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“It is, frankly, a long way from Jesus.”

Where am I? I’m home yet today was … yes, mild and sunny. Mild means one degree celsius – no one is wearing tank tops and shorts – but I did have to get a lighter coat out of the closet. Thank you, gods of weather.

I had intended to get up and work this morning – ha. Not with Christmas just around the corner and I not in a frenzy yet. So it was frenzy time. Had to find an Xmas tree, a real tree in a pot. Went to the corner store, none, where there’d been scores before I went away. Wayson came over and I commandeered his car to drive around to the other stores in the ‘hood – none. Lesson: do not leave buying your tree in a pot till Dec. 21.

While I had his car, however, I picked up lots of wine, beer and Prosecco from the liquor store and a 17 pound turkey from Mark the butcher, who gave me a lovely hug and a gift for my decades of patronage. What would I do without Wayson’s wheels?

I went back later on foot to get more groceries from No Frills, and there, on Spruce Street, lying in front of someone’s house – I kid you not – was a Christmas tree. Abandoned, on December 21. I looked around to be sure – maybe someone had just thrown it down before putting it on their car? No. It was desolate and alone. So I took it home, went back to the hardware store to buy a base, set it up. Admired my handiwork – it’s actually more or less straight. Unlike many of my friends. Ha!

Then continued to No Frills to buy groceries for the big meal while the weather was good. Then listened to podcasts while wrapping.

So – the lights are on the tree, though the main decorating is to do with Eli on Xmas Eve. Almost everything – and believe me, it’s a bunch of books and second-hand scrips and scraps, the main gifts are winter coats and a bit of money – is wrapped. Most of the groceries are bought. Christmas is MOVING RIGHT ALONG at 308.

RIP dear Joe Cocker, who took one song and flew to the moon.

Here’s an excerpt from British writer Nell Frizzell, in the Guardian, with her funny and sour British take on Xmas. I’m thinking of you, Chris.

Christmas is the stick with which millions of us beat ourselves into brandy-soaked agony for being poor, single, childless, lonely, or simply bad at being jolly. It’s one thing to be single, skint and surrounded by dysfunctional relatives, but it’s quite another when the entire capitalist world is telling you that this is the most magical time of the year. We seem to have lost the script to a pantomime we never even believed in. We have ruined Christmas, without even trying.
Last year the TUC published a study that showed the average British adult borrowed £685 over the festive period, grinding them into a debt that would take until June to pay off. If that adult earned the minimum wage, it would take them an entire year to drag themselves out of Christmas debt – just to do it all over again. And yet adverts, pop songs, window displays and shop shelves scream out that we should be buying ourselves into an orgy of goodwill and glamour – that Christmas has no value unless you’ve paid for it.
It is because of this wild fury of expected expense that you will find yourself, panic-stricken, standing under a soul-sucking white light, gently sweating to Slade, holding four ugly brass candlesticks, a spotty teapot and some bath salts in the hope that someone, somewhere, will want them as a present. It is, frankly, a long way from Jesus.
If, like 7% of those recently polled by the BBC, you will be spending Christmas alone, then the burden can feel even heavier. Everything from washing powder to chicken nuggets is sold on the promise of yuletide love, affection and romance from about 27 September onwards. Yet it takes a stout heart and strong backbone to stare down Christmas single-handedly. And if, like mine, your family are a long way from the Bisto advert, then getting in the Christmas spirit can feel like a lost cause.
Of course, there is a solution. Stop giving presents, stop watching television, stop comparing yourself to adverts, and actually spend it with people you like. Some of the happiest Christmases I have ever known have been surrounded by a group of generous, thoughtful, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, half-Jewish, Scrabble-playing, dog-walking, potato-roasting friends. People who willingly set up three separate screens on the dining room table just so my 96-year-old grandmother could watch the Queen’s speech, on repeat, from every available angle.
This year, however, I am opting out altogether. I shan’t be driving home for Christmas. I have no tree, have wrapped no presents, will eat no turkey and mull no wine. Instead, I shall go for a run, listen to the headlines, eat a baked potato and watch a western with my mother. On Christmas Eve I plan to volunteer at the Hackney care leavers’ Christmas dinner, but the day itself is as blank as a fresh fall of snow. I can’t wait.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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