Friday 24 December 2010

A Christmas Quandary

Ho ho ho... or humbug?

That's the question of the day. And I don't mean the sweets. It's been on my mind of late because behind the scenes of The Speculative Scotsman, amidst all the anticipatory build-up to the big birthday - you know the one - things took a sudden turn for the worse when my other half took a fall. Slipped on the unrelenting ice while at work, suffered what the folks at the hospital decided after a cursory examination was but a minor concussion; a minor concussion which after a couple of days they reclassified as severe, and only then after she'd fallen again. Good show, guys!

The excitement hereabouts has thus been a Batmite more muted than usual. And I don't mean here on the blog - though that too - but here, in my life, and hers. Truth be told they're pretty much one and the same thing anyway...

So there hasn't been a great deal of Christmas spirit in the air. Understandably, I'm sure you'll all agree. We managed to get the tree et al up before the fall, so there's that. And even with the concussion she's been up to ordering presents for friends and family online.  But with snow everywhere, sleet and sheet ice, the post has been horrendous. Unless something dramatic happens later today, and I sincerely doubt it will, less than half of the gifts we've bought between us will have turned up in time. There are going to be some carefully composed faces at the news come tomorrow, no doubt.

All of which is a bit humbug.

But snarky as I am, cutting as I can often be, I'm not actually given to relentless pessimism. It's taken me a quarter century to figure this out, but I'm a glass half full kind of guy, and though I might bemoan the state of the Royal Mail and the government for resolutely failing to deal with a little wintry weather - at a higher cost than the purely financial (this much I've experienced first hand) - and though the exhaustion of organising meals and shows and sit-downs with every obscure relative within radius of 50 miles and then the decorating, tolerating and entertaining has put something of a dampener on festivities so far... against all the odds, I'm still looking forward to Christmas.

And why is that? My best guess is that it has something to do with the fact that here in the UK, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving. We don't have a holiday dedicated to being grateful for all the things that are good, and right, and true. At least for me, the spirit of that very agreeable celebration gets all wrapped up in Christmas paper. Sure, there's presents and mulled wine and piggies in blankets to devour, and that's all well and good, but none of that's quite the point. The point isn't the gifts, it's the givers; its the folks in your life who care enough to think for a little while what thing might make you happy, who'll lay down a little hard-earned to see a smile on your face. It's the cards from the neighbours you thought hated you, the kiss from an old semi-related lady, the surprise visit from a friend you'd long since lost touch with.

I guess it's a nonsense, Christmas. But it's a nonsense I'm grateful for year in and year out. This year, I'm mostly grateful for Christmas because I get to spend it with the lady I love, whether in sickness or in health - even though she's got me on a leash because I can't be trusted to hear the bells she's taken to ringing for service.

But I certainly haven't forgotten you lovely lot. 2010 has had its ups and its downs, of course, and I'll be writing something of a themed retrospective about that come the new year - till then I fear TSS will be a quieter place than usual - but for the moment let me say that this blog has been one of the best things to have happened to me all year. All the doors it's opened, the friendships it's fostered, the people I've been able to reach - and all it took was words.

So thank you, everyone.

Merry Christmas. Have a hell of a new year; I'll see you then.

Oh, and before I go... ho ho ho! :)


  1. Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and yours.

  2. Happy Christmas Niall, and a healthy and joyous new year to you and yours :)

  3. Great post, Niall. I love reading your blog and I appreciate your perspective and wit, snarky bits aside. And you're not fooling me, man. I've often thought you were an old softy.

    Best wishes to you and the better half in the coming days and in the new year. My wife and I are trying to get a Scotland trip off the ground for 2011, so I may be in need of some sound tips.

    Here's tae us, wha's like us? Damned few an' they're a' deid!

    The Sound and Fury of Kristopher A. Denby

  4. Merry Christmas, Niall! As I've said on Twitter a few times, I hope your other half recovers quickly with no ill effects.

    I see what you mean about the giving, too. This year I've been concerned that I didn't care too much for my mum and nan, but I realised yesterday that I *do* care, and I decided that I'm going to put more effort into Christmas next year for them.

    Christmas is a strange festival, I think. Even without a religious aspect to it, it's a time for you to give things to your family (And, if you have them, friends) and to receive. I'm always surprised by people who don't celebrate it because I think it's such a wasted chance to spend time with your family and to spread happiness.