Friday, 30 December 2016

That was the year that wasn’t.

It was certainly the Christmas that never happened - and that’s a good thing. With the exception go a couple of family conversations by phone - and talking to people via Facebook and stuff - I’ve had a whole week on my own. And I’ve loved it. I have always preferred being on my own - and xmas has never been my favourite time of the year.

Oddly enough - I had an online conversation with a couple of cousins earlier today(one in Wales, one in Canada - we couldn't do that before the internet) about our childhoods at christmas and Advocaat. We always had a bottle in our house at xmas when we were children, it was vile stuff, the drinks tray was on a sideboard near the radiator and the Advocaat would be opened, sampled and left until easter where it would eventually curdle. As kids we all baulked that our parents could consider such filth as edible - even at xXmas. It reminded me that Xmas was always shite.

Our parents would always row, they would row with their extended families. We would visit people who were drunk already and others out of obligation that we didn’t like and didn’t want to spend time with. There would be frustrations and disappointments at every day. The food would always be too much (I never liked anything sweet or rich and a glut of it would make everyone sick). My mother made the worst mince pies in the history of cooking. She would serve them re-heated, dry like pebbles - a coating of unpleasant syrup would leak out and render them vile and sticky - usually served with ‘squirty cream’ that would quickly turn to watery plastic milk. She made them out of obligation, despite being begged not to, and because her mother also made them - and they were fantastic. The politics of that one were huge.

One year my parents had a huge row on xmas morning after a couple of breakfast bottles of Mouton Cadet (amazing what you can remember after 40 years) and after a scene in the kitchen we were eventually served burnt turkey that had been previously thrown across the room in it’s raw state and had bones sticking out, and raw potatoes. By coincidence, this year my sisters' oven broke on Xmas morning and they had to use the barbecue instead (with some success).

Christmas in North Wales was horrible. Everything was closed. You had to spend time with people you didn’t like and feel obliged to do things you didn’t want to do. The telly was always terrible. Everyone would do things because they thought the ‘should’ despite really, really not wanting to - and the air was thick with resentment and frustration. One year I went to visit my mother ( I was about 20) and had arranged to met my friends in Chester on New Year’s Eve - she was so appauled that I didn’t fancy a traditional Christmas with the family trapped in front of the TV that she locked me in my bedroom and I had to watch Cagney and Lacey instead. Even as an ‘adult’ - Christmas was always a bit shit, either that or I made myself useful to avoid all the crap - people are much nicer to you when their dinner depends on it. I have particuarly grim memories of one year spent in Bishop Aukland (why?????) in a house full of people I was desperate to get out of my life, trapped in the overheated hell of bad telly, family breakdown and people trying far too hard to be something they were not. The whole sorry farce collapsed into chaos because one person wanted to play board games and everyone else wanted to watch Titanic. There was much screaming and slamming of doors and I seriously considered trying to get taxi back to London. The person who caused that drama was my then partner's sister. One of the single most vile people ever to have lived, an awful bully and deeply manipulative woman who made everyone's life miserable. She was so dreadful in both appearance and manner that everyone gave her what she wanted without a fight - or the concequences were unthinkable.

Christmas is great if you have children or are in a peer group that has no agenda and wants to just relax and enjoy themselves, or better still, if you have another platform - like the church or work or something. It’s also a much better place if you are not on the autistic spectrum or just old enough to know better. Most people I know either have small children and have devoted themselves to the kind of Christmas that places kids at the heart of things, or old children who are determined to spoil it for their parents. Either way, it’s usually a closed shop at this time of the year and I don’t really fit in. This year I needed peace and quiet, a bit of distance and time to think, not too hard, just in straight lines without huge pressure from clients and the worries that usually surround me. None of that is going away - it will all still be there on Monday morning. One thing is certain - by the end of 2017 things will inevitably be very different. From both a work and financial point of view - I can’t really carry on the way I have been. Some work stuff is already looking different, I need to find a lot more money to stop the house falling down and I’ll be hitting the end of my fixed rate period in August. I think I may have finally hit the point in my mortgage where I owe less than 80k on the house, which is a benchmark for me - but I now have personal debt and my income is looking really grim on paper. In some ways - I'm in the worst place I’ve ever been - and in others, the best. Physically, I feel pretty good - I wasn’t too keen on the bad back episode but generally my health is excellent. (it needs to be!)

I also have to start saying no to people - I get taken for grated by everyone, it’s easier to be nice. If I ever say no to anything, no matter how right I am - people react badly and accuse me of being unreasonable. It’s so unfair of me to expect to be paid for the work I do or expect people to treat me with respect. Apparently.

2016 has been shit for everyone, although I was reminded that I have been to two very good weddings this year - both incredibly happy occasions. I’m glad it’s nearly over, I never want it repeated - no single part of it. That’s two terrible years on the trot - I’m sure 2017 will be an improvement. It must. It can’t really get much worse.

I have a very clear memory of being in a car on the morning of January 1st 2000 - driving through central London after the big millennium celebrations - the streets, and bridges, were piled high with empty cans, bottles and plastic glasses. Millions of them. I wondered then what the next few years would bring and felt mildly optimistic. 17 years later and it’s actually a bit shit and I look back fondly on those days as some of my happiest, freest and most secure. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.


Steerforth said...

It's been shit ever since George Bush was elected. I wonder how different things would have been if 9/11 hadn't created the chain of events that had led to where we are today. I'd be happy to go back to 1999 and just press repeat at the end of the year.

Grey Area said...

tell me about it!

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