Here, Not Here

It’s Christmas but it’s not Christmas. Christmas is still nearly a month away. Yet it’s here, it’s everywhere. On the telly. In the shops. Over there in the neighbour’s front window.

It’s in my head, as I figure out what I need to buy and do. It’s also in my heart, as I think about how I want it to be. It’s all a bit tiring, mostly because, hello, it isn’t here yet. And if you find yourself berating yourself 'cos you don’t feel Christmassy yet, that might just be because, hello, it isn’t Christmas yet.

Or is it?

I wonder what Christmas will be like in a hundred years’ time. I have a funny feeling that this extended commercial and emotional preamble will actually become Christmas itself. By the time the day itself arrives, we will be so exhausted by ordering and planning and anticipating everything that there will be nothing left to do but crash out on the couch with a sherry. We seem to be 50% there. 

Who am I kidding? We’re there already.

I love Christmas. Mostly I love how I stop work in or around the 22nd December and don’t go back until 2nd January. For many years, it’s been the only annual break I take that lasts for more than a day or two. The Yule time, for me, is generally a time of being closeted-up and insulated from the rest of the world. A time for family. A time to find a boxset to binge on or a miserable, unseasonal book to get buried deep into. This year is most definitely not going to be any different. This year, though, there will also be lost days of visiting and meeting with extended family and I will miss those days greatly. But we’ll be okay, locked up here together. It won’t be all that different from the norm.

It’s around now that I generally get ‘present anxiety’. No, that’s not me being anxious about the present situation, it’s me worrying about what stuff I need to get for people. Four weeks out starts to feel desperately late and the over-riding sentiment is that something really must be done. Except it won’t be. Not for another week or two. Still, the mind will get working on the problem and that’s the main thing.

I do realise how lucky I am. As a little family, we will get to be together for Christmas (touch wood and God willing and anything else that might keep things all right). I know this will not be the case for so many families, this year, and my heart goes out to those who really need to be a particular someplace, with a particular someone, and yet cannot be.

If it’s any consolation, when we lived in London, we used to come home every Christmas and used to look forward to it so much and, in truth, I used to need it a bit. But, one Christmas, for ‘reasons’, we stayed in London and didn’t come home. Truth to tell, it was one of the best Christmases ever and I will never forget it. So if you can’t make the home thing happen this year, know that next year will be even better for missing out and try to make the best you can out of where you need to be. I think you might surprise yourself at how nice it could all turn out. I hope so anyway, I really do.

You’ll have guessed by now that this is one of those weeks where I don’t have a lot of tangible stuff to write about. I generally try to scribble something on something that has exercised my brain in the week-gone-by and I guess I’m pretty-much doing that. Christmas is in my head now and it’s creeping into my heart. The break, the insulation, the joy of everything normal and everyday stopping for a while. ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ on the telly at eight in the morning. A bumper Radio Times. A muddy woodland walk. Chocolate. A good movie. I look forward to these things and the other things of the season too.

There’s always a price to pay for Christmas. January is often dark and a little bleak. This year has all the portents of being even more dull than usual. But we’ll weather it. By then, Spring won’t be far behind and, with it, we can cheerfully expect a brighter dawn. We can fix our eyes on it, even if we have to squint a bit to see it.

I won't wish you a happy Christmas yet because, hello, Christmas isn’t here yet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t wish yourself one. I’m definitely wishing one for me.

And I’ll definitely wish you one... when the time is right.

3 comments:

Marc Paterson said...

I'm pretty much there now. In our house there's a string of birthdays at the end of November, mine being the last. Once that's out of the way, Christmas is allowed in. This year my birthday fell on Friday so we've had a Christmassy weekend, holly and lights have been strung. All year, I've been dreading the festivities, thinking, 'it's going to be impossible to feel any joy' but now it's here I remember, as I always do, that it's about appreciating what you've got.

It's usually around now that I start having my usual 'new year' thoughts too. Every year now I try and have a sort-of plan or an idea to finally do something about something which usually works out. This year I really thought it wouldn't happen. This year it felt like all our futures had a large heavy door slammed in their faces. But the future has a way of sneaking in the back door and just going ahead and happening anyway. This year so many changes have happened to us as a family that necessity forced my hand and I made up my mind about a thing early.

I hope you and yours have a merry... you know what... when the time comes.

Ken Armstrong said...

And you, Marc. IF we can manage to appreciate what we've got then we're not doing too bad.

Mind yourself, eh? K

Jim Murdoch said...

Best Christmas ever? Well, not this year. Presents, such as they were (not up to my usual standard), were sent through Amazon and, to the best have my knowledge, all been (gratefully, one would hope) received. My daughter’s been at me for yonks—how long is a yonk anyway?—to stop making such a fuss about Christmas and, bit by bit, I’ve let myself be worn down. She wanted to make it one present each! One soddin’ present? I said three would be a bare minimum but I cheat and wrap up three books in a parcel or two CDs. The sad fact is I get no real joy out of it any more. When my daughter first came back into my life when she was seventeen (she’s forty now) birthdays and Christmases were HUGE fun. Me overcompensating but, hey, who cares? I’d even buy presents for her friends and her then boyfriend if they were going to be around and we’re talking, I dunno, a dozen, twenty presents each with customised labels on every package. It mattered to me that no one felt left out. And I think my daughter got an advent calendar filled with little gifts until she was thirty. This year she got a CD, a cat ornament and shared in the board game for the family.

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting singer-songwriters. My daughter’s a big fan of Tori Amos so every year I set out on my search for the next Tori-wannabe. It’s a fun game and about the only thing about Christmas I really get a kick out of nowadays. Last year I discovered Aldous Harding (a woman, real name Hannah Sian Topp), the year before, Agnes Obel and many years before that Regina Spektor before she became famous. This year I was delighted by An Pierlé after hearing the song ‘Bedroom Dust’. See what you think.