Thursday, 24 December 2015

Dolittle's Christmas Eve


'Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the place, could be seen not one decoration, not even a trace.

Yup, Christmas eve and I confess that, apart from a few cards around the lounge, the Dolittle dwelling remains as devoid of Christmas sparkle as a Saharan Oasis (rather an odd simile but it shows what I mean). Even Graham's brand-new fibre-optic Christmas tree sits dolefully darkened. The fault was his. This morning the little fellow decided to pull the plug out of the socket in order to switch on his much-used CD player but unfortunately managed to snap the plug in the process. The parents were not happy, partly because Graham has no business messing around with plugs (and has been told so in the past) and partly because his little tree won't work without assistance from the National Grid. From a shimmering sensation of reds and blues and greens it has now become a somewhat forlorn, dark green and obviously fake pyramidal object with a few baubles hanging off it. Ze magic, eet has gorn! Comme c'est terrible! Quelle horreur!

Mind you, the unseasonal weather may have something to do with the lack of Yuletide cheer. I speak perhaps for myself alone but I do not find that a succession of grey, cloud-laden and fairly warm days does much to put me in mind of glistening snow and ice. "Jingle bells, jingle bells! Squelching through the clay! Oh what joy it is to see more rain on Christmas Day!" Bing Crosby may have been dreamin' of a White Christmas; me, I'm expecting the usual greens and browns with a bit of wet thrown in.

Yesterday was an exception, being sunny and bright. I cycled into town to do some not-quite-last-minute Christmas shopping (organised this year, ain't I!) and wore my shorts. Now, I have not worn shorts in winter since I was at school yet here I was wandering up the high street and showing off my lower legs to the unfortunate populace entirely voluntarily. In December! Two days before Christmas! Of course, one did such things when one was at school, when one donned one's shorts and rugby top and sallied forth to do battle upon those crisp and clear Winter days. Ah! Those halycon days of youth upon the playing fields of Eton...!

Well, perhaps not Eton...

In fact, in total accuracy, the waterlogged football pitches of the local Grammar. Oh! There we stood, the future of England's manhood, our childish limbs exposed to the tender caress of the knife-edged Winter wind! With what glee we galloped through the puddles and with what determination we attempted to hold our badly-shaped gum shields in place while the saliva dribbled down our chins! Indeed, how magnificently we strove to ignore the commands of our cosily tracksuit-clad instructors to throw ourselves into the tackle and receive a faceful of studs and a bath of icy water for our pains. With what diligence we avoided the after-conflict shower and instead slunk from the school gates with our uniforms thrown on over our muddied kit, heads hung low to conceal the alluvial deposits on our collars! With what joy we look back now and with what (complete lack of) sympathy do we consider the fortunes of those boys who came after.

I feel I may have gone a little bit astray from my subject there. My apologies.

I am reminded, in closing, that Christmas isn't all about snow and pretty lights, etcetera. As a child I fear it's really rather more about the presents than anything else; sad but true. We've been reading Graham the Christmas story and singing him carols so he knows more about the real reason for Christmas and he also kindly asked to help wrap some of our presents - a very good job he's made of it too, I can see that he will be useful in years to come although, as is always the case, he probably won't want to help then. He also volunteered to help wrap his own presents but we declined his assistance as we weren't sure that his offer was entirely without ulterior motive.

As for me; well, you remember as a kid when the family used to open their presents around you and you would see that Auntie had got a new set of saucepans and Uncle a lovely set of carving knives? Do you recall the pity you felt for them at receiving such boring gifts when you were unwrapping model aeroplanes, remote-control cars and all manner of other exciting things? Did you, as I did, make a resolution never to stoop to the level of asking for 'things you needed' for Christmas instead of 'things that were interesting and fun'? Of course you did. And yet, behold! on my Christmas list this year is a cordless vacuum cleaner! Alas, a pillar of my childhood has fallen! Has fallen! Perhaps next year it will be a new non-stick frying pan or a set of kitchen scales. Cry, oh cry for innocence departed, ye who do as I!

We are reduced to buying fine gifts for our children, such things as they will enjoy and we can pinch and play with when they aren't looking. What? Oh, sorry, shouldn't have admitted - er - said that. Happy Christmas y'all.    

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