A Christmas Cavil

19 December, 2011 (18:24) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

I know you will all find it incredibly hard to believe, but there are those who would call me an old curmudgeon. Or worse.

At this time of year it gets worse. And I will admit to a total failure to understand why it is that Scrooge, poor chap, has to put up with all that sanctimonious guff from a bunch of stiffs.

There are those who took my recent diatribe against the light polluters who string up gaudy baubles outside their homes and blind the rest of us as the ramblings of a grumpy killjoy.

And there were unpleasant scenes in the dentists’ waiting room this morning. There for a family appointment, Management informed me I had decided to go and post a parcel while we waited for the millionaire torturers to attend to their grisly butchery.

This I tried to do, but I took one glimpse at the unhappily slack-jawed queue of hundreds standing grim-faced beneath their tinselled Santa hats in the gulag-like Post Office, and returned to the waiting room with my mission incomplete. In answer to Management’s enquiry, I said, with loud and considerable emphasis: “It was either turn back or murder in cold blood every single one of the bastards in that queue. I thought you’d prefer me to turn back.” This earned me Reprovement. And Tuts.

Yes, I suffer feelings of nausea when listening to choirs of children sing Away in a Manger. When clergy treat the Christmas story as a cross between a Teletubbies script and a Disney cartoon, my fingers twitch for the comfort of a baseball bat. When the BBC’s overpaid stars, clad in their Daily Mail jumpers, invite me to consider myself one of them, I dream of reclaiming my licence fee, changing it into 1p coins, heating them  in a microwave and then inserting them, one by exquisitely painful one, into said stars.

So I can see why people consider me a grump.

But can any of you truly abide the triteness and hypocrisy?

No, I’m not a grump. Not entirely. Let me explain what I do like about Christmas.

For starters, I shall become an actor again when I give my Wise Man and my Shepherd under the rigorous direction of this column’s Spiritual Guide in the nativity down the pub.

I did go to the children’s nativity plays and thought them great. I did go to the Christingle service and though driven potty at the banality, went “oooh” at the glowing candles. Inwardly.

And on Sunday we were invited by our new neighbours to join in the carol singing on the village bridge. We walked down in the cold night air, met lots of people, blew gusts of frosty breath towards the stars with our singing and thought what a truly Christmas evening it was, free of money, preaching, advertising, selling and bright lights.

I always enjoy the peace of not working, and as a lefty of long standing I’ve always had a sneaky admiration for that old Socialist Jesus and his message of peace and love, so traduced by his “followers” down the long centuries.

Finally, each Christmas Eve I turn to another allegedly miserable old git (no, not you, Old Father Cullingham) for a warm festive thought:

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.

“Now they are all on their knees,”

An elder said as we sat in a flock

by the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where

they dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years. Yet, I feel,

if someone said on Christmas Eve

“Come; see the oxen kneel

In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know”,

I should go with him in the gloom

Hoping it might be so.

That’s Thomas Hardy’s The Oxen, and a poem about a folk tale I was told by my countryside grandparents when I was young: the belief that beasts kneel in their byres at midnight on Christmas Eve in salute of the coming of Christ. A hundred years on, and who wouldn’t hope good things may still be so?

Not very resilient

I sometimes wonder if we will soon forget the English language entirely, and address one another merely in code. Some do so already, or might as well do so for all I understand of text speak or computers or chatrooms or those funny symbols with which folk punctuate e-mails and such.

The Met Office, one would hope, is in the business of clear communication – but here’s chief forecaster Anthony Astbury: “We’re working closely with Government agencies and the resilience community to keep them up to date with the latest information.”

“Resilience community?”

As the young people say, or so I am told: FFS.

And finally…

Thank you all for sticking with this column since it made the leap from newspaper to the internet. Thank you especially for your calls, e-mails and most of all comments posted on the site. I really appreciate the support and have enjoyed the exchanges enormously. A very, very merry Christmas to every one of you.

I’ll be back on January 2nd – unless the spirit moves me in the meantime and bile overcomes me, which is quite likely, in which case I shall tweet and Facebook the happy tidings. You have been warned.


Comment from One Old Fiddle
Time December 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm

“There are those who took against my recent diatribe against the light polluters…” What’s this? Don’t you have the cojones to name and shame a feeble pensioner trying to stand up for his rights? Are you having second thoughts about wishing to deprive him of a little comfort and good cheer amid the darkness, cold, and rain, and are thus ashamed? Well, so you should be! Mind you, if I hear another “jolly” TV commercial slaughtering a Christmas carol in a desperate attempt to sell tat to the unwary, I shall do an Elvis. Younger folk, who might not have heard of Elvis, may ask their elders what that means.

Comment from One Old Fiddle
Time December 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Substitute “may” for “might” in the penultimate line: it reads better.

Comment from One Old Fiddle
Time December 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm

This blog is stil on BST: subtract an hour for the true time.

Comment from One Old Fiddle
Time December 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm

“Still”, and that’s my final word on the subject.

Comment from Another Old Git
Time December 20, 2011 at 9:58 am


Comment from Stuart
Time December 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

Taxi for Brother Fiddle… Taxi for Brother Fiddle…

Comment from One Old Fiddle
Time December 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Sorry, forgot me ‘at.

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