Saturday, 18 December 2010


I have a Noble Friend who sends me cards most weeks but
never at Christmas. His cousin sends me a glorious Christmas Cracker,
an annual 'uncommonplace' book of literary gems he has

Another friend is even now taking a bearing on my mantelpiece
for the barrage of the Christmas card artillery he will launch
in ample time for recipients to return his festive fire of Yule
logs and complacent robins.

The sadomasochists who ruin my Christmas are the people
who cunningly time their cards to arrive on Christmas Eve when
the last post has already sounded. Their strategy is an empty
mantelpiece. No doubt they gloat over their Christmas dinner of
broiled sardine at the missing cards.

"We didn't get a card from Skidmore," they say, rubbing their
dry parchment hands.

Christmas card etiquette is as complicated as kissing as a
greeting, same person sex and shaking hands. One is never sure
who does what, when and to whom.

I cannot take it any more. I have called for stretcher bearers
and wait to be carried out of the front drop-me-a-line.
Clearly what I need is Christmas Card counselling.
I want to attack robins, to pour water on Yule logs and take
down the decorations on Christmas Eve rather than Twelfth Night.

Not so odd as you may think. By Julius Caesar's sensible
calendar, Twelfth Night is Christmas Day. Alas, our adoption of
Papist tinkering in the 18th century means that only on the
Isle of Foula is the old calendar still in use; and
celebrated, for a reason which escapes me, by shooting sea birds.

Foula is clearly the spiritual home of the RSPB which has
done its best to wipe out the ruddy duck and the
red grouse.

But I digress.

Bring back the pre-American Christmas; a season which
was not dominated by a red-suited drunk.
Have you ever worked out how many glasses of sideboarded sherry
the old reprobate gets through in your street alone?
A red-suited drunk, incidentally, who began life a century ago as
an advertising stunt for a New York store.

Do not get me wrong. True, I founded the SAS - the Scrooge
Appreciation Society - but that stemmed from a deep loathing of
the Family Cratchet.

Christmas was fine until Dickens went to America, saw how
it had been exploited and then returned to set up the Christmas
industry in this poor benighted land.


When by Monday my Spectator had not arrived I rang their subscription department to complain. The telephone was answered by a girl on whom much attention had been lavished in childhood.
“How perfectly frightful,” she said, in a voice throbbing with sympathy. “Do you know, you must be the nine hundredth person who has rung me this morning. I think we must have fallen foul of the bad weather. You won't believe it, but I sent a Christmas card last Wednesday - to my brother actually - and it still hasn't arrived. Do you think it might be the Christmas mail?”

I said I thought it might be.

“So awful for you,” she said. “I wonder what we can do? I'll tell you what. Can you bear to wait until Wednesday? If it hasn't arrived by then, do ring me back and I will send you another.”

I rang off feeling better than I had felt all day. There are still good things about being English. If it hasn't arrived by Wednesday I will ring her back ,if only to find out if her brother's card has arrived.

Being English took a knock when the Home Secretary ruled out the use of water cannon against the students who urinate on cenotaphs and occupy other people's offices. She said it was “Un-British”.
I would have thought “flammenwerfer” more equable. Though imposing six months' imprisonment on anyone selling fireworks to the under sixteens borders on the excessive. What really brought back one's customary disdain was the behaviour of the Establishment in fitting up the WikiLeaks man.

I got this from the admirable Word a Day:

Power always has to be kept in check; power exercised in secret, especially under the cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous. -William Proxmire, US senator, reformer (1915-2005)