The ghosts of Christmas past: a port in a storm.

It took a lot to bite the bullet and arrange my first non family Christmas and indeed it was supposed to be my first Christmas on my own. I’d got sick of the pubs, sick of the parties, sick of the shallow people. Maybe I could have coped better if I knew what I know now, that all the loudmouths and show off’s were usually such awful people because they were deeply damaged inside, that anyone who craved that much attention was hollow and could probably never be filled,  that anyone that hung about with those sort of people did it because their self esteem was through the floor. But knowing what a bloody minded little sod I was back then I probably wouldn’t have listened and, let’s face it, you can’t tell anyone anything, they have to work it out for themselves, most people don’t though, ever.

At that point I truly despised Christmas, rather than the cold indifference that has set in over the years. Back then, before the middle class mafia cornered the market in anti consumerism and environmental awareness, both were already appalling me. I had set up my desk area at work as the land of narnia, where it was always winter and never Christmas, and when I did give out cards they were handmade with black trees on a black background with jaunty little messages about the amount of turkeys killed or the conditions of child workers in India. My family had gone away entirely and I stayed where I was, in a squalid little bungalow in Edmonton, north London,  stranded in a wasteland of light industrial units and overshaddowed by monolithic tower blocks. I used to get that feeling that if I didn’t go out, or I didn’t get involved, I would be missing out on something, that there was this  magical world of fabulous people and amazing conversation that was always just over the horizon, just around the corner, just out of reach. I was starting to work out then what I completely know now. That if someone isn’t fascinating in a t shirt and jeans, totally sober, during the day time, they never will be. I had, by the age of twenty one, become advertising and social  pressure immune. I spent Christmas Eve reading, I’m not sure what as it was a quarter of a century ago but I would lay good money on it being pretentious, so I’m guessing Kafka or Sartre or some such waffle. My posh public school girlfriend was back home from university but was tied up with her parents, being heavy duty Catholics, she was expected to do the midnight mass thing. Christmas Day was a big deal too, more church, more family things and, being very Irish and somewhat bigoted  too, a common London boy like myself wasn’t invited, for which I was rather grateful. So there I was, some videos, some pot and some sixteen bit gaming wonders on my Super Nintendo. 

It was not long on Christmas morning before my plans went awry in the loveliest of ways, my girlfriend turned up. Dropped off by her father after church trip number one of the day to be picked up a few hours later after much pressurising of her doting dad. She wore the most lovely Kelly green skirt suit, pinched from her much shorter mother’s wardrobe. On her the skirt was barely more than a mini as opposed to the below the knee number it was on her mum. The fabric clashed wonderfully with her flame red hair that cascaded in curls accross her shoulders. It wasn’t long before we ended up in bed but the catholic guilt kicked in, reinforced by just coming from church, and she would not remove more than the navy blue velvet knickers that she was so fond of wearing. I still to this day haven’t worked out the logic of this strange bit of modesty but I’m sure it was there somewhere. I really loved that girl, filthy temper aside, I loved her mum too. We used to swap knitting patterns. I remember her mum bought me a present with fish painted on it because, being called Chris, I too was a C creature. I often got called krystal by them, the Gaelic for Christopher, it’s funny, I used to get on so well with mums… My friend’s and girlfriend’s alike, a gift I seem to have lost it seems…

It was not long after my dear girlfriend departed, hopefully not disheveled enough to give the game away to her devote father, that one of my friends arrived, four pack in hand. He was a refugee from his family Christmas, his father had left earlier that year in a cliche of middle aged manhood, leaving his wife for a girl half her age. The wronged woman was spending Christmas Day switching from manically pretending to be supermum to breaking down in floods of tears. A scene from which my friend excused himself with wise haste. It wasn’t long before his girlfriend joined us and a pleasant afternoon was spent wading through the harder levels of Mario and getting smashed on pot. Two more friend appeared, escaping another banal evening of party games and estranged families and we all dined on a festive meal of pasta before getting hammered and cackling away to a glut of carry on films after we’d run out of manga and anime videos we could all agree on watching. Everyone rolled away to their respective homes in the early hours of Boxing Day morning as the sky turned a deep shade of blue and the birds began to sing. I collapsed into bed, the room spinning around me, not the quiet Christmas I had aimed for but a good one nonetheless. 

The mistake some many people in life seem to make is to really try too hard to fill up their lives, if we plan every moment and book every day solid, we leave neither space nor time for the magic to creep in. Sometimes we try so hard to have fun that all we find is a manic kind of desperate misery. Often, magic and  wonder will come and find you but you have to be very quiet or you will scare it away. 


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