Ding, Dong merrily on high you gorgeous, lovely blog readers of mine! The Christmas Bluebird wishes you goodwill to all men and stuff and raises a glass to toast you beautiful readers who have been following me since this ‘ere mighty blog was established in April. Whilst in the office yesterday, my boss telephoned from the tennis court : Did I know it was Christmas next week? Yes, I did. But had I realised it was Christmas actually? How was he going to attend all his meetings? And did I know when the shops closed? How was he going to do everything? he asked. My initial thought was to say “Well, get off the tennis court for a start.” But I didn’t. He carried on: “You see the thing is, have you actually realised it was Christmas, now, and it seems like the same date as last year?”
Oh for goodness sake. It’s always at the same day every year, dork. Anyway, I do know it’s Christmas next week because I have been counting down the wee festive days. Firstly, let me nail my colours to the festive mast : the Bluebird here loves Christmas. No. She loves Christmas. Truly and utterly and superbly. Tinsel, trees, baubles and a menorah: fucking beautiful. This is what in the multi-faith Bluebird Towers is referred to as Chrismukkah. But truly, it is at Christmas where the Bluebird forgets she is Jewish at all and basks in a glut of telly and geese and a G&T as soon as the shorthand is over the yardarm, and bells ringing, and carols, and Christmas films about tiny people called Tim and goodwill to men and stuff. That is because Christmas as we know it is a Victorian secular feast and to most people, nothing to do with religious things at all. Before Prince Albert dragged over the first Christmas tree from Germany, before Dickens and his lustrous Victorian sentiment got the better of us, people really didn’t bother with it at all. A Georgian Christmas would be unrecognisable to us today. The first Christmas card wasn’t sent until 1846 (although, as it was delivered by the Royal Mail, it didn’t arrive until 1973). Santa Claus turns up to emotionally blackmail children into going bed early at some point in the 1870s. Getting children to bed early on Christmas Eve is some consolation to them waking up at 6am the next morning and hitting you in the face with whatever was in their stocking while the little darlings scream “Wake up Mummy, it’s CHRISTMAS!”. Crackers appear in about 1850. The traditional turkey doesn’t gobble it’s way into the English Christmas dining room until the late 19th century. Christmas Eve Mass, so beloved of non-religious drinkers bent on hilarity, wasn’t a regular fixture until well after the Second World War, when it took over in popularity from Christmas Morning Mass. The great thing about it is that this Germanic / English festival is that, as with all midwinter festivals, it is cut through with a robust wave of paganism. The red berries of the holly bush were meant to ward off witchcraft (oooooo), whereas ivy symbolizes immortality. Christmas in England is nuts (Brazils, usually). And no one goes for this riot of Victorian German-ness more than the English.
I have had every type of Christmas Day : the big, traditional family Christmas (many, many of those) which starts with bacon sandwiches and tea and ends with Christmas cake and a colonic, the Christmas where my brother got alcoholic poisoning because we spiked his drink, the Christmas with 8 people in a one-bed flat in town (ill-advised), the non-family Christmas with friends of friends in Primrose Hill who, when I arrived, took the bottle of champagne I had brought with me, put it in fridge and shamefully served wine all day, the non-Christmas with my brother who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, the other Christmas my other brother discharged himself from hospital with double pneumonia, only to arrive in a cab in his dressing gown shortly before lunch and be immediately sent to bed by our mother, the depressing, senseless and dreadful Christmas at the boyfriend’s parents a month before we split up and drunken, happy, box-set DVDs-type-Christmas Days a deux with Mr Bluebird in Bluebird Towers.
Despite the varying qualities of Christmases Past – from the sensational to the dire – this Christmas bird never stops believing in the marvellousness of it all and is eternally hopeful. Radio Times in lap, on Christmas Eve morning, with no work on the horizon for ten days. ..Is anything lovelier? The most delightful thing about being an adult at Christmas is you get to be the child again, the child that in adolescence, breathless for sophistication, you couldn’t. At 15, 16 and 17 there was the round of ghastly parties to attend and take seriously. You were launched at with sexual crassness by boys, and went very straight-faced about the sobering business of trying to be popular. It was very, very tense being a teenager at Christmas. The idea was you submerged yourself into vats of Bacardi and lemonade and hoped to emerge at the other side of Christmas without your virginity. No wonder we failed.
One year my parents decided to do an embarrassingly teenage thing and actually had a Christmas party. With people standing around. Listening to music and drinking. It was just wrong. They were parents, you know. They made the fatal error of putting the 13 year old Bluebird and two of her 13 year old contemporaries in charge of the bar. By half past seven we were rendered hysterical by three shots of Archers Peach Schnapps. By half past ten my parents friends were drunker than any of my brothers’ friends and the wife of the editor of The Daily Mirror couldn’t walk through the front door in a straight line. I was most perturbed. My parents had excelled at festive misbehaviour much more than we could. Another Christmas I was so disturbed at the person I’d winded up snogging in the Rose & Crown pub on Christmas Eve that I did the only reasonable thing I could have done, which was to leave for Switzerland immediately and spend two days in St Moritz singing Beatles songs to plastic surgeons from Zurich. I had already been in a pantomime where hecklers from the front row had called me a lesbian, so being in St Moritz only added to the stress. Was that my lowest point on the Bluebird scale of Christmases past? Probably. Usually however, I am such a pervert that I actually enjoy Oxford Street at this time of year. Every day I battle through it to get home from the office, buying gifts en route. Remember, dear readers, it is a happier place than it will be next February. Now we are swept along in this heightened uber-Christmas reality of fairy lights, department stores grottoes, waving Mickey Mouses in the Disney Store and Santas in the windows. Our world, redressed and aggressively marketed, is transformed into another London reality that, apart from the buses that never move and the constant jostling in the shops, is a show in itself. The heightened reality that consumerism needs is in full swing, and painstakingly contrived to make us spend more and more and more and more, until our handbags explode and our credit cards blow up. There she goes – the Christmas Bluebird – weighed down with items from GAP for the gentleman in her life, looking forward to opening the presents for three year old neices so that she can play with them, buying fabric ribbon for present wrapping from the wonderful Cloth House in Berwick Street, stomping valiantly past that calypso band that annually takes up cheery residency outside John Lewis on Oxford Street, and lurching violently into the path of a passing No 10 bus after the office Christmas lunch.
All that remains for me to say is – enjoy. Enjoy the gluttony and take pride in the telly, rest up and take it easy. You won’t be able to visit your relatives anyway because apparently we are all going to be snowed in, so put the driving gloves away and open the sherry. Happy Christmas, dear readers! Oh – and if I don’t update next Thursday, it’ll be because I will be buried under wrapping paper and sellotape singing Bing Crosby classics and will be unable to get to the nearest internet portal. Seasons Greetings to all you lovely readers, from The London Bluebird x x x x
Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this. This blog is updated every Thursday.