There’s something very odd about Christmas.

But soft!  That could be a song lyric.  It is after all an iambic pentameter.  It might be crooned, in supermarket aisles, by Michael Bublé.  On the other hand, perhaps it lacks festive cheer.  There is the suggestion that all is not well, a whiff of bah-humbuggery, reminiscent of the setting, for solo violin, by Schnittke, of Stille Nacht.  All proceeds quite sweetly until the violin comes to rest on an excruciatingly dissonant double-stop, and you come to the realisation that something has gone, societally, hideously wrong. 

Christmas, like the fourth movement of Anton Webern’s Six Pieces, is an enormous crescendo leading nowhere, except to a deafening silence.  Tomorrow, the world will be as abandoned and as deserted as the Marie Celeste.  For all of December we have had to endure wall-to-wall Christmas songs on the radio.  It’s not that I object to the songs individually.  I like Christmas pudding, but would I wish to survive on it for a month?  Of course some of the songs are pot-boilers.  I rather like the Chris Rea one about the guy stuck in a traffic jam.  I thought of it the other day when I took my car into a multi-storey carpark to do some last minute shopping in town.  Big mistake.  I returned to the carpark, punched in my car registration at the kiosk and paid by card (“Thank you, and have a nice day”), and then discovered I couldn’t get out.  Total gridlock.  Hundreds of cars in a low-ceilinged Platz, their engines all running.  I just had to sit and listen to Wham.  But then I thought, I am being poisoned by carbon monoxide and all sorts of evil nitrates.  I swung back into a vacant lot, and went back into the mall to find a coffee shop.

When I got back to my car, nothing had changed.  I conducted a piece of sociological research, involving a perambulation around the carpark, trying to figure out where the bottleneck was.  The Checkpoint Charlie-style barriers at the exit seemed to be on a go-slow.  I started to compose in my imagination a stiff letter to the management of the shopping centre, pointing out that traffic congestion in a confined space is a serious health hazard, and they really ought to lift the barriers and get everybody out ASAP.  I never wrote the letter.  Instead, I took another coffee back to the car, re-joined the queue, and listened to Mr Rea.

Top to toe in tail backs, yeah…

Like a run on the bank, Christmas shopping is a collective hysteria.  The crescendo to Christmas seems to have started earlier this year.  Christmas lights of considerable extravagance bedecking our households, inside and out, were switched on earlier.  That is understandable.  It has been a fraught year domestically and internationally, and now in this winter of discontent we need all the cheering up we can get. 

Take a look at the driver next to me…

I raised my coffee cup in his direction and pulled a face to empathise with him over our shared plight.  He pulled one right back.  An hour later, I reached the barrier.  Of course the barrier took one glance at my number plate and stayed resolutely in situ.  An attendant came over.  “It took so long to get out,” I explained.  I didn’t tell him about the two cups of coffee, and the sociological survey.  If the attendant decided to make life difficult for me, I could only imagine the drivers behind me getting more and more irate.  Fortunately he lifted the barrier, and I got out.

But now I had a headache.  Headache is a symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning, as is mental confusion.  There can be long-term sequelae to such an insult, including decline in cognitive function.  Hyperbaric oxygen is an effective treatment.  I imagined myself dialling 111.  “I’ve got CO poisoning.  You need to dive me.”

“Pardon me?”

“I need to be put into a high pressure oxygen chamber, you know, like, for the bends.”

“Are you saying you’ve got the bends?”  The call-handler would have difficulty locating the appropriate algorithm.  She would be endlessly patient with this latest fruitcake on the line.  The Health Secretary has warned us all not to indulge in risky activity while the NHS is under stress, and here am I, deep-sea diving in the bleak midwinter.

In the bleak midwinter…

Not my favourite carol.  Tends to drag.  Too much snow. 

That’s enough carping for one day.  If I listen to Carols from Kings this afternoon, I might just be able to calm down.

Ich wünsche euch allen ein entspanntes Weihnachtsfest und einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr 2023!


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