December 2018


December already. How did that happen? It only seems a short while ago that I was staring out of an office window and moaning about how I’d had enough of dark nights and that Spring needs to hurry itself up.

Of course, the month brings with it all the trappings that make us love and hate it in equal measure: dark nights, tinsel, a barrage of adverts for things we neither need nor want, Santa, mulled wine, stupid jumpers, predictable films that have been on so many times they have become nothing more than background noise (yes – Elf), the Coca Cola lorry, fairy lights in the street that make it look as though the asylum has taken over, gridlocked roads, panic buying, office parties… I could go on. Needless to say, these are not my favourite things. There is, however, one seasonal event that puts a smile on even my face: our tennis club’s Christmas Show.

Now, some explanation is required as this is not your run-of-the-mill amateur performance. This is a full-blown, never seen before, visual and audio extravaganza that utterly defies description. This is not a panto; this is not a play; this is not a musical.Show This is the BTC Christmas Show and this year it was ‘Start Trek – The Return’. And in this live action shot you can see the ‘crew’ talking ‘on-screen’ to a group of aliens from The Black Planet Evil. The production is virtually indefinable as it is written in a manner that no other play is ever written. There are usually somewhere between a dozen and nineteen of us in the show and we each have an equal number of lines. This is either to promote equality within the ranks  or to ensure that no-one has an onerous number of lines to learn. I suspect the latter. It also means that there is no main character and no secondary or support characters which gives it an unusual shape to say the least. It is comprised of two acts, each of four scenes. That’s about the only normal thing that can be said about it. It is also performed in conjunction with an impressive consumption of alcohol from beginning to end. Improvisation is discouraged but is nevertheless an integral part of the show. The fourth wall is always broken.

Copyright is pretty much disregarded (as can be seen by the poster) but, as the whole posterthing is an effort to raise money for charity (St Luke’s this year) then we all feel pretty relaxed about staying strictly within intellectual property rules. The club has no stage as such so the set is built in the middle of the floor with various home-made wooden platforms, blacks stapled to flimsy frames and painted back-boards screwed to the stage and ceiling. If you ran headlong at it then it would disintegrate into what would look like a pile of washed-up beach debris. The lighting is excellent however: high-powered LED lamps controlled through a Behringer Eurolight LC2412 DMX control box that requires a minimum of PhD level knowledge to connect, programme and operate. We have various scribbled notes from previous years as guidance but it is only used once a year (generally) and, after the first few failed attempts at programming colours to faders, we generally start drinking. It is through this haze of artificial confidence that we often stumble across the secret code that makes the thing work. Maybe we should video ourselves one year.

It’s hard to think of anything else that I find tolerable at this time of the year. I suppose, to some extent, the minimal seasonal decorations that we permitGonk Tree illicit a degree of tidying so we do get to enjoy a slightly more organised environment for a few weeks. We don’t go mad though. We’re happy to acknowledge the festive season but fall short of turning our house into Santa’s Grotto. I know some people love it but it’s just not for us. For instance, this has been our Christmas Tree for a number of years now. I see no reason to make any more effort than this as it acknowledges fun and Christmassyness in just the right degree. It takes roughly seventeen seconds to put up and the only potential difficulty is if the batteries on the little stars run out.

However, there has been a development that was entirely unforeseen. We have people living with us who do rather like a bit of the Christmas spirit. My Bah Humbug routine is not only going down badly but it is also been ignored somewhat. We are in the process of reorganising our living area so I am slowly getting used to unexpected change if I’ve been out of the house for any length of time. It is almost always an improvement so something to look forward to. I was the only person at work yesterday and when I returned there was considerable change and the living area was not only almost clear but also welcoming. It was as I sat down to enjoy this new-look environment that I suddenly became aware of a most unusual addition to my surroundings.

There it was! Bold as brass! I have no recollection of giving written permission! However, I have to admit to finding it marginally tasteful. At least it isn’t done up like a dog’s dinner. I did ask where it came from and was told ‘upstairs’. treeI wasn’t even aware that we owned a tree. However, admitting that I quite like it is not in anyway a U-turn from me. It isn’t, after all, in the list of things that irritate me at the beginning of this piece. And it’s also a sober reminder that even people with different outlooks on life, with different values, with different tastes and preferences, can live in harmony. I guess it’s a lesson we could all do with learning in these times of intolerance and hatred. I might add that it is the young people in the house that perpetrated the event. That also fits with my hopes for the future. I think it’s time that those of us with fixed, political views and moral high-grounds butted out of the equation and let the youngsters run things for a while. It’s worth repeating: the future belongs to the youngsters; we’ve had our go and made an utter hash of it. The fifty, sixty, seventy and eighty year-olds, that have imposed their stupid will on their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Though I voted with the majority of younger people, I am still utterly disgusted to be even associated with the selfishness of mine and older generations that are pursuing an imaginary world that never existed anyway other than in Enid Blyton books.

So angry that I’ve descended into tautology. Yeah, hand it to the kids. They couldn’t possibly make as big a mess of it all than we have, could they?

Anyway, calm calm, back to the picture… there, peeping round the side of the tree, witnessing this decorative transgression, is our other regular Christmas visitor: Norman the Gnome. Creepy little bugger! He, coincidentally, started life as a prop in the BTC Christmas Show the year that we did Fawlty Towers.

So, a relatively uncontroversial blog this month. I’m making a huge effort to see the positives that life holds for us (I know, there was a moment there). After all, we only get one shot at this. With all the nonsense that is going on in politics at the moment, I think we owe it to ourselves to ignore the buggers and just try and enjoy ourselves.

Don’t vote – drink gin! That sort of thing.

I’m certain to be back on a pedestal by January; there’s plenty of unfinished shit to deal with. In the meantime, get a bit of my website.