As that song goes - “And so this is Christmas and a Happy New Year,” it was John and Yoko I think, but never mind all that guff - are you surviving it all? Yes, I am as well, just about, as some would have it - as we struggle to maintain a certain amount of sanity and enjoy our stay here in the UK over Christmastide. First of all, making a wild guess, this year we have received approximately 8 (eight) Christmas cards from our loved ones and those who profess to like us. In another decade, we would be struggling to find space for our ‘Chrissy cards,’ but at the moment they have been artfully arranged around the small surface directly in front of the small television in our kitchen/diner. Normally, I am not a pedant, but in return for at least 37 (thirty-seven) cards sent out, I think that a measly eight in return is a bit of a poor show don’t you? If you have received one of our expensively purchased cards, yet have not been bothered to send one in return - that’s it, never again. As someone who has really nice handwriting, I was always in demand before Christmas to write cards as my ‘copperplate’ approach was incredibly classy. But, if you just want to send a selfie of yourselves along with your sprogs via social-media and telling all who wish to know that you will be sending the money, you’ve saved, in not buying Christmas cards to charity, I will personally hate you even more. This, for being both parsimonious, (Charity? What charity!) along with being totally self-obsessed and irritatingly holier-than-thou at the same time. This practice is known as “Posting a Boast,” You have been warned!
FORGET WORK, FAMILY FIRST
I jokingly made the point on social media that although there is an ever present drip-drip of fiestas during the winter months - in the UK you get nothing, not one Bank Holiday from between late August until Christmas Day and then New Year’s Day until Good Friday. Indeed, I made the rather cheap point that our Majorcan hosts would be hard pressed to die of hard work or overlong working hours now would they? In truth, this is a complacent Englishman’s take on something that is rooted far deeper than a knee-jerk Anglo Saxon work ethic it seems. Again, although I made this tiresome jibe at the amount of holidays that are on offer, and the subsequent ‘bridging’ that goes on - I for one think that we northern Europeans could take a lesson or two from Mediterranean countries. In one of the heavy duty British Sunday newspapers this weekend, there was a long and detailed article about how many people in the UK are totally out-of-control in terms of their “work/life balance.” When you read about British commuters travelling 4 hours a day to and from work, I feel slightly guilty moaning and groaning about a 10 minute slowdown on my way into Palma on a wet summers day.
Interestingly, the main reason that workers in the UK feel so under pressure at the moment is to do with modern technology. You would think that an 8 hour day is time enough to do the work that is demanded of you wouldn’t you? Well, that’s a nice thought; but via the internet and social media it seems that more and more people out there, get badgered by their bosses who don’t seem to grasp that employees should no be expected to be available 24/7. It may well be that this rather Victorian attitudes exist her in Majorca but I doubt it somehow. Without becoming too folksy about living and working on the island, it seems to me, that even although I may tease my Majorcan friends - they, not we Brits, have the right attitude to work and family priorities.
EXCITED KIDS AND RIPPED WRAPPING PAPER!
One of the delights of our regular Christmas visits to the United Kingdom is the family gathering my daughter and her husband host on Boxing Day. I’m sure that this sort of ‘party’ happens in many households everywhere and yet by its sheer simplicity it is by a long way my favourite day of the year. Ten of us gather together (6 grown ups and 4 kids!) to celebrate not only Christmas - but, ‘family’ as well. In saying this I am very much aware that not everyone has the advantage of a family to share this sort of enjoyment and that is a sad fact of life I know. Mind you, I like many others can sometimes forget the reality of a family Xmas - not just the glossy image much favoured by television commercials that never seem to acknowledge over-excited children ripping apart carefully wrapped presents and overcooked bite-sized snacks. And it has to be said, that as a person who by his very nature likes to have some sort of order to the present giving proceedings, I like the children to go in turn to collect their presents under the tree as I announce who they are for and who bought them. This procedure usually breaks down after about 3 minutes and the whole thing turns into a mad scramble of overly expensive plastic toys and abandoned wrapping paper. Moreover, at some juncture a child will cry because not all their presents are precisely what they may have written on that note to Santa and then the recriminations begin. “Why does granddad always get me an ‘educational’ present I hate?” or words to that effect, followed by my son claiming that - ‘How dare” I buy him a XL pullover, when it is obvious that he is barely a medium, “If that.” Never mind though - how many days in a year is it acceptable to drink alcohol at 10.30am and gorge yourself on sickly chocolates, so these things have to be balanced don’t they? However, like all good things - it’s best to know when to end it all. Experience suggests that arriving at the party around 11am and leaving sharply at 4pm is a good move.
Although loved ones might protest at your leaving, they want you gone, as knowing when to go is even more important than knowing when to arrive. So there you are driving home (I’m always the designated driver on Boxing Day - no, I don’t know why either!) with a warm glow inside you and you’ll be already looking forward to next year. Same time, same place? Let’s hope so.