Well, the Christmas season is almost upon us with all that entails: horribly saccharine TV adverts urging us to go bust to buy gadgets we don’t need and will never use. (Actually, there is something of the pot calling the kettle black in my criticism of gadget queens, so I shall move on swiftly). I’m not suggesting that there hasn’t always been a commercial dimension to Christmas and everything about it, but I was brought up a Catholic by a German mother, and it was first and foremost a religious festival, however much we youngsters looked forward to presents. We even had an Adventskranz with its four candles, one more lit each Sunday in the run-up to Christmas. My brother and I were sent off to confession on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, probably to get us out of the house while my mother made last-minute preparations. We celebrated Christmas in the German way, which was on Christmas Eve. First we would have supper, then gather round the Christmas tree, which, in those days, were lit with real candles. My mother was rather sniffy of people who used electric candles, but I have to admit they are safer. Now, my wife being Cornish (to call her English just sounds plain wrong), we celebrate in the English way, which is ‘opening presents on Christmas morning’. I prefer the German way. Maybe only because that was what I knew as a child.
This Christmas might well be different occasion, of course. Earlier today North Korea bombed a South Korean island; the Irish have finally been forced to accept a bailout they didn’t want and will probably be forced by the Germans, who are stumping up much of the cash, to raise their rate of corporation tax (which, being lower than elsewhere, made Ireland such an attractive
country to invest in and which did, indeed, attract many foreign companies); al Qaeda have been too quite for too long (‘I don’t’ like it, Carruthers, it’s too damned quiet. I smell trouble.’ Carruthers is pictured on his day off on a shoot.) As al Qaeda are Muslims, they don’t share our sentimental attachment to Christmas and will not be at all bothered if they somehow spoil the jollies.
Then, when I arrived at work this morning, I passed a long queue outside the High St. Kensington H&M branch, which is holding a ‘pre-season sale’. That can be translated as ‘we know you haven’t got much money anymore, but we also know you’ll have a damn sight less after Christmas when the budget cuts really bit, so we’d like to take this opportunity to relieve you of as much of it as possible before the shit hits the fan’. Ironically, because of the extra money I have been earning putting together the Mail’s puzzle pages, we shall have a bit more money this year than in previous year’s, which is rather useful, especially as some bugger reversed into my car last week while I was away and stoved in the passenger door, which will cost me around £400 to have repaired. Wesley has set his heart on an Xbox which was at first going to be a joint present with Elsie, but to be honest, Elsie doesn’t have the slightest interest in computer games, so that would have been a little unfair, so the idea now is to make a contribution to him buying himself one. They are not cheap, despite the extra moolah I now have at my disposal. And there is always the chance the Mail might decide it can do without my contribution. Never, ever, say never. No one is ‘indispensable’. I’ve seen too many people handed their P45 the last thing on a Friday night to feel at all comfortable. And it doesn’t mean you are useless, it just means their plans no longer include you. The Mirror has virtually no subs left. The subbing of all its feature pages has been contracted out to the Press Association in some base in Yorkshire, and there are around nine news subs left in London. Newspapers always do that to cut costs: get rid of staff then hand the executive a bonus payment for thinking up the wheeze. Fuckwits, all of them. It’s enough – or almost enough – to turn you into a commie. You were warned.
Which is all a long way from Christmas, except to say mid-December is the time when the Guardian traditionally has a round of redundo. Yes, the saintly Guardian, which has most of its ‘staff’ on short-term contracts, long enough to ensure they don’t go elsewhere, but short enough to ensure they don’t qualify for a range of employment rights. As a general rule the more sanctimonious the newspaper, the more ruthless its employment policy.
I’ll get in first before all other bloggers: Happy Christmas and let’s hope the New Year will not be as bad for you as it promises to be.
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Speaking of the puzzles pages, there have been larks aplenty here at the Mail with the 'imminent' redesign of the puzzle pages. For 'imminent', read 'imminent for the past two and a half months'. As usual with newspapers, everyone and their dog must have their say, and the editor, who will give the final go-ahead, is bound to hate everything about the news pages, in which case they will be redesigned yet again. The latest launch date, the 43rd I think, was to be next week, the week beginning November 29, but it looks as though it has already yet again been put back, I think because someone's is on a day off, or the Devil hasn't seen it, or they've lost a phone number or something. You'll all know about it once it appears: a general red look will be replaced by a general blue look (although I can assure you that has absolutley nothing to do with the Tories replacting Labour in government a few months ago), the type face is a more modern DM Truth bold and there are a few new puzzles with equally facetious names ('Gogen' and 'Ekwee') with others being dropped. My job will be not change, however (for what it's worth, as I knew you were wondering). God bless Caxton (or was it Gutenberg?) - answers, please, on the usual postcard which you can then rip up and throw away.
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There is a growing suspicion that the euro is ‘no use’, a ‘busted flush’, about as useful a currency as chocolate coins. This is a bit harsh. The euro is, undoubtedly, going though a sticky patch, and, it has to be said, the chances of it surviving in its present form are very slim indeed. But it does have its uses. Here are several:
1 If you have a wobbly table or chair, a euro might well be just the right size to ensure greater stability. Just pop it under whichever table or chair leg is shorter and the job is done. For greater permanence, you could superglue the euro in place.
2 If you are a fisherman and habitually use lead weights to hold down your flies, use euros instead. They are far cheaper than lead, and several glued together will prove just as useful.
3 You might well have occasion to draw a number of circles which are more or less the size of a euro. What could be simpler than using a euro piece as your guide? Just hold it in place with a finger, run a sharpened pencil around its edge and there you have it – perfect circles!
Further suggestions are most welcome.