It's that time of year again! The editor tells me that I am having a holiday until January 13th so this is my last View of the year.
The first thing is to thank you all for putting up with me and giving me so much feedback. I hope I can continue to entertain and provoke thought during 2012. The next message is to wish all of you a happy holiday, no matter how you celebrate the season. Mind you, I've never seen different beliefs stopping anybody having a good time. I once asked a Jewish lady why she was baking a Christmas cake and planning all the meals with a Christmas theme, I knew that she observed her religion. She said “Stanley, a holiday is a holiday!”, typical Jewish thinking and well done her! The surprising thing is that in these austere times the government hasn't warned against too much celebration, some things are sacrosanct and I doubt if any politician in his or her right mind would dare to criticise us. Speaking of austerity, even if you know you have spent too much, try to forget it over Christmas. It's too late to worry now so have a good time, avoid stress and recharge your batteries. I have little doubt we will all have plenty to worry about next year!
Funnily enough, writing this on December 6th I haven't seen the usual warning about a shortage of turkeys yet. Perhaps they're saving that one up. I can't ever remember a Christmas when we didn't have this story. Remember that every supermarket has a Department of Cunning Wheezes and they are working as hard as they can to fool you into spending money on 'bargains'. I watched a Panorama programme on BBC1 last night and the quote that stuck in my mind was the expert who said “The funny thing is that if they are price-cutting, how come their profits aren't suffering?” Quite! Read the price tickets, compare costs and make sure they don't fool you. They are not charitable organisations!
I was impressed yesterday by the impact of the shops blacking out their windows as a protest against the proposed new Tesco store. I have no strong opinions either way on the subject but the thought crossed my mind that as well as being part of the protest, blacking the windows out did call attention to the fact that these brave little local businesses exist and regardless of Tesco we should value them and shop as much as we can with them. Perhaps they should make the great Window-Blacking an annual event. One thing is certain, if as much energy was put into promoting the local traders as is going into the protest against Tesco it could do nothing but good.
Enough of these deeper thoughts, it's time to concentrate on the delights of the season. My children and grand children are scattered all over the world so Christmas Day is, in many ways, just an ordinary day for me. After all, being a solitary 75, every day is a holiday! Nevertheless many things still delight me. I love the Christmas music and always play the full Messiah at least once. It brings back the memory of childhood Christmases when there were no worries and even in the dark days of the Second World War we woke up on Christmas Day knowing that by some miracle there was a fire in the front room and at least one present. By another miracle my Mother would make sure there was a proper Christmas dinner. Looking back and no matter how reprehensible it was, I am pretty sure that some of the goodies came via the Black Market and were illegal!
I remember the family days at Hey Farm and the happiness of the kids when they found that no matter how bad things were, they had presents and a stocking full of goodies. Funnily enough, one of the things that gives me pleasure still is the early-morning trundling noise of children trying out their new scooters and the number of little girls pushing prams round during the day! I remember one year when we were poor the only pram we could afford was the cheapest, most nasty pink plastic monstrosity that you can imagine. I have talked about this with my daughters and they all agree that it was the most loved and used toy they ever had. It was almost indestructible and was around for years. A good illustration of the fact that the expense of a present isn't always a good guide to how well it goes down!
There is another attractive aspect to Christmas. No matter how bad people are at other times of the year they usually send a card. This means at least that we keep in touch and get the latest news. I will never join in the usual seasonal diatribes about the dreaded 'Christmas Letter'. (That one hasn't happened yet either!) No matter how bad they are they are a handshake and the thought behind them is good. However, when you get to my age these messages can be a mixed blessing. It always surprises me how often I learn of a death at this time of the year. Only to be expected of course, life is a terminal disease but nevertheless it's sad when the word drops on the doormat. I hope you are lucky and don't get any of these over the holiday, they can be a bit of a dampener.
So, all that remains for me to do is issue my Christmas Orders! Have a good holiday, push all gloomy thoughts to the back of your mind. Try to be nice to everyone no matter how aggrieved you might be with them. Remember that one of the sad facts about Christmas is a rise in the divorce rate and the incidence of family squabbles. I have no idea about why this should be so but am sure that if everyone was thinking straight, sharing the work, avoiding stress and trying to be nice, many of these upsets could be avoided. Concentrate on the children and make sure the sound of carols echoes round the house at every opportunity. I can't guarantee that these things will ensure the best Christmas ever but it could be a good start.
Last but not least, I wish you all the best New Year possible. Look after yourselves and remember that health and happiness are the best gifts of all, far more important than wealth. God willing I shall be back nattering you on January 13th 2012.
Christmas dinner Hey Farm 1977. Everyone on parade!
Stanley Challenger Graham
stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk