The family Christmas - three things not to look forward to
1) Waking up on Christmas morning: I'm sorry, but during the holiday period there should be a complete and total ban on consciousness at 7am. OK, so all the children in the house will already have been up for two hours by that time, and they'll all be desperate to go downstairs and see what Santa has left them under the tree, and they'll all probably bear a subconscious grudge against me for the rest of their lives because I won't crawl out of my bed early enough, but sorry, 7am is just not on.
2) Presents: It is an unwritten rule of Christmas that the time taken to buy a present is always longer than the time that present will actually be used by the person you're buying it for. Therefore a book you've sweated for two hours to find will be received gratefully, the first couple of pages casually flicked through, and then shoved on a shelf in the spare room for the rest of time. Similarly if someone buys you a jumper, a CD or an amusing electrical gadget with less than 5 minutes thought, that object will be in a car boot sale before New Year. It's for this reason that I spent at least five days this month trying to buy Christmas presents, including four trips down Oxford Street last Saturday alone. Fingers crossed...
3) Christmas TV: There are some excellent TV programmes on over Christmas. There always are. The TV companies save them up for this special time of year (all except Sky, who continue to broadcast the Simpsons and Star Trek just like it's any other day of the year). I always look forward to buying the festive double issue Radio Times and looking through to see what gems I'd like to watch, and then I miss every single one of them. Unfortunately, there's no worse place to watch excellent TV programmes than with the family at Christmas. For a start the TV never gets switched on because someone's got a new board game with impossible-to-understand rules that everyone thinks it'd be a great idea to play, or there's a new bicycle to stand in the street and watch. If the TV is ever switched on it's only so that someone can watch their new Barbie cartoon video, or so that someone else doesn't miss out on their favourite festive Emmerdale episode. And at Christmas the TV set is always impossible to watch anyway because someone's built a huge Harry Potter Lego castle in front of the screen. It's OK though, you can always set your video to record all those excellent programmes back at home, except that you always set the video wrong and record three hours of Opera from Glyndebourne instead. Bah humbug!
The family Christmas - three things to look forward to
1) Food: Ah, the joys of festive food. Some people might baulk at the thought of turkey four days running but not me, especially when you're spending Christmas in Norfolk just a stone's throw from where the bird was slaughtered anyway. Then there's sprouts, which for some unknown reason I do actually like, despite them being miniature cabbages, which I hate. Add to that endless boxes of chocolates, bowls of peanuts, Christmas pudding... and yes, the diet starts in the New Year.
2) Christmas letters: These fall out of half the Christmas cards that the family's friends and relatives send, just so that we're all kept all in touch with people's thrilling busy lives at least annually. Christmas letters always start with the line 'Well, what a year it's been...'. They then either continue with a litany of woes, deaths, divorces and insurance claims, or else with a list of totally irrelevant non-events, like details of the family's summer barbecue or the time the cat almost disappeared for an hour. Easily the best reading material in the house at Christmas, and I can heartily recommend them.
3) The family: It really wouldn't be Christmas without them. It would just be a microwave-ready oven meal with a threadbare tree, two presents, a bottle of cheap wine and no spirit. Merry Christmas, every one!