Christmas was brought down to earth early in my life by lack of money and death
in the family on Christmas Day. Nowadays we don’t use the “p” word (poverty) because we are all poor compared to somebody and your poverty isn’t mine. When I try to recall what was expected of me and the family as a general rule, public holidays no exception, it was do your best and have a nice time. And we did and we did.
The robust characters of my parents made for level pegging. She didn’t “do it all” and he did more than I knew. I had some ridiculously luxurious years
when I was married to Supergoy, truly lovely (I was just as spendthrift) and generous beyond the dreams of avarice. But after the divorce, I made a journey into what I really believed, wanted and didn’t want, and it has served me well.
This year – because of Covid and the looming shadow of Brexit – Christmas is being talked about as something we “need” (annalog/want and need). And if we can’t go to the city markets across Europe (spend spend spend) they must come to us. Which is how I came upon the street where I shop half closed off with vast scaffolding vans, lots of stewards and endless black containers of sound equipment: a small number of gift and clothing stalls, a beefed up number of food stalls
and the pretensions of a pre-Christmas fair drowned in soggy rock. Gotta be merry. I baled.
Outside the Tesco where I planned to meet a friend, there was a sudden eddy of people surrounding a tiny fragile little girl
who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak, who had got separated from her parents. Somebody found another Oriental family (I had seen them on the bus -parents, child and two uncles with their adored French bulldog) but they couldn’t help. There was a man on a mobile – is it too much to hope that security has a loudspeaker in a shopping mall ? – and a visibly upset fluent English speaking Eritrean (I asked) shop assistant who wanted above all to comfort the clearly shocked child “How can this happen? You don’t lose a child, it’s the second time in a week. At least the little boy could speak to me, this child cannot say a word. If you do this to your children, you shouldn’t have children…”
I was reminded of the wisdom of the tribes who teach “one child to walk, one child to carry” and no more, already too much for some in a supermarket. When the parents turned up with the other child in a buggy, I’d like to think that their closed deadpan faces were a way of trying to rebut the concern and anger of those round them but they were not particularly keen to soothe the little girl who had passed what I suspect were the longest 20 minutes in her short life.
Nella (Not Her Name) who used to live upstairs invited me to lunch. She is a 25 year old Italian architect in training, just moved in to a riverside apartment with two other Italian girls. I had lent her a couple of books on Middle Eastern food by Claudia Roden about which she was enthusiastic and we all liked it. When her third flatmate arrived home, she came laden with the makings of the evening meal. All we did was eat and talk in benign warmth. It really felt like a foretaste of Christmas, sheltered from the cold outside.
My Christmas Is very down to earth, heaven is not in my atlas. People who do things for others, who share with the isolated. Can the plastic pine cones and know that there is nothing you or Jamie Oliver can do to a sprout that will endear it to my son and since he likes every other vegetable, I don’t understand the imposition. The endless reiteration of things for the sake of it is just that.
Sometimes you have to reinvent, allow something new into the mix. For without meaning there is no Christmas – hence the title.