This Christmas Eve
A habit appears to be emerging.
Christmas Eve appears to be a special moment in time for me.
Since 2009, I’ve taken a moment to post a blog. Reading back over them now, I’ve surprised myself about my consistency, coherence and reliability. Little wonder I found this year’s 750 words so difficult to summon up .. at first.
What would I say? What was important enough to flag up? What summed up Christmas this year? What were the words I’d want to whisper into a stranger’s ear seconds before the Nine Lessons and Carols began?
It’s not the tinsel. Nor the mulled wine. Not the turkey crown, leg of lamb or rib of beef. Not the wrapping paper. Not the Bucks Fizz, eggs Benedict, smoked salmon or Christmas pudding. Not the Queen, Downton or the Doctor.
It’s none of these things. It’s the mother of the man I sometimes pass on Wood Lane. The man I admire from afar. The man I wish I could be more like. The man who is always cheery. The one who always stops to say hello. The man who in recent days has taken moment after moment to craft painstaking updates about his own mother’s health and share them on social media – the rest of us gripped by our worst nightmare playing out in front of us, wondering how we’d cope in a similar situation and as each successive Christmas comes around.
I’ve no idea.
I’d originally wanted to write something personal.
I’d wanted to share something about how I found it so difficult to disentangle myself from work. How I resented the umbilical connection to my employer. How I eventually felt relief when I realised I had relaxed.
I’d wanted to describe the moment when I realised I was ‘on holiday’ and how marvellous Christmas was because of it. How, in marking this ridiculous holiday, many of us had both untangled ourselves and how at the same moment in time we had all miraculously and beautifully reconnected with the rest of society on a totally different level. Christmas as a near-primal thing. It’s a wonderfully beautiful thing. How breathtakingly clever and sophisticated.
And then the mother of a person who I feel as though I know but don’t feel as though I deserve to claim as a friend went and died. And at that moment in time I felt like Christmas was just an after-thought. Nothing more than a late-night in a club a teenage nephew gleefully reported at the dinner table.
Christmas irretrievably ruined.
A moment in time to mark. A moment in time to remember. A moment in time to forget. A moment in time to pose the question: And your purpose is what, exactly?
Spare a thought for the chap I feel a bit odd feeling protective of. I’ve no idea how he feels. I’ve no desire to know how it feels either. But he unreservedly deserves our thoughts, the poor bugger.
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 & the BBC World Service at 3pm GMT on 24 December. Every year.