Monday, December 21, 2009

Trying To Be Of Good Cheer

Accuse me of being a grumpy old bastard all you want but for a long while now I’ve thought this whole Christmas ritual would be a lot better if the build–up didn’t start around mid–August or September. In recent years the arrival of the winter solstice now seems to be an opportunity to celebrate the fact that there’s only a week to go before all this bloody nonsense is over.

Purposefully trying to blot out any thought of Christmas, I can never remember what damned day it all falls on so that it suddenly creeps up on me, which probably isn’t what I intended because that always puts me in the unfortunate position of having to cope with last minute shopping. I suppose it’s not too big a deal because as a family we only give each other nominal presents, but I could still do without it. The shopping isn’t the real problem, it’s the bumbling idiots always getting in the way that makes it as welcoming as a jalapeño enema.

Saturday morning, ready to get out and get everything done, I was low on cash and needed to hit the ATM first. So I join the queue and wait, and wait, and wait as people line up behind me. Usually it’s a simple process. The only time I’ve ever been held up is when there have been a couple of girls together who, between punching in their personal code and selecting the cash total decide to have a conversation or make a phone call. This time was much worse. At the machine was a mother with a baby in a pram and a daughter of maybe four or five years old. The problem was the child had hold of her mother’s cash card and was attempting to put it into the slot.

Unfortunately, at this particular location, the little fucker just wasn’t tall enough to reach however many times she tried. Maybe she insisted upon doing it or maybe it was some kind of stupid treat, but rather than take the card away from her and get on with the transaction the mother turned to everyone kept waiting in the freezing cold and gave us one of those, “ah, isn’t she cute,” looks. I don’t know if the mother noticed, or could even tell, but the look I gave her said, “get the card, get your cash and fuck off or I’ll be wearing your fucking skin as a coat when I drop kick the body of your irritating kiddie through a storefront window.” In the end I didn’t have to.

If the day started badly at least it ended well. My second and final Christmas party was held upstairs in the Nash pub where we could actually sit on leather sofas in front of the logs blazing away in the fireplace rather than be standing up against the bar, being jostled by strangers. And as well as the healthy selection of snacks from the kitchen spread out on the tables there was even a specially made cake. Although I didn’t miss it entirely, I even made it back home before the snow seriously started coming down.

Sunday, having offered to help the actress friend run an errand, I was relieved to find my services weren’t required, especially since it gave me the chance to stretch out and listen to all three parts of Radio 4’s dramatization of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Simon Russell Beale continuing in the role of George Smiley. If BBC television drama hasn’t been particularly brilliant this year, the plays on radio have certainly gone some way to make up the deficit. Jeremy Howe, the radio channel’s Commissioning Editor for Drama should certainly be congratulated for going ahead with The Complete Smiley season that began, back in late May, with Call For the Dead and A Murder of Quality.

Continuing through the summer with rather fine adaptations of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and The Looking Glass War, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy made a perfect end to the year, especially knowing that it carries on early next year with The Honourable Schoolboy, the second part of le Carré’s Karla Trilogy, broadcast towards the end of next month. If you missed any of them, shame on you! But if we’re not naughty but nice, maybe the BBC will eventually put the whole series out on a CD set once they’ve transmitted The Secret Pilgrim, the final drama, in June of 2010. I can’t thing of a better gift for next Christmas.


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