NOW, LIKE most blokes, I can forget a birthday, an anniversary, and even what I did last night, but I don’t forget Christmas — especially when I see my first Santa display in a shop window on the 25th of September. True, three whole months before Christmas!
There we were, shopping for a new outdoor table because the old one was held together with rust and cobwebs, and we were getting ready for the first BBQ of the season — but I hadn’t realised it was Christmas already!
In mid-November I saw what I stupidly thought were Christmas puddings in the supermarket, and I like the ones with orange peel so I went to get a few — but then I stopped. These were the wrong ones. These were called Celebration Puddings. They looked just the same as Christmas puddings but they’re obviously not.
Not to be politically incorrect or anything, but can somebody tell me when will the Saudi’s have a little discussion that goes, ‘Let’s call it Diet Month because Ramadan is a bit confronting for everyone else!’ Eh?
Now, I like Christmas and I don’t want it taken away because somebody else doesn’t. You don’t like it, fine, ignore it. I ignore Lent, Passover, Diwali Festival of Light, Ganesh’s Birthday and Greek Easter — actually, no I don’t; I like Greek Easter because the Stavros does a big BBQ and the leftovers last about another three meals. But I ignore the rest of it. See, that’s tolerance in action.
Now me and Christmas have a big thing going. I get presents! Yep, it’s the bestest thing. And the lights. A man’s gotta do Christmas lights. It’s not a girlie thing. The tree’s the girl bit.
We keep our Christmas tree under the stairs, all decorated, covered with an old sheet, and come 15th December, we pull it out, straighten it up a bit and done! Time for a tinny. Sheree mucks round fiddling with bits and she adds a few more decorations and by now you can’t see the tree at all, it’s just a furry pyramid of shiny balls.
Okay, now I’ve finished me tinny and I’m ready to put up the lights… well, I would be, but Crabs has just come in and it’s not polite not to offer him a drop of amber and he can’t have one on his own so I better have another.
“What do you think of that advert on the TV, the one with the beer that’s not got as many calories as the other beers?” he asks.
“Do I look like a chick? A beer’s all about taste. It’s gotta be strong and rich and got that tang and hits the old tonsils just right. You take the sugar and all the beery stuff out and you might just as well cut yer balls off and have a lemon, lime and bitters.”
“Too right. Let’s have another.”
Putting the world to rights takes a bit of time so a few brews later and it’s getting a bit dark and Crabs is thinking of going and I say, “Right, time I put up the lights, then.”
“What? Yer Christmas lights? Now?”
“Best time to do it. Getting dark, be able to see if they’re working properly. You put ’em up in the sunlight and switch ’em on and you can’t see if they’re working or not. See! Thinking!” And I tap that nugget that Sheree lovingly calls my brain.
“That’s a good idea; didn’t know youse had it in ya. I can help. I’m good at lights,” Crabs smiles.
I get out the ladder and I’ve got the lights wrapped round me neck because I’m climbing up the ladder and I need both hands. Not for the first time I wish we had descended from the insects not the apes because an extra pair of hands would come in really handy right this minute.
“Hand me the duct tape?” I says.
“Because it’s the universal fixin’ instrument of choice fer the home wha’the-fukk handyman!”
“Okay. Where d’ya keep it?”
“In the shed behind the washing line.”
Crabs waddles off and I’m left standing on the ladder with the lights strung round me like some giant necklace, and because he takes an age and a half, I start wondering if they all still work.
“There’s an On/Off switch here somewhere.”
I have a bit of a search and there it is. ON. Click. Nuthin’. Damn! Try it again. Click. Nuthin’. Aw look, the wire’s a bit loose. Push it in, click, ON! Bugger me! I’m blinded!
Me foot goes through the ladder rung and next thing I know, I’m hanging upside down with me necklace of lights flashing round me neck and I’m trying to work out how far it is between me and the concrete when I get grabbed by strong hands and the best words in the English language.
“It’s all right. We got you.”
“What happened?” says Crabs as he waddles into the room.
“He fell off the ladder. You shouldn’t climb a ladder without a mate to hold it.”
I can see two blokes and they’re pulling me off the ladder and standing the ladder back up against the wall.
“What were you doing, man?” one asks.
“Puttin’ up me Christmas lights.”
“In the dark?”
“That’s so you can see if they work,” says the other bloke. See, he gets it! “Let me help. I like Christmas lights.”
Next thing I know, he’s off up me ladder and he’s hoiking them around me balustrading and posts and guttering and his mate’s tossed him up the tape and they’re all fixed in place with minimum yelling and pointing, and before long, we stand back to try them out.
“Go on,” I says, “you turn ’em on. You did all the work. You deserve it.” I hand the switch to the bloke who did all the work and he switches them on. The front balcony becomes a cascade of blue and silver lightning rain and our faces light up in the reflections.
“Beautiful. I love Christmas.”
I look at the bloke who just spoke. Now, I’m not normally judgemental, but I’ll take a guess that he’s not a Christian.
“Really?” says I. “You celebrate Christmas?”
“Nah! But I’m allowed to like it. Seriously. What’s not to like, huh?”
“Where you guys from?” I asks.
“He’s from Calcutta and I’m from Tikrit.”
“That’s right. And I’m late for dinner. I’ll be hearing it from my missus. Happy Christmas!”
So we shook hands and what I’m guessing was a Muslim and a Hindu left after helping me put up me Christmas lights in the dark and bugger me if that didn’t do more for international relations than all the UN did all year.
It’s a sobering thought.
“Hic,” says Crabs. “Merry Christmas.”
“Yep. Merry Christmas.”