Friday, 30 December 2011

Ten Things - Christmas High & Lows

I was writing a Highs and Lows List before Christmas, ten things I was loving and ten things I was hating, and the why and wherefores of each. One of the things on my ‘hate’ list was TV shows I really like being cancelled and in the ‘Love’ list was the show Community, a shining beacon of awesome in the grey world of endless wank such as Two and a Half Who Gives a Crap. Suddenly, Community was taken off the new year line up by NBC and is as of now still at risk of cancellation. This horrid news pretty much took all the drive out of me to finish the list. It was a very ‘of the moment’ post, and who would have thought the moment could be *that* fleeting! The world has changed again and the context is lost. Therefore, I decided to take the premise and apply to a different, more seasonal format, that being, Christmas highs and lows, ten things I love about it and ten things I hate.  

You may be thinking, what is there to hate about Christmas? That wonderful, splendiferous day of joy? Well, quite a lot actually. Just like anything in life, there are good points and bad points. I personally think it’s healthy to acknowledge the bad bits and accept them as part of the whole. Also, the catharsis of voicing the negatives, leaves the way clear to list the real reasons to be jolly. So here we go...

Hate List

1.       Expectation.
Expectation is one aspect of the season that's guaranteed to put everyone under such immense pressure that snapping points are all but inevitable. Perfection simply does not, and cannot, exist. More than that, perfection is boring, and it is never a reflection of our true selves or our loved ones. But we all, to a man, at this time of year, worry as the day draws near that we’ve forgotten someone or something, without which the whole affair will be ruined. Despite this, deep down we know that the only thing that can really ruin the day is ourselves. You will always forget something and the unexpected will happen sending your careful planning into chaos, but it’s your choice as to whether you decide to let it put a downer on the whole day as a result. You cannot legislate for what the world will decide to throw at you, just do your best and do it well, and the day will be what it is. 

2.       Consumerism
This is the idea that in order to show someone how much we love them, we have to buy them the biggest bestest newest thing, and the sooner the better because what if everyone else has it and you miss out? Keeping up with Jones’s mentality will always make you feel inadequate if you let it. I defy anyone not to feel a little kick in the stomach when they’ve bought their partner a nice new piece of technology, only to find that their friend has bought their partner the same thing only it also fires rockets and glows in the dark. The thought really is what counts at Christmas, and learning to appreciate the little things, means that we can take far more joy in them. A little gift that was bought with only you in mind, that is likely to be something that only you will appreciate, is a thousand times better than the latest Blue Ray DVD player or games console. We know this, we just forget it in all the chaos.

3.       Families
Left to their own devices and without external influences enforcing consideration and politeness, families can revert to the worst aspects of their bad behaviours and traditional roles. When you throw in copious amounts of alcohol (Christmas day being the only day of the year where it is acceptable to drink Sherry before ten in the morning) the situation can deteriorate quite rapidly, and before you know it, a year's worth of tension explodes all over your turkey dinner. The thing is that these are the people you love most in the world. This is mostly why they drive you more potty than anyone else, because what the rest of the world does can't affect you in the same way, but it affects you when they do it. We are more honest with our family than anyone else because we can be, but sometimes we would do well to remember that a little bit of consideration and just basically being nice, goes a long way to making our nearest and dearest feel appreciated. Because let’s face it, these are the people who put up with you all year round, not just for Christmas.

4.       Christmas Number One
This used to be a thing of joy, with Slade and Wham and all the rest, and now it’s the manufactured predictable promotion of whatever dimwit won the X Factor with their (usually) uninspired rendition of a formerly beloved pop song. There is something incredibly soulless about the whole affair nowadays. We are told what to appreciate, enjoy and buy, basically, and I find it incredibly disheartening that the majority of the population seem happy to go along with this arrangement. I’d even take the days of Bob the Builder and Mr Blobby topping the charts, as at least with them being children’s characters, they had some actual contextual relevance to Christmas. But all this pomp and ceremony for recording artists whose albums will be filling the shelves in Poundland six months later? The word overrated doesn’t even begin to cover it.

5.       Office Parties
There are some things you just don’t need to see. Really, really, don’t need to see. One of those things would be your colleagues cutting loose and expressing thoughts and opinions that were perhaps best left in the dark recesses of their brain. We need a level of professionalism in work that doesn’t apply to our social lives. We need to be able to work together and get along amicably. We don’t need awkward revelations and dodgy dances burned onto our retinas. ‘Nuff said ;O)

6.       Blind Panic
As the time ticks by and the advent chocolates stack up as you forget to eat them in your haste, all the weeks of careful planning begin to given way to inevitable panic which can leave your rational mind far behind as you find yourself nearly in tears at the local Tesco desperately trying to locate one last pack of sausages in bacon. I myself, am a panicker by nature, and I have to try to calm myself down in order to think methodically and actually be productive. This year in particular things went a bit haywire and life got in the way of my careful planning. But this event actually helped me to realise how unnecessary the panic aspect of the season is. Having said that, I’m sure I’ll panic again next year, along with the rest of the population!

7.       Snow.
Snow can and will, eventually, drive you bananas during the winter season. What starts as something beautiful and festive rapidly becomes dangerous and ultimately depressing. The day to day reality of it is vast piles of shitty slush that cover your shoes and make your toes go numb and black ice that can make even the most sure footed individual go arse over tit! ‘Snow’ days off work are inevitably a cost to you personally, rather than a boon, when that time spent struggling to get into work, failing, coming back home, and being unable to do anything useful like shopping or running errands, is taken back as holiday or unpaid leave. This is not to mention the cost of keeping your home to an acceptable temperature in order to keep yourself warm and prevent your external pipework from freezing. Ahem.

8.       The Loss of Belief
The loss of belief in Father Christmas does remove the magic from Christmas somewhat. The cold reality that we put the presents in our stockings, rather than some God like figure who can travel the world at immense speed consuming more alcohol than Oliver Reed while still being able to get down every chimney like a Ninja despite being massively obese and somewhat elderly, is horrible. Of course there is no magic, you fools. There never was. That realisation is like a cold bucket of puke being put in front of you. Merry fucking Christmas indeed.

9.       New Year’s Resolutions
This year I will eat less, exercise more, worry less, be more considerate in my thoughts and deeds, read more, learn a new craft, write more letters, drink less alcohol, watch less TV, save some money, be more honest about money, give more to charity, write a novel, be more impulsive, be less angered by the rest of the world, buy more Fairtrade items, be more outspoken and remember to call my distant friends more…

What will actually happen? I will drag myself kicking and screaming through the painful, cold, wet and downright GREY month that is January, feel the genuine renewing rush of relief when the end and payday finally approach, and continue on in the same old winging it manner that I always do. Any changes that will happen generally take place over longer periods of time and with less consideration. But if I can keep but one thing on the list going, I suppose it's still a list worth making.

10.   The January Comedown
This comedown begins before the turkey has even had time to cool. In fact, as per usual, on the 27th December this week I found Easter eggs in the local supermarket again. This is the mental world that we live in. We spend weeks building up to something that we are then supposed to forget about almost immediately. The problem is that whatever you have done for Christmas your brain has literally turned off and focused on enjoying yourself, so turning your brain back on again is hard work. Why can’t we be left to enjoy that feeling for a little bit longer? Before we are pushed towards the next thing?

Love list

1.       Snow
Snow is awesome though, isn’t it? No matter what the practical consequences of it, nothing can beat the look of pure, brilliant, fresh fallen snow, sparkling in the winter sun. Our life is just a collection of moments anyway, nothing stays the same forever, but we can experience the joy of something in that moment. The first proper snowfall remains one of the most exciting and truly magical things that we experience. No matter how old you are, snow is awesome. Fact.

2.       Baking
The first year I did this, I did it because it was a fortnight from Christmas and I realised that I didn’t have any money to get my friends or family the gifts I would like. But I didn’t want to not give anyone a gift either. So I opened a couple of cookery books that I had been given and the rest is history. I try to attempt different things each year, but carry through the more successful and well liked ones. Careful planning helps massively with this, but mostly it’s just about getting on and doing it. I always reach a point toward the end where I could quite happily throw the rolling pin through the window, but I now accept this as part of my baking process. And once the results are all packaged up, there is a sense of achievement which can’t be beaten.

3.       Family
As explored a bit in the entry above, Christmas really should be the time to stop and appreciate the support system that you do have, and enjoy the company of the people you love. It’s rare in any family that you have anyone’s full attention for a length of time, because there is always something else to be getting on with. That’s life, unfortunately. But Christmas is the day when you stop and listen to each other. That’s another reason why being abroad this year was so nice, no housework or similar distractions, being cooked for and cleaned up after, the only thing I had to focus on was my partner, which was lovely.

4.       Friends
As you get a bit older, you find that living away from your parents or old family groups gives you more time and inclination to arrange things at Christmas with your friends, who are, let’s face it, just an extension of your family anyway. You end up doing what you always do, drinking, eating and talking arse. But with paper hats on. Friends are the people you share your everyday relaxo time with and Christmas is just an excuse to do even more of this favoured pastime. And to show your friends how much you appreciate them. Even if they are dumbasses ;o)

5.       Father Christmas
The whole concept of Father Christmas is quite brilliant. As a kid, you utterly believe in this man, and his flying reindeer and his elves' ability to make X-boxes in their workshops using rudimentary tools and off-cuts of wood. It's awful when you get older and have to acknowledge your doubts, when you have to start accepting logic over wishful thinking. But I cannot wait to perpetrate the myth again when I have children. I do think that in itself brings some of the magic back. As they say in Miracle on 34th Street, adults have faith in all sorts of things without the need for actual evidence to support their faith, so with that in mind, it’s as logical, rational and acceptable to believe in the big man himself as it is any other belief system really. Besides, have you ever thought that maybe he only stops visiting because you’ve stopped believing?!

6.       The Stories
The Night Before Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Christmas stories are an integral part of this time of year, and continuation of the magic. It’s not just for children either, a ghost story set at Christmas seems to have greater resonance than at other times of the year. Maybe it’s because it's a moment in time when everything takes on a greater significance. We take stock of where we are in life, who we’re with and who we’ve lost. That’s why A Christmas Carol is by far one the best stories ever written. And every interpretation of it since never fails to carry resonance with the reader or viewer, from A Muppet’s Christmas Carol to  Scrooged. Even It’s a Wonderful Life is super dark when you think of it, a man thinking of reasons not to kill himself. But as Abed pointed out in the most wonderful Community holiday special, forcing things to be bright just makes the darkness underneath even darker. The darkness of the Christmas stories is the draw of them to be honest, it makes the brightness, when it comes, even brighter, because it has been earned. Plus we all like a good scare, at any time of the year!

7.       Christmas Number One
The exception to this terrible X Factor Christmas number one rule came in 2009, when a Facebook campaign persuaded millions to purchase the old classic by Rage Against the Machine, Killing in the Name. This was a stoke of pure genius and it was JOYOUS to have a song at the top of the festive charts which literally said, ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.’ I loved the song anyway, but even more so now as it actually gives me a little buzz to think of this reaching number one, in despite of what we should have been buying, eh?

8.       Christmas Dinner
This is the best meal of the year. It really and truly is. Of course it helps that my partner is an excellent cook, but I think as long as you do cook, the amount of richness and decadence packed into one meal means that it doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re onto a winner! Our Christmas dinner was a bit different this year, a 6 course meal at Ludens really was special! But I also (greedily) missed our dinner at home. But you can’t have it all can you? Well, I think we can manage a small feast sometime soon to make up for it!

9.       The pause from the rat race
I, like many others, work during the period between Christmas and New Year. For those of you that don’t, we are out there, trust me. The phones still have to be answered and someone has to be there in case something does go horrifically wrong. But it’s hard to focus and find the motivation as your brain slows to an all-but stop. It's not as though you can get back into the working efficiency frame of mind, as it's generally quiet anyway, and there is no point getting yourself back into gear only to swing back into holiday mode for New Year’s Eve. But… this is not a bad thing, it’s really not. I don’t care if you’re religious or not, I don’t care that I’m not religious; we all need a break. Christmas forces us all to stop for a moment and kick back, eat too much, drink too much, and enjoy each other’s company. Call it Christmas, call it the Winter Solstice, call it whatever you want, it’s the light in the cold dark winter months. We work hard all year round just to make ends meet, a thankless and never ending task. I can safely say that we all earn this, and we may as well enjoy it, ‘cos it’ll be over before you know it!

10.   That warm fuzzy feeling of fuzziness
This is the bit that makes Christmas really. It’s not the food or the presents or the company, even, it’s that feeling. The feeling that makes you feel just that bit more generous, carefree, giddy and content. When you’re sat there, half pissed, with a cracker hat and all your Christmas clothes on a once, the central heating turned up and the tree lights are twinkling off the shiney baubles, and the muppets start singing 'it's true where ever you find love, it feels like Christmas’ and you catch your breath in your chest like the soppy bugger that you are... That’s Christmas, that feeling. And whatever you do, where ever you spend your day and however you see in your New Year, you’ll get that feeling. It’s why we do it, really.

In conclusion, I really do wish you all a very merry Christmas, and I hoped you see in the New Year in awesome style. I know shortly we’ll be back in the grey of the day to day, and everyone will want everything done immediately and you’ll be running to catch your feet the whole time…

But we’re not there yet. This is the moment now. So enjoy it!

Chrissy X

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Interruption to Regularly Scheduled Blogging - Urgent Request! Save Greendale!

Ironically I was in the process of writing a 'high and lows' sort of post. Ten things I'm loving at the moment, ten things I'm hating. In the ten things I hate, there was a rant about awesome programmes in the US being cancelled before getting a chance to blossom. Intelligent, fun, clever programmes. But in my top ten list was the ever reliable Community, keeping the touch going. But now they want to cancel it? Sod that! I've had enough. We, as the viewers, should stand up and shout - I don't see why we should let another programme go the way of Deadwood and Firefly. I'm sick of it! So here's my plea...
Community is by many, many leagues of awesomeness, the best programme on TV. It STUNS me that NBC have chosen to take it off their new year schedule... and we all know what that means, it's happened too many times! Too many brilliant stories have been ripped from our screens before their time, and I've had enough - So here it is, I use all my free goes and... ask all my favours at once, please, I ask you from the bottom of my heart, to share this link, like this link. Do it for all the awesome TVs shows that have already gone forever, or do it for no other reason than that it means this much to me, that I would put all humility aside and ask for this favour! Seriously, please Dudes, Save our Community!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

And just like that, I fell in love again...

If you know me but at all, you will know that I’m a bit of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanatic. Hmm. Maybe “a bit” is something of an understatement! And I suppose it is. The usual trappings of crazy fandom were there; I bought every boxset as it was released, I had the board game, the spin off books, the subscription to the official magazine, the action figures, the Watchers’ Guides, I joined an online fan forum, I had the top trumps, the coffee mug, the posters, the Easter egg, the Advent calendar... I could go on, and on some more! I sought out and gleefully accepted as a gift, any item that had even the most tenuous relationship to my most favouritist TV show of all time ever. But let’s face it, Buffy was more than just a television show to me, as sad as it sounds, those familiar characters and emotional dramas gave me a sense of hope in my darkest places. It was a constant source of joy and consolation during what was a bewildering and often quite frankly lonely time, otherwise known as my teenage years.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Bronte Sisters...

Everyone has heard of them. Not all of those people have read their work. In fact, many will not have, especially readers of my generation, myself included. But their legacy is so pervasive, so ingrained into popular culture, that their fame has transcended their work and entered the global consciousness. Just like Shakespeare, or Tolkien, or (unfortunately) Rowling. Even if you have never read their stories, you know of them, they are cultural icons.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Not nearly Shameless enough

Every once in a while you witness something that causes you to have a visceral reaction. It holds you in the grip of a strong emotion and you feel compelled to shout your view over the roof tops, either championing it or condemning it. The latest thing to cause such a reaction in me is a TV show. In fact, quite often it’s a TV show or a film or a book or some other form of art because let’s face it all of these distractions form a daily part of our lives. Despite the fact that these things are fictional, ultimately, our response to them and opinions of them can be as all encompassing as anything else ‘real’ going on in our lives. Or maybe I’m just a massive geek!* In any event, the TV show that I going to climb onto my soap box over today is the US version of Shameless.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Writer's Holy Grail or Hand Grenade?

It’s a big wide world out there, or so they say. In that big wide world it would appear that there are thousands upon thousands of people trying to publish a novel.
I love to write. I really, really do. I find it cathartic and interesting and satisfyingly enjoyable. I feel as though I am learning how to write as I go along. The more I do it, the more coherent it becomes. The more I do it, the more pleasure I get from it. The more I do it, the more I want to do it. Not entirely unlike other activities I can think of! Except, of course, the end result is generally less sticky. Generally.

A Mind Without Limits

NZT-48. It’s a new drug designed to force your brain into working at its highest possible capacity at all times. If only. It’s the basis for the plot of Limitless, a new film that I have seen recently staring Bradley Cooper. Marketed as an action blockbuster of sorts, and given Bradley Cooper’s slick image I figured that it would be forgettable throwaway fare that I was in no rush to see. But to my pleasant surprise it’s a solidly clever Science Fiction film which actually allows Cooper to demonstrate what a fine actor he can be. Who knew?

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Sheer Horror.... (Beware, here be spoilers!)

I’m so glad that the book is over now. How compelling it was, how utterly horrifying and how very clever. The book which I am referring to here is American Psycho. A book that I was sure someone of my disposition would never read. Ironically, I never imagined the contents of the novel to be as deeply disturbing as they actually are. I guess, in my younger days, I avoided the book because I thought that the character would be frightening, which he is, but not in a “baddie-monster” way. Well, he is a monster, but he’s a by-product of our society, rather than a monster created out of myth and magic, which in itself is far more unsettling.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

'Nay, come, let's go together...'

Hamlet, as I mentioned in my last post, is a play that I hold quite dear to my heart, as do many people. It made an impression on me, as it has done with many people. The play has a sort of universal appeal, and this time around I wondered whether I would gain anything new from the retelling of it, which was one of the reasons why I was looking forwards to seeing it again. I was also curious to see whether Northern Broadsides would weave their usual charm and cause my friends (many of whom were unfamiliar with the story) to truly engage with the play. I was very pleased to be proved right on both points, that Northern Broadsides would breathe life into their interpretation of this classic text, and that I would draw new inferences from the experience.

Monday, 21 March 2011

We're off to the Theatre...

I am very much looking forwards to seeing Northern Broadsides’ production of Hamlet in April, for a number of reasons.
One being, I love the play very much, it’s probably one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, but I’ll come back to this…
Another being, I’m going with a group of my friends. Which in itself is somewhat shocking. My friends and I do many, many fun and interesting things together, but going to the theatre is not usually one of them! Perhaps this is a sign of our collective growing maturity? Perhaps we are becoming more cultured and intellectual? Or perhaps it’s because our internal organs are crying out for a rest from the normal debauchery that surrounds our gatherings! In actuality, it is because we’re always up for trying something new, and it took me far too long to realise that I should take advantage of having access to such a cool resource! But then, I’ve always been a little slow on the uptake …

Friday, 25 February 2011

Faith in the Dude and Belief in the Geek: The Church of Us

So Faith, in its very essence, is the adamant belief in something with no evidence to support it. The most purported explanation of the concept being that if you need proof to believe in it, you cannot have it. What an amazing stipulation to conceive of, it will always undermine sceptics, as it is frankly an inarguable point. If you question Faith you don’t have it and to not question it is to have it. I’m thinking of this in terms of Religious Faith, but of course Faith is not a narrow concept.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Sunny Day

As the sun beat down on the back of her neck, Anne gradually eased herself back into a squatting position rather than the down on all fours pose that she had adopted in order to get closer to the roots of the weeds. As she did so she felt the muted stiffness signalling in the lower left hand part of her back. The old war wound playing up. It was always there, of course, and she had acknowledged that as the years had passed the vague pain had risen in volume slightly, but it was still only really background noise. She smiled and wondered how long that would remain the case. Hopefully a while longer, as her youngest still required picking up and comforting and as the girl was now three that was no longer a small weight. Her eldest sometimes asked to be carried and lugged about too, but at seven, her mother felt that she no longer had it in her. The girl was at least two thirds of her height now. Nope, that was a job for her father.

Pain is what does it

Pain is what does it, I feel. Pain or growth through pain, that’s what develops it. Maybe there is a tipping point of the scale, when too much pain, too much loss, too much fear, starts to rip at a person’s sanity and leave them as shadows, ghosts. But for the most part, pain drives it out of us. The ‘it’ I am referring to here, is Beauty. Which may seem a bit odd, but it is something I have thought for a long time now.


I think the worst thing about being this ill really is, probably, when all is said and done, the Daytime Television. If you’re in constant pain, not sleeping, barely eating, and generally feeling worse than a corpse (Yes I do mean worse than a corpse, there is a point of illness where you begin to feel that at least as a corpse you would get some rest) there are not many avenues of activity open to you. To be at work would double the pain, because every second there increases your self pity. Whys should you be tapping away on a keyboard when you barely have the physical strength to wipe your own arse? Catching up on housework? Well in the spells of okay-ness this is something I do try. But menial tasks are ten times more complex and disappointing as your brain is so focused on the cause of your pain that you find the parts of the mind that usually control motor function and logical thought are temporarily lobotomised. I glared angrily at the kettle for twenty minutes earlier as I had forgotten what its main function was!


It was odd witnessing people’s reactions to the latest crash at the bottom of Clark Street where it meets Dennon Road. Maybe odd is not the right word but disconcerting. It is a dangerous spot, the third crash to occur in little under a week. Something needed to be done. Maybe something couldn’t be, or, more likely, wouldn’t be. Money is all, and the cost effectiveness of changing the roads to avoid such crashes in the future would be examined and would inevitably be found wanting. We have become used to justifying health and safety risks in monetary terms. The people with the money will nod and smile to all, giving the illusion of caring, all the while their hand will be behind their back, keeping a tight grip on their wallet. People die every day, but money is money.


Bang! That’s it, you’re in it. The greatest story you’ll ever be told. Your story, not mine. I’m in it, the greatest story I’ll ever hear, My Story. Honestly, tell me a better one? Go on! You can’t. YOU. You are you. Your relationships, your dramas, your actions, your heartache, your dreams, your loved ones. Tell me of one story that means more to you?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Observation of a Photograph

I have studied the picture so much now that the image seems to have burnt onto my mind. If I close my eyes I can see it. It is one of the most precious photos I possess. There are many photos that mean something to me. Photos of Mark, Laura and Sheree, of family parties, of me clinging doe eyed in the arms of past loves, pictures of faded beaches and school plays. They all blur into one massive timeline of meshed memories. Photos need explaining, if you ever get the opportunity, to loved ones and grandchildren. Otherwise what people are left with are albums of images that have no context, the smiling faces are left blank when the dots have not been connected. But maybe it is just that the really important photos, the ones that capture a moment so completely, are actually far rarer than that.