Ignoring “women’s work”: Yet another Christmas tradition

“I love that moment when you first come downstairs and you can tell the turkey’s already in the oven.” So says the placard outside my local Sainsbury’s, complete with the picture of a traditional Christmas roast. This quotation has started to irritate me every time I leave the house. “That moment”? Is this something with which I’m meant to be familiar? Is it meant to be pleasant? Because to me it sounds frankly disconcerting.

For many of us, wouldn’t our first thought on sniffing the turkey-scented air be “hang on, am I in the right house?” Turkeys don’t just put themselves in the oven, or at least you’d hope not (and if that’s the sort of poultry Sainsbury’s are now selling, I’m steering well clear).

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Christmas 2012: My lessons learned

Way-hey! I’ve just “done” Christmas! And because I am all grown-up and have to take in relatives and stuff, I get to moan about it too! Hey, fellow grown-ups – isn’t Christmas just crap? Don’t you just hate all the hassle? I know I do – and yet, I also don’t. I’ve had a good Christmas, me. And even the bits that have pissed me off have possessed their own special charm.

Hence in a spirit of positivity – and fueled by way too much booze – I’ve compiled my own list of Christmas lessons learned. So here’s what Christmas 2012 has taught me – could this teach you, too?: Continue reading

Anorexia and bulimia at Christmas: Finding ways to connect

In 1993, over the Christmas break, a woman faked her own abduction and then falsely claimed to have been raped. Her reason for doing so? Publicity, perhaps. A misguided need for attention. But also an attempt to get away from the holidays. The woman, a bulimia sufferer, simply could not face this time of year.

When the news of the fake abduction broke, I remember most people, my family included, being scathing. What a waste of police time and money. What a great deal of worry caused to family and friends. As if an eating disorder can be an excuse! And yet, while I couldn’t exactly understand the woman’s actions – and still can’t – a bit of me wanted to try. As a sufferer of anorexia and bulimia, I recognised the panic that Christmas can cause and I recognised, too, the lack of comprehension that sufferers face. Continue reading

The nature of angels: Confronting the girlification of the nativity play

I like to watch the clouds roll by,
And think of cherubs in the sky;
But when I think of cherubim,
I don’t know if they’re her or him.

The Cherub, Ogden Nash

I haven’t studied theology and I’m not a great reader of the Bible. Thus when it comes to the nature of angels in a Christian context, I’d say I’m pretty ignorant. I think there’s some debate about whether they are male, female, intersex or none of the above, but I’m worried this is just me confusing Christian representations of the divine with the above Ogden Nash poem. I’m pretty sure one was called Peter Gabriel and that Satan used to be an angel before the Emperor turned him to the Dark Side or something like that. But that’s about it. If you want a definition of angels (and you don’t mean the Robbie Williams song or the 1970s hospital drama) please don’t ask me. And yet, despite my professed ignorance, here’s one thing I don’t think angels are: simpering girlies in pretty white dresses, all trying desperately hard to look like Beyoncé while swishing their hips in a saucy manner. Continue reading

Christmas songs that deserve to be banned*

So it’s almost December and as expected, I’ve totally out-Christmas-ed myself already. It may be only two weeks since I was claiming to love all Christmas songs (with the sole exception of O Come All Ye Faithful) but all that’s a distant, mulled wine-soaked memory. I’ve come to realise there are LOADS festive tunes that I completely loathe. So much so I’ve decided to write a whole blog post about it (not a very original idea, I know, but the whole thing’s been going round my head for so long it’s become necessary for the sake of catharsis).

So here is my Christmas Top Ten Of Hate (honestly, Chris de Burgh, I just don’t know where I’d be without you). Continue reading

Violence at Christmas: Peering through the frosted windows

When the brilliant @therealsgm mentioned she was organising a bloghop as part of 16 Days of Action on Violence against Women, my almost-instant reaction was “I know! I’ll write something on VAW at Christmas!” Not because I’ve experienced it myself or because I’m an expert on the subject, you understand. Merely because I love Christmas almost as much as I hate violence against women, therefore … Well, anyhow, I didn’t think the general ignorance would be a problem. I assumed it would just be easy to look up stuff on the internet. Turns out it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to write about it.

To begin with I was obviously going to adopt a smug, pseudo-saintly position, from which I would inform everyone that actually, abusing others IS BAD and surely at this time of year – AT CHRISTMAS, of all times! – we should all be nice and love one another. For the fact is, Christmas is a time for families and children and … well, that’s the whole problem. Violence really rains on the whole Christmas parade. Continue reading

Now that’s what I call Christmas!

Today at work I’ve been checking Spanish audio CDs. For a little bit, at least. Then I’ve kept my headphones on and completed other tasks, while still pretending to care about Miguel’s views on global warming. All the while I’ve been secretly listening to Now That’s What I Call Xmas, Disk Three. I bloody love Christmas, me.

The best song on the compilation is Chris de Burgh’s A Spaceman Came Travelling. It is totally ridiculous and totally ace, although my partner and I have disagreements on the actual meaning of the song. I think it’s set at the time of Christ’s birth and that “the spaceman” is the angel who appears to the shepherds (is it Gabriel? Or did he appear to Mary then let someone else have a turn?). My partner, however, thinks the lines “when two thousand years of your time has gone by / This song will begin once again, to a baby’s cry” mean the song is about something that happened 2000 years before Christ was born. But I don’t buy that because …. Well, anyhow, the best bit is when “suddenly the sweetest music filled the air”, because contrary to what you’d expect the sweetest music to sound like, it’s actually de Burgh twatting about on an organ wailing “la la la la la la la la la la” (I certainly wasn’t expecting that):

Other Christmas songs I love are Jonah Lewie’s Stop The Cavalry, The Darkness’ Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) and Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas (“THE CHRISTMAS WE GET WE DESERVE!!!”). Actually, I pretty much like all of them, even George Cole and Denis Waterman’s Minder-tastic What Are We Gonna Get ‘Er Indoors? (the single of which my dad bought my mum for Christmas in 1983, complete with a gift tag to “”Er Indoors”. How we laughed! And I’ll be honest, comparing a tupperware party to “a telly that only shows Russel Harty” makes me chuckle to this day). I love all Christmas songs, carols included, with the possible exception of O Come All Ye Faithful (“lo! He abhors not a virgin’s womb” has always pissed me off. I know it’s all theological and whatnot, but I take it personally, like my perfect little sons exhibited low standards by occupying a complete slapper’s womb [as in mine] for nine months apiece).

I think it is perfectly reasonable to feel Christmassy by mid November. My eldest has just found out he’ll be a sheep again in this year’s nativity – only this year, it’s a sheep with lines! (“Nothing will happen. Nothing ever happens here. We just sleep and eat grass. It’s what sheep do.” Check out the dramatic irony there!). And they’re setting up the Christmas market in the town where I live (my office also has a Christmas market. I had my own stall last year. Unfortunately, it was there it became obvious that all the stuff my family say about my silk paintings needs to be taken with a massive pinch of salt – but still, this has not crushed my Christmas spirit, nor my willingness to continue palming off all the things that didn’t sell to gushing relatives for another few Christmases to come). On the first weekend of December my partner and I are having a night in Birmingham, just the two of us, where we’ll visit the massive market there and I’ll order mulled wine in German. Then we’ll decorate the house and start wrapping presents and it’ll all be ace (apart from Christmas Day, which has suddenly become a bit too much like hard work now that the relatives come to us. I need to get pregnant or something, then maybe they’ll do the washing up while I have a nap. But then I couldn’t drink. Oh, I’ll think of something).

Anyhow, in the meantime I’d like to have it noted that I am a non-religious, generally non-schmalzy person who happens to think Christmas is fantastic. And that is all I have to say on the matter (for now).

This post was brought to you by a vat of mulled wine. It’s okay, I have the afternoon off work (admittedly to take my son to speech therapy. But hey, I’m not the one who’ll be expected to speak clearly, so that’s okay, right?).