View from the Bridge: 39
by John Morrison
39: Sharp Relief
With a scarcity of hard news that isn't glittery and tinsel-wrapped, experienced politicos are on their guard at Christmas. So when the reporter on the Milltown Times phones our local councillors to check what they would like for Christmas, most of them have an anodyne quote to offer, such as "Peace on Earth", "Goodwill to Men" and "Re-open the public toilets". These irreproachable sentiments only serve to throw Councillor Prattle's wish-list into sharp relief. Given another chance, he'd probably come up with something more diplomatic than "A box of Havana cigars and a bottle of bubbly".
Christmas expectations seem to expand to fill about three months. But when does Christmas begin, and when does it end? It's no rhetorical question. When, for example, do people stop asking: "Are you ready for Christmas?" and start to wonder "Did you have a good Christmas?" Might there be a still point somewhere in the centre of the maelstrom - sandwiched between the Queen's speech and the last of the mince pies - when we are awakened to the true meaning of Christmas? Well, no, probably not. Best just to hope that the cumulative effects of booze, barbiturates and beef-on-the-bone induce a pleasantly pain-numbing narcolepsy.
(A Doctor Writes... Christmas only begins to make sense once you take a detached, clinical approach and regard the festivities as a strain of mass neurosis. Considering that most of us can't even organise a simultaneous orgasm between two eager and consenting adults, what realistic chance is there of 'Having Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas' all at the same time?) The theory of relativity states that time passes more slowly when you spend Christmas with your family. The traditional turkey lunch is followed by the giving of gifts... and the exchanging of receipts. We cram ourselves into a single room, with only crackers, paper hats and a few games of Twister to keep us amused, and yet expect to come through the experience unscathed. It's unnatural to be closetted together so closely. Different houses would be good; different postal districts would be better still.
Even the most disfunctional of families can be mollified by TV. Most of the films being shown over the holiday have the word 'Christmas' in the title, just in case we've been holidaying on Venus and hadn't noticed that Christmas was finally here... To escape the horrors of Christmas altogether, Wounded Man flirted briefly with the idea of becoming a Jehovah's Witness. Until he realised he'd have to spend his spare time wearing nylon shirts and harassing people in their own homes.
After all these uncharitable thoughts it seems almost superfluous to wish readers a very happy holiday. But, as we raise a glass of something sparkly to 'absent friends', let's remember the wise words of the poet, Patience Strong: "Love is never having to say 'Put that fucking axe away'."
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