How we lie

Here, an image we all aspire to in one way or another as Christmas approaches. Back then, Norman Rockwell was trying to capture an America that was overlooked. Ironically today, his paintings have become an ideal which people around the world now seek to emulate.

This, despite all the complications that Christmas brings. And by this I mean the clotting together of family, the pooling of genes around minced pies and brandy, roast fowl and sprouts.

After years of sporadic calls from my dad, in which he would drop the non-committal promise of a visit (“Yah, most probably I’ll come that way in December”) my father has done the unthinkable and turned up. Continue reading


Do they know it’s Christmas?

I’m not really writing a paen to the 1984 classic that – yes – raised funds for famine-stricken families in Ethiopia, despite its questionable lyrics.

Do they know it’s Christmas? Well, actually, yes, given Ethiopia is home to one of the oldest forms of Christianity, although technically, they celebrate Christmas in January, so maybe there is a point to that line, tenuous though it may be.

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas. Ah, well, there you go generalising again, Band Aid. Actually, there is snow – try the Atlas Mountains, Mount Kilimanjaro or the tiny kingdom of Lesotho, but let’s not get carried away. Let’s not break the stereotype and ruin the rhyme.

Anyway, this post really isn’t about the song. It’s more of a question – to all those Christmas promoters out there. Because everywhere I look, Christmas (in the eyes of entertainment and the shops and, well, most people here in the UK) is about booze.

The special Christmas edition of Time Out devotes no less than half (in fact, more than half) of its first 15 feature pages to Christmas piss-ups and the morning after. “[D]rinking hang-over free tequila” murmurs one article, “How to… solve drink dilemmas”, offers another, which isn’t about getting over your addiction but about what to buy for tricky situations.

And once you’ve successfully downed your 24th Irish coffee (drink of choice for those wanting to “avoid your partner’s family realising how much you drink”), and you wake up with your tongue on the toilet seat, not to worry, just turn to p.16 of your handy Time Out guide and you’ll find “Hangover cures, tried and tested”.

It’s not just magazines, either. Walk in to any grocery shop, and you are surrounded by towers of wine, beer and spirits. They look almost beautiful, glinting under the strip-lighting. The overwhelming message is, eat, drink and be merry. Or,  if you’re on a budget, just go straight for the drink and let the merry times begin.

So ubiquitous is all this pseudo cheer, you could be forgiven for expecting the shepherds to turn up at the stable at your church’s crib service, peek into the manger, and find a small keg of Guiness warming gently in swaddling clothes.

No doubt, this is the hardest time of year for recovering alcoholics. Everywhere you look, there it is, your old nemesis, staring you in the face. And every message peddled out there is: go onit won’t feel like Christmas without it.

Ben is staying over for the next few days. We aren’t going anywhere. I’ve had invitations from relatives and friends, but I’ve turned them down. I don’t want to be anywhere where alcohol is being served. Not yet, anyway, and certainly not with Ben.

Tomorrow, we’ll be tucking into our roast duck, and raising a toast with a glass of Belvoir sparkling raspberry juice. There will be board games and walks (if it doesn’t rain), and, of course, gifts. It will be our first Christmas without alcohol.

Happy Christmas.