JAN MOIR: A tiny turkey and no in-laws? Hurrah for the cancellation of Christmas!
Muffle the bells, stop all the clocks, put away the silvered robins and the tinsel packs. For Christmas as we know it appears to have been cancelled this year.
Not since the 17th century, when Oliver Cromwell stopped Christmas altogether — and Mrs Cromwell kissed him on the forehead, put her feet up and told him he was an absolute darling — have our collective festive plans been tossed into such disarray.
In England, gatherings of more than six people from two households are banned.
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has opted for the same rule, but added that the number does not include children under 12, and any number of them can join the party. Shriek!
Could this hellish festive scenario get any worse?
The thought of six adults and unlimited kiddies choking down turkey in a small front room is most people’s idea of purgatory. It is certainly mine.
Muffle the bells, stop all the clocks, put away the silvered robins and the tinsel packs. For Christmas as we know it appears to have been cancelled this year
Suddenly, everyone’s festive celebrations have been pulled into sharp focus. Big family gatherings look like they are off the table this year, while there is no escape outside the home, either.
London’s Winter Wonderland has been cancelled, Berlin’s Christmas Market has been cancelled, office parties have been cancelled, hotels are closing their dining rooms, there’s not a panto to be seen and, up at the North Pole, Father Christmas must be considering his options. Perhaps we are all going to have to do the same.
For many, many families, of course, Christmas is the high point of the year: a time of blazing hearth and home amidst the bleak midwinter; a time to gather with family and friends.
Even if the Christian message is not important to you, or is not part of your religion, Christmas is still a significant date in the calendar year — a break from the humdrum and routine and with fairy lights!
Indeed, the very thought of it is one of the few things that has got us through this interminable lockdown.
Back in March, when we — I think I mean me — were all making jokes about panic buying, sourdough bread-making and leg wax meltdowns, it was all with the tacit proviso that, within a few weeks — months at the most — things would be back to normal.
By Christmas we would be wassailing and carolling as per usual. And now this! No one is laughing any more, because how much more can we take?
The mixed messages have been so confusing. Go out and eat pizza! Don’t go out and eat pizza! Enjoy this bargain meal voucher! Stay at home, you lunatic. One can fume at the covidiots who have caused these new constraints on our freedoms — and we all know who you are.
It is infuriating millions of us have to rely on the sensibilities of a small minority — or lack thereof — to live our lives but, at the moment, what else can we do?
Too many people — most of them young — think that the rules do not apply to them. Too many people have gone on holiday or to raves, or refuse to wear masks. There is little point in wasting any more energy on their idiocy.
Instead of the backlash that is gathering, perhaps it would be more constructive to reconsider Christmas itself, rather than steam away in fury like a bubbling pudding.
Mothers and wives — yes, they still bear the brunt of the festive season — might breathe a sigh of relief that they won’t be catering monumental roast dinners, cocktail titbits and cooked breakfasts for an army of invaders this year. Or turning their home into a hotel where no one ever pays the bills. A smaller turkey and no in-laws — what’s not to like?
And now that shopping sprees and exchanging presents with extended family members seem unlikely, might the brutal and endless commercialisation of Christmas be halted in its tracks for once — and leave us free to celebrate what is important, rather than what is advertised as the latest festive fad or must-have toy?
Perhaps we’ll see a resurgence in the sending of Christmas cards, a practice that has slipped away over the years.
I am not a Christmas denier. I love every bit of it, from the first bauble that pops up in John Lewis to the last fleck of glitter swept away. If there is a new cheese gadget from Lakeland (see below), it is on my list.
But we had all better get used to the idea that this Christmas is going to be very different indeed, and might it not be such a terrible thing after all?
First they came for our hairdressers. Then they came for our holidays. Now the Government seem hell bent on a collision course with Christmas, which looks like having a snowball’s chance of surviving in any traditional sense this year.
Is that good news or bad news? Neither. It’s simply up to us all to make the most of it.
Speaking of Christmas, Lakeland has excelled itself this year. Its website already bulges with nutty household knick-knacks such as electric omelette makers and tea bag squeezers; boiled egg toppers and handbag lights along with battery operated milk frothers, shelf organisers and waxed jam jar covers.
I like to think that Lakeland’s bestsellers say more about our collective psyche than any social study could. Namely that, despite everything, we are still a nation of crumb catchers and de-scalers, devotees of the squeegee, scraper and the baking tray organiser.
Particularly now, when everyone is spending so much time at home.
My favourite new festive gadget is this… well, what is it? A Cheese Sunbed? Look closer and you will see it is actually something called a Cheese Melter (£59.99), designed for a type of cheese called Raclette. It holds more than two and a half pounds of said cheese and makes it easy, Lakeland promise, to serve a ‘Swiss-style feast’. Just the thing to make the kind of late night snack that you will never wake up from.
My favourite new festive gadget is this… well, what is it? A Cheese Sunbed? Look closer and you will see it is actually something called a Cheese Melter (£59.99), designed for a type of cheese called Raclette
This gadget is the perfect gift for a cheese-aholic friend who doesn’t own a grill, an oven, a stove top or an ounce of common sense. Or anyone who, like Pippa Middleton perhaps, needs a gadget and instructions on how to successfully melt meltable cheese.
Barbara Amiel’s auto-biography, Friends And Enemies, which was serialised by the Mail this week, is gripping on many levels. I particularly love her thoughtful despatches on jewellery, from the frontline of international bling.
As the wife of media tycoon Conrad Black, Barbara had an entrée into Manhattan society and the ladies who controlled it; Nancy Kissinger, Mercedes Bass, Evelyn Lauder and Lily Safra, to name a few.
They were fantastically wealthy and liked to display their status with ostentatious gems.
Poor wee Barbara was practically a Little Match Girl in comparison. Strike up the tiny violins!
However, I’ve always suspected that when you get to this stratosphere of wealth, it is more about the men who buy the jewels than the women who wear them. (Perhaps we should make an exception for Beyoncé in her million-dollar emerald earrings singing at the inauguration of Barack Obama — the perfect blend of international girl power; inspiration and aspiration in one gorgeous image.)
At parties it was always men who noticed and remarked bitchily on Barbara Amiel’s pauvre jewels. Once, when she was wearing a loaned diamond necklace, the billionaire Jacob Rothschild sneered — correctly: ‘You’re wearing a tiara around your neck. Rather large! Is it comfortable?’
However, I’ve always suspected that when you get to this stratosphere of wealth, it is more about the men who buy the jewels than the women who wear them. (Perhaps we should make an exception for Beyoncé in her million-dollar emerald earrings singing at the inauguration of Barack Obama — the perfect blend of international girl power; inspiration and aspiration in one gorgeous image)
Later, the ‘King of Wall Street’ John Gutfreund told her that her emerald earrings were the wrong shade of green — they had too much oil in them.
How hateful of these people!
Yet after all her years of exposure to this ghastly gavotte of greed, Amiel concludes: ‘No matter how much you look into a gem stone, there isn’t really that much to see, even as you rhapsodise about its eternal flame or some such balderdash. It’s just status, adornment, wampum — a means to barter or transport wealth easily across borders.’
She’s so right. Don’t expect to see me in my ruby tiara ever again.
Does the Government really want at army of Covid marshals snitching on their neighbours? ‘Is Covid-19 turning us into a latter day East Germany?’ tweeted ITN’s political editor Robert Peston on this voluntary call to arms on Twitter. It suggests a nightmare scenario of busybodies in the mould of Gareth from The Office and Hyacinth Bucket taking it upon themselves to lay down the law. The sad thing is there are plenty of people out there just aching to put on a high vis vest and march around telling everyone what to do and where to go. Don’t park there, Madam. Put that barbecue out, turn off your engine, pick up that litter, put on a mask, turn down the music, keep your distance, be quiet, go home. What is even more tragic is that I am one of them. Where do I sign up? I’ve already got the whistle, the loudhailer and the pull-on bossy boots. STEP AWAY FROM THE communal PICK AND MIX, Sir. You’ll only do yourself a mischief.
I’m still stewing over my teapot
It was a bit of junk destined for a charity shop after decades in a garage and a loft. But a tiny ‘teapot’ in Derbyshire turned out to be a 250-year-old Chinese wine jug worth up to £100,000.
Experts identified it as a ewer used to serve warm wine during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor between 1735 and 1796. The owner believes it was brought back from China by his grandfather — and is thrilled that it might fetch a six-figure sum at auction. Who wouldn’t be?
So is it time to mention my Chinese teapot again? I’m not saying I will never get over it, but I will never get over it.
It was a bit of junk destined for a charity shop after decades in a garage and a loft. But a tiny ‘teapot’ in Derbyshire turned out to be a 250-year-old Chinese wine jug worth up to £100,000
Renovating my London home some years ago, I found a Chinese teapot in a lacquer case inside a bricked-up recess. I could hardly breathe for excitement. Until that moment, I had fondly imagined myself as someone whose head wouldn’t be turned by sudden riches.
Yet, moments later, I was sprinting towards the valuation department of Christie’s auctioneers, knocking over any old ladies or children unfortunate enough to cross my path.
Pant, pant, how much was it worth? £40. Early 19th century. Mass-produced. Bah. So I am glad someone else has hit the teapot jackpot… no stop it, I really am.
Just call us plain old Mr and Mrs Windsor. Not!
Recently I wondered on these pages why Harry and Meghan didn’t just pay back the £2.4 million owed for Frogmore Cottage and get on with their lives. It would stop so much grumbling and bless them with a lot more goodwill.
Yet again they have listened to the wisdom of Auntie Jan, and paid back the debt.
They waited until they had their Netflix millions in the bank, yes. But at least they did it and good for them. It was the right thing to do.
The next hurdle in their busy new life is the question mark over the use of their royal titles. Now that the couple have embraced egalitarianism and expressed their disapproval of royal privilege, rank and nepotism, surely it can only be a matter of time?
Actually, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they really did go ahead and ditch the Duke and Duchess titles. After all, they have already served their purpose — as an ermine-plated entrée into showbusiness.
Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, plain old Mr and Mrs Windsor can take their chances in life and roll with the punches, just like the rest of us.
Or perhaps not.
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