Hark the Herald

And every year, he gets louder and louder… a large Rudolph Red sleigh with a couple of oversized plywood reindeer and a very jolly man in crimson sitting (or rather squatting) on a bench at the back going “Ho Ho Ho”. All of this interspersed by the occasional wheezy coughing fit and completely drowned out by Frosty the Snowman from the Ronettes in true jingly dance-along Tamla Motown style. No modern sleigh is complete without its massive sound system—huge speakers mounted on a static flat bed truck or platform (often towed by a tractor) to help celebrate the nativity in a suitably seasonal and reflective manner. Silent Night it is not. Other leading holiday hits that you will no doubt hear endlessly repeated at crib shattering volume include Wonderful Christmastime (Paul McCartney), Last Christmas (Wham!) and the ever (unfortunately) popular Merry Xmas Everybody (Slade). OK, ‘tis the season to be jolly but surely not to be deafened by the din of Merry Christmas Everyone (Shakin’ Stevens) on a seemingly endless loop at the outdoor Christmas market.

Obviously someone’s noticed it’s that time of year again. There really isn’t any point in me writing about it, because of course you’ve already done most of your Christmas shopping by now. Sorry? No, you haven’t? Oh dear… well I did most of mine back in August during our summer holidays in Scotland. I have no idea if Auntie Joan will like her ‘Souvenir of Edinburgh Castle’ coffee mug (special offer £2.49), but Uncle Peter will certainly relish his ‘wee dram’ contained inside a fake porcelain Scottie terrier. At least he’ll appreciate the contents even if it’s only a teaspoonful of rather cheap Japanese hooch. It’s the thought that counts which is also what I felt when I bought Highland shortbread for my neighbours. OK, so the eat-by date is now a bit long in the tooth but it was perfectly alright back in the summer. My sister will get a really nice hamper full of Scottish oatcakes, Dundee marmalade and a preserved Haggis. I might need to look at the date on the Haggis—I don’t want to cause Yuletide tummy upsets—but she’s really fond of exotic, foreign food and Scotland is virtually a foreign country. It was always quite a foreign place before, but the Sturgeon Effect has now made it a truly outlandish part of the world. The reason I feel this way is that—when I visit Scotland—it’s me who now feels like a foreigner. It’s obviously all in my head…

As is White Christmas and Bing Crosby right now… 80 decibels in my head. Maybe Bing is so much a part of the established Xmas World, that he’s really Father Christmas in disguise. Beard apart, they have similar cozy family profiles. But wait, I can’t hear you. Speak up! They’re now playing Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee) which is truly awful and I need my earplugs. There’s no chance of Ye Merry Gentlemen getting any rest with this lot going on. And here comes the next tune… Santa Claus is Coming to Town—yes, he is. Apparently next Friday he’s at Chard and the following Saturday he’s in Beaminster, Honiton, Maiden Newton, Weymouth, Charmouth and Crewkerne. What, all at once? How come there are so many Father Christmases in different places at the same time? Maybe he’s a Time Lord like Doctor Who and can exist simultaneously in different dimensions…

Anyway, it was such a good idea to buy everything in advance: no Christmas crowds, no rush, no pressure, no singing reindeer and no queuing for parking in Dorchester. Think laterally and plan ahead. You could start shopping right now for Valentine’s Day or Easter or even my birthday which is coming up in a month or two (no music please, but a pair of noise cancelling headphones would be nice). And if it’s all too much, then you can solve the cost of Christmas and stay sane by postponing the entire event until—say—Chinese New Year. Similar seasonal colours of red and gold so your ex-Christmas ribbon and gift-wrap will work but, best of all, you can do your main shopping in the January sales for half the price.

Woops… here comes another golden oldie: I’ve no idea how many times Elton John has ‘stepped into Christmas’, but right now it feels like he’s never put a foot out of it. Since it’s impossible to blot out the pre-festive sounds if you stay here, why not get away from it all and escape to somewhere entirely foreign. Like Scotland (defined as foreign, see above). You’ll have a great time but I guarantee Dean Martin will serenade you loudly with Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (plus bagpipes) so much that Inverness airport will be closed and your holiday break ruined.

How about the Costa Del Tropica SunBurna? Apart from the inevitable airline strike causing you to spend Boxing Day propped up on airport chairs trying to get two hours sleep before it’s time to come home again, you’ll no doubt have a good time. Christmas dinner will be re-hydrated bread sauce and sprouts (“specially flown in from the UK”) accompanied by my all-time worst Xmas hate song ever by Wizzard: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. Thank God that the wishes of Wizzards (with a double ‘z’) remain unfulfilled. It’s not everyday—it’s only one day. However, it’s the 50 day noisy warm up period beforehand that I can’t take. Obviously I’ve got to go somewhere where Christmas is not normally celebrated. Mars or Afghanistan would seem good choices.