And Alex Said: Ho Ho Ho!

6 December 2002

Column 9: Ho Ho Ho!, 6th December 2002

Christmas is a-coming and I’ll be getting even fatter. I’ve dispensed with the usual rubbish chocolate advent calendar this year and built my own. Behind every window is a sausage roll, a mince pie, a small bottle of whisky and a selection of crisps.

You see, Christmas is a time for gorging yourself into a stupor, and the normal little chocolates wouldn’t be enough to stretch my stomach enough for Christmas dinner. In the Middle Ages, Britons used to consume so much food on Christmas Day that their sleep after lunch would last until March, thereby omitting those crappy months at the start of the year, and handily in time to stock up on Easter Eggs.

These days Christmas isn’t half as much fun. The trouble starts with Christmas Shopping. The shops have had festive stuff in them since July – last year. So many people take to Oxford Street that the heat generated is enough to form its own micro-climate, which is probably why it’s always pissing with rain whenever I go. The reason there’s a McDonalds every 200 yards is because, by the time you’ve pushed your way through 200 yards of people, it’s time for your next meal.

It’s a hellish experience just moving about, but then you’ve got to try and find some presents. I’d love to be able to buy my dad that perfect gift, but I haven’t got enough money to buy Nicole Kidman, so he’ll have to make do with another pair of Homer Simpson socks. It’s the thought that counts.

If you’re sensible, you’ll have got all your shopping out of the way by the end of October, which means all you have to do is look forward to the big day. One thing you won’t be looking forward to, though, is having relatives coming to stay. We only narrowly avoided having our elderly Aunty Mabel stay last year, but the day before she was due to come she ended up in hospital after dropping the bumper Christmas Radio Times on her foot, completely flattening it, and so I was spared receiving yet another garish knitted jumper and putting up with her funny smell.

Aunty Sue likes to think of herself as sensible. She likes to save money by buying all her presents in the January sales, and then hiding them for the whole year in her kitchen cupboards. Whenever we visit her, it is a family tradition to take a peek and try to guess who’ll get what – whoever gets the 2002 Cutesy Bunny Wabbits calendar should find it serves them well for the whole six days of 2002 which remain after December 25th, but I pity whoever gets the chocolate Santa as it’s probably going to be past its best.

Hopefully this Christmas will be quieter for our family. In previous years, the Twatt family next door have irritated the whole street with over-enthusiastic carol singing at all hours of day and night, and the illuminations in their front garden consisting of ten thousand flashing lights. They were so bright I actually found it much easier to sleep during the day, but fortunately last year our prayers were answered when a Boeing 747 landed on top of their house.

It’s now the time to get your Christmas tree sorted, but as a student you’re not going to be able to afford one to rival the one in Trafalgar Square. Just use your imagination. Last year in my room, I cut the largest piece of green fungus from some old bread I’d been cultivating, and decorated it with leftover meatballs and an assortment of dead insects. It certainly brought a bit of festive cheer to all who saw it, even if it did smell like a corpse.

So, that’s the preparations sorted. If you’ve managed to survive the build-up, brace yourself for Christmas morning. Last year, at about 3am, I heard footsteps downstairs, so I went down to see what was going on. I found an old man with a white beard, drinking sherry and eating mince pies. I do wish Uncle Pete wouldn’t get up so early and eat all the bloody food. “I’m so excited I can’t sleep!” he said, as I wafted a chloroform-soaked rag under his nose. I carried him back up to his bed, and, twelve months later, he’s not woken up yet.

Everybody loves opening their presents on Christmas morning, except for my brother – he’s always disappointed because he makes such a colossal Christmas list. When he was six years old, my mother tried explaining to him that Santa couldn’t possibly bring a Formula 1 racing car, a horse and an Apache helicopter down the chimney. At the age of 27, you’d really think he’d have learned by now.

By mid-November we’ve usually just about finished off last year’s leftover turkey, so it’s good to look forward to Christmas dinner. In our house we keep everything left over from Christmas dinner until it’s eaten – we’ve still got some Brussels sprouts from Christmas 1984, but hopefully they’ll be off to university soon and the Christmas pudding from 1987 can move into their bedroom.

After dinner, you can regale your family with the same tired double-entendres about “pulling crackers”. Well, anything to take the pain away from the feeble Christmas crackers themselves I suppose. After exploding with a noise about as loud as a mosquito’s heartbeat, out pops a feeble hat, a deformed plastic frog and a joke which has been badly translated from the original Japanese, with all the wit of Bobby Davro. “What do you call an Imperial College rector on a bicycle? Sir Richard Bikes!!”

After dinner, you can spend the rest of Christmas Day watching television. It’s hard to tell the repeats from the new shows usually – this year BBC1 is offering us yet another new episode of Only Fools and Horses. In this episode Del Boy flogs a dead horse.

Then it’s time for bed, and it will be all over for another year.