Hugh Reilly: My festive spirit failure

'I'd rather be holed up inside an Anderson air-raid shelter than break bread with my fair-weather friends, that is, my family'. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
'I'd rather be holed up inside an Anderson air-raid shelter than break bread with my fair-weather friends, that is, my family'. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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With my 84-year-old mother riding shotgun, we rolled into the Asda car park. Unfortunately, the disability parking spaces were awash with 4x4s displaying fine examples of Blue Badges produced by the genuine fake factory, hence the crone had to struggle some distance with her stick to reach the portals of The House of Plenty.

Once inside, it was evident that the supermarket owners had opted for the carpet bombing approach to alerting dullard shoppers that Christmas was upon us. For example, the emaciated, zombiefied security guard staring at a CCTV screen sported a limp Santa hat. Further, instead of the usual piped music that transforms customers into Manchurian Candidates intent on buying every 3 for 2 offer, the anonymous deejay was spinning Cliff Richard’s Christmas Songs. I wanted to die.

At Christmas, I’d rather be holed up inside an Anderson air-raid shelter for the duration of consumerism’s Blitzkrieg attack than break bread with my fair-weather friends, that is, my family. I dread the humiliating ritual of putting a pithy paper hat on my bald bonce, the saw-tooth top side making the headgear resemble a palisade surrounding a particularly grassless hillock.

With age, winning Christmas cracker mini tugs of war against excitable children has somewhat lost its thrill, thus my only guilty pleasure is watching their watery eyes when I impassively refuse to hand over my victory prize of a plastic key ring.

Christmas Day is a time for people to come together and discover anew the reasons for mutual despisement. Fortunately, snide comments rarely lead to fisticuffs unless someone has quaffed too much Baileys Irish Cream.

It’s a sobering thought that First World War troops clambering out of mud-filled trenches to play football exhibited less enmity than most families sitting round the Christmas table. Sadly, the game was abandoned when one of Kaiser Wilhelm’s team, with only the goalie to beat, met an unfortunate end when someone shouted “shoot!”

Once everyone is stuffed full of Christmas stodge, it’s time to sit around the lounge and await an old aunt bewailing that all she ever received from Santa was a careworn sock containing two satsumas. Her Father Scrooge utterance acts as a catalyst to ignite the false memories of other doddery relatives who compete as to who endured the most impoverished Navidad.

This Mexican wave of melancholy causes depressed listeners to toss aside any concerns regarding over-imbibing, rapidly gulping down shots in the hope they will not act on the voices inside their fog-filled minds telling them to put to an end the collective suffering.

Christmas, they say, is a time for giving. A long-time married man is allowed to palm off his wife with perfume bought from that nice man at the car boot sale whereas a boyfriend, if the relationship is to survive beyond Boxing Day, feels compelled to spend an extravagant sum to demonstrate his love, a bedroom tax if you will.

Christmas is also a time for to putting on a brave front when one is presented with a multi-coloured jersey that a harlequin would refuse to wear on account of its garishness.

Like most dads, I am a depository for pants and socks from my imagination-challenged kids. It would please me greatly if, perhaps as a consequence of unbridled giddiness, one of them bought me a book token.

I abhor the Secret Santa shenanigans that defile workplace parties these days. Despite an agreed £10 price cap, some colleagues decide that one-upmanship is a seasonal activity. The whoop of delight on the face of a workmate receiving a watch is marked contrast to the withering “it’s the thought that counts, I suppose”, comment when the recipient opens your tawdry gift, bought from the Poundland outlet online store.

Like many of an older generation, mater takes great pride in lovingly hanging up Christmas cards from folk who rarely take the time to visit her. While she cavalierly fires off cards to all and sundry, I adopt a “wait and see” strategy, only posting cards to those who have sent me one.

To be fair, I prefer to send an e-card, with its rather nice impersonal touch. Another plus is that it renders redundant the vexing question of whether to bin or recycle Christmas cards – a simple click on the “delete” button delivers e-cards to cyberspace oblivion.

This Christmas, I’ll be eating turkey at my brother’s house and making plans to be out of the country this time next year.

Bah humbug!