In which The Author reflects on the festive season
Still, it’s been a major improvement on last year. Last year I didn’t go out over Christmas because of a combination of a heavy cold, heavy snow, and a heavy fall on the coccyx which managed to fuck my back up well into the springtime (see ‘Everything Changes
‘). Even though we haven’t had any snow – only constant rain bar a couple of dog-walking interludes – I thought this Christmas was going to be a similar non-event. I’m pleased to report that it wasn’t.
On Friday I had to go into town to pay my Council Tax, so I rather unwisely braved the elements. I tried texting and ringing C— without any success. We’d had a few drinks on Thursday afternoon, and I could tell then that she was on a mission to get drunk. I assumed she was sleeping it off.
Helen R. had mentioned on Facebook that she was going for a sunbed session. I texted her to know what time she’d be in town. As it happened, she picked up my message just as she was getting dressed afterwards, so we had a pint and a laugh together. It was nice to have some sensible conversation. This was what we in the valleys call ‘Black Friday’, after all. It’s the day when everybody finishes work for the Christmas break and goes out on a major piss-up.
[A digression: According to the BNP sympathisers I had the misfortune to sit with a few days ago, you mustn’t call it that any more on the spurious Daily Mail Political Correctness Gone Mad grounds that it’s ‘racist’. I discovered last year that it’s a load of right-wing propaganda when no less a person than Florence (born in Uganda) used that very term to describe it. I tried telling them that, but the irony was lost on them. There’s no educating a Sun reader, is there?]
Anyway, Helen went home and I walked up to the White Lion. I only had a glass of Coke because I could feel myself running out of steam. That evening I went to bed early, feeling under the weather to say the least. I had Leighton P.’s son’s Netbook with me. Last week I’d managed to get Sammy M.’s wifi working, so I’ve become the official White Lion Tech Support Desk. I’d volunteered to rescue Marcus’ girlfriend’s photos from what seemed to be a dead Windows system. I’d put a Live Linux stick into it while I was waiting for Helen to arrive, and was now waiting to back up all the photographs onto my external drive.
My batteries ran out long before the Netbook’s, and I had a sequence of extremely strange dreams through the night. Why a bunch of anarchist drop-outs living in Holland would be trying to sail across to West Wales and catch a train to Carmarthen is beyond me. Why one of them would be running a drugs cartel and selling his female friends into prostitution is a complete mystery. I really should start that dream diary in earnest.
On Saturday I went into town mid-morning, as I needed to get some last minute shopping in. On the way, on the off-chance, I rang C—’s number again. This time she answered. It turned out that she’d been parted from her phone in the pub on Thursday, but had sorted out a new one and transferred her number. Of course, that meant she’d also lost all her contacts. Back on grid at last, we arranged to meet for a drink in the afternoon. But before that, I had to perform my annual pilgrimage to Mammon’s Temple on Earth – Tesco.
It wasn’t so bad this year, in fairness. There was a Sally Army band in the concourse playing carols, which always makes me a bit more festive. I’d already decided I was going to treat myself to It’s a Wonderful Life on DVD. C— has a massive gap in her education when it comes to films, and that would be a great place to start her on the classics. Mother had come very close to striking gold last year when she bought me the same film on Blu-Ray. I still haven’t watched it, of course. To misquote Oscar Goldman, We don’t have the technology. I just told her that it was the next generation of Granotechnology and said nothing more about it.
Tesco had two whole racks of seasonal films, but even though I scoured the shelves for a good while, I couldn’t turn up a copy of Frank Capra’s masterpiece. I treated myself to Scrooge with Albert Finney instead. From the rest of my Christmas money I bought a pack of three Pilot V5 pens. They’re the only pens I can really use and stay decipherable later. It might not sound like much, but at £7.70 for three (now that the Back To School offer has expired) every little helps. From there, I decided to bite the bullet and walk into town.
Aberdare was quieter than I’d expected. I suppose if people hadn’t got what they wanted by that time of the weekend, they never would anyway. I got some last minute treats (a nice big pudding and a big box of shortbread, both marked down to half price) and a present for Stella before having a lemonade in the Conway. Halfway through, it occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten at all. I decided to have an all-day breakfast in Servini’s while poring over The Guardian Prize Crossword.
From there I went to the Prince of Wales and continued making vague stabs at Araucaria’s seasonal offering. Mary came out from behind the bar and told me she’d seen my ‘very attractive friend’ earlier, wearing a silver wig. That sounded like a fair description of C—. Before too long, she walked in, wearing her new wig, with a smart grey trouser suit and a shiny top. She looked fantastic, like a sexy 1960s vision of the perfect 21st century woman.
I’ve gathered over the last fortnight that she’s seeing a guy whom she’s keen on, but who doesn’t seem to pay her much attention. She seems to be more than a little frustrated with the whole situation. (In fact, on Thursday, when we were talking, I have a vague memory of telling her that I’d very much like it if we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I only hope the trauma of that revelation didn’t compel her to get pissed, and thereby lose her phone!)
C— had to go off to visit friends after our drink, so I gave her some of my shortbread to snack on. I made a last-minute dash around Iceland and headed for the bus. Now, not wishing to appear vaguely churlish or uncharitable, but on the bus was a lad who claims to be ‘disabled.’ He’s perfectly able-bodied as far as I can see, and appears to be of sound mind. Mind you, he’s very obviously gay – surely nobody can be that camp without having a beard (of either kind.) Maybe he’s playing the ‘mental illness’ card to try and come to terms with it. After all, I know many older men who were forced to accept that their sexuality was some sort of perversion when they were kids. It’s no wonder some of them had nervous breakdowns later in life. It was cognitive dissonance at its finest.
But this lad is not just camp, he’s annoyingly camp! If nothing else, he could work in a call centre (or maybe as a DJ on weekend Radio 2) as he never shuts up. What angered me was when he said (in a very loud voice to some people he’d only just met), ‘Well, I can’t afford a new cooker – I’m only on £168 a week!’ Hey, Rockefeller, that’s £400 a month more than I get – and I’ve paid into the fucking system for twenty-five years!
Still pissed off by Mr Skint, I went home and watched Scrooge. It’s a great film. It’s hard to believe Albert Finney was only 34 when he played both old and young Ebenezer. And who doesn’t love Alec Guinness doing his comic turn as Marley? I can’t wait to watch it with C—. After that, while I was listening to the radio, my cold caught up with me big time and I crashed out well before eleven o’clock.
I was out for a good twelve hours before I remembered I was having lunch in the pub. Kath M. had invited a gang of the regulars to join the family for Xmas dinner. It was unexpected, generous and totally welcome after the last two washouts (or white-outs.) I had a bath, made some breakfast, and watched the Outnumbered Christmas special to get in the mood.
There was a fair crowd in the pub when I got there. We had a nice couple of drinks before lunch. I put some of Annie Lennox’s Christmas Cornucopia on the jukebox to set the mood during the meal, and everyone feasted well. Afterwards I took the stage and proposed a toast to the family, friends, and the pub in general.
After gateau, Stella and I went for a walk before the evening session. For some reason the pub filled up with youngsters, and there was a rather odd atmosphere. I was ghosting Stella’s blog when C— rang me to see where I was. Soon afterwards she called in for a drink, looking great as always, on her way to a friend’s party. We hadn’t been talking for long when a drunk young boy tried to start a fight with a guy twice his size. It was the only low point in a great weekend.
Before C— left I managed to get a Christmas kiss from her. It’s the first proper kiss I’ve had from a girl for ages. I’m not one for making new year’s resolutions any more, but I’d be happy to show her a kind and loving relationship (not necessarily even involving sex) if she’d give me the chance.
The pub closed at midnight and I decided to watch the 1939 version of Goodbye Mr Chips (again!) – another beauty which has passed C— by. And so to bed.
This afternoon’s already sorted out. My old friend Rowland is in town, and we’re meeting in the Prince for a couple of pints or five. I’ve invited some interesting people whom I think will fit in well with our eccentric drinking occasion. This could get messy. Watch this space (or the Look Who’s Been in Court section of the Cynon Valley Leader) for more details as and when they emerge …