I change this shirt? (I must).
And when, finally, we get there, it turns out we know everyone. Just about all of them were at the party on Thursday, so we know all their news, they know all ours.
Which is fine for women — within five seconds of arriving, they’re all in a group talking about a very nice pair of stud earrings that Margery bought in that little jeweller’s just off Market Square, you know the one, with all the diamond rings in the window, the bloke who runs it looks a bit effeminate.
Sadly, men can’t do this. So we get to spend three hours clutching a glass of wine and trying to think of something new to say.
Sometimes giving a party may be less vexatious than attending one. But while most people leave at a reasonable hour, there’ll be at least one couple who’ll show no sign of leaving, especially when your wife mentions the possibility of a nightcap.
There's a knock on the door. Who on earth could it be at this time of the night? It’s 7.30pm for heaven’s sake. We’re in the middle of dinner. No way we’re opening the door — sod them.
The doorbell rings again. We ignore it. Hopefully, even though the car is outside and all the lights are on, they’ll assume we’re out. It rings again.
Eventually, my wife weakens. As soon as they see her in the hallway, it starts . . . ‘Si-i-lent night, ho-o-ly night.’
In the old days, carol singers would hold out a bag of cloth so your contribution would feel and sound more generous than it was.
Nowadays, you pass your coins into a sweaty grasping hand with ‘hate’ tattooed across the knuckles, so your generosity, or lack of it, is immediately evident.
If you tell them to get lost, when you go out in the morning your tyres will be ribbons.
Happy bloody Christmas.
Why, if it’s so delicious do we only eat it on Christmas Day? Because it isn’t. It tastes like blotting-paper dipped in cranberry sauce. It’s not even simple any more.
There are ‘oven-ready’ turkeys — which presumably means someone has plucked the feathers and stuck its innards in a plastic bag, free-range turkeys, organic turkeys, ‘turkey basters’ — the busty amputees of the turkey world which consist only of breast meat for people who don’t like the gnarly and sinewy bits, turkeys that have been honey-dipped, turkeys glazed with the juice of Malaysian pineapples, and turkeys that have been massaged every day of their lives by Japanese peasants living at the base of Mount Fuji.
Sadly, there just don’t seem to be any cheap turkeys.
Here's my theory. Nobody actually likes Christmas pudding; if they did, it would be on the menu in restaurants more than once a year.
No, it was invented as a joke by someone who thought: ‘What’s the thing anyone would want to eat after they’ve had the biggest meal they’re going to eat in 12 months?
‘Sorbet, or a light and fluffy dish?
‘No, let’s give them something they could build a house with. Oh, and because we’ve so little to do in the run-up to Christmas, let’s make it take at least a month to prepare.’
Every year, we eat a meal that overflows our largest dinner plate, loosen our belts midway through the meal, feel as full as a very full thing which has just been given an extra beef pie to eat, and yet still hear ourselves saying: ‘Oh, all right then, perhaps just a little bit more turkey.’
Every year we eat until we’re so uncomfortable that all we can do is waddle over to the couch, flop down and fall asleep in front of the Queen.