Julie Burchill: No wonder the nuclear family goes into meltdown after Christmas

Share
Related Topics

Don't care much for families. I adored my mum and dad, but to be honest I don't miss them much now they're dead. I was a rubbish mother myself, but I certainly can't put that down to bad parenting – it was all my own work. And the horror stories I've heard over the years about various friends' vicious run-ins with brothers, mothers, sisters and assorted related misters makes me miss what Dodie Smith called "the dear octopus" not one jot – especially at this time of the year.

All those queues for the sales – half a mile long, some of them, in the early hours of the Boxing Day/Bank Holiday mornings in near-zero temperatures. Sorry, but that's not just about getting 40 per cent of the price of a Sylvanian Families Babblebrook Grange playset at Hamley's – that's about not being able to stand the babble of your own your family after just a couple days in their bosom.

We are now entering the season for divorce lawyers to be jolly, and you really can't blame the Oxford solicitors Hine for distributing a little bit of festive fairy dust in the shape of thousands of leaflets advertising a half-price divorce promotion (from 800 down to 400 quid, the difference of which could pick you up any number of Sylvanian Families playsets) from January the 4th to the 21st for couples who have discovered an irreconcilable nut allergy to each other over the Christmas break.

The Bishop of Oxford has protested, but if you read the New Testament properly you'll see that Jesus wasn't at all big on the nuclear family, leading his poor old parents a right old dance and forever entreating marriageable young men (and prossies) to leave their loved ones and follow him in the cause of the greater good.

He's not the only one. A whopping 1.8 million couples contemplate divorce during the Christmas period, according to the Family Mediation Helpline. Relate, the UK's largest provider of relationship support, says that the feeding frenzy in New Year divorce proceedings follows a 50 per cent surge in the number of calls over Christmas. It's an image that reminds me of how our hardy swimmers here in Brighton plunge into the freezing brine on Christmas Day; about a hundred actually have the guts to take the plunge, but hundreds more watch shivering from the shore, pledging to themselves that next year, next year they'll pluck up the nerve to finally do it.

Because my third husband and I make very few demands on each other and – in the nicest possible way – have very few expectations of each other, as we are both so odd and self-contained, we get along very well over holidays, be they at home or abroad – the times when more claustrophobically-entwined pairs tend to come undone. But I don't remember the festive season being a bundle of laughs during my first two, more conventional, marriages, and I do remember a poignant exchange which heralded the end of the second one. "Isn't it bad," I said to my second husband on the Christmas Eve of 1994, "I always mean to think about Jesus at this time of year, and then all the parties start happening, and in the end I don't get around to thinking about him at all..." "Well, he must be the ONLY fit Jew between the ages of 18 and 30 you haven't been thinking about recently," quipped my old guy. We were over come summer.

My cynicism towards regular marriages leads me to look with a less censorious eye on that which might once have seemed freakish and I was surprised at how benign I felt towards the newly engaged Hugh Hefner and his gorgeous fiancee. What's in a name? You start with a Mildred, move on to a Kimberley and at the age of 84 you find yourself preparing for your third marriage to a 24-year-old Crystal. And people dare to diss the American Dream!

People may scoff at what the gorgeous young model sees in the tortoise-like old billionaire, but at least in this union each brings a foreign quality which their opposite number will surely appreciate. (Prince William understood this, too, and rejected a generation of international aristocrats in favour of a bourgeoise bride.) And this strikes me as far more appealing than those "normal" marriages where the partners are the same age, race, class and income group – a celebration of socio-economic smuggery, no less. And then surprise surprise, because you married someone who could pass as a member of your family, within a few years and a couple of tots the marriage has suffered bed-death, no one's getting any, he spends his time downloading lesbo porn, her on Mumsnet complaining about Rachel Weisz running off with James Bond (jealous, much?) and they're both hiding a half-price divorce leaflet from Hine inside their Boden catalogues. And a Happy New Year to you all!

A cruise with Prescott? Pass the sick bucket

When I'm not thrusting twenty pounds notes on beggars and urging them to spend it unwisely, there's nothing I enjoy more than blowing my cushily-earn-ed cash chasing the 5-star sun. I never even went abroad till I was 35, so I reckon I've got a sizeable carbon footprint to fill.

This being so, it's always been a mystery to me why I'm not tempted in anyway, shape or form by cruises. A new sun-soaked vista every day, numerous ill-paid staff to play boozed-up Lady Bountiful to – perfection!

But now I understand why I found it so easy to resist all these years. For fear of getting stuck on the QE2 with JOHN PRESCOTT. For FIFTEEN DAYS AND NIGHTS. Telling jokes about his wife's knickers. And VOMITING from noro-virus. It's like some hideous ocean-going existential version of CLUEDO.

How strange it is that Prescott once laboured in the servants' quarters of cruise ships, and was not without a certain nobility. And all these years later, all those secretaries shagged and toilet seats broken and croquet mallets waved and dinners up-chucked, he travels First Class yet has the aspect of an oaf.

Mind you, I can talk. If my 17-year-old self met my 51-year-old self, she'd be amazed that a person could have taken so many drugs yet still get so fat. The humourless, self-righteous little freak!

Stop kidding. It's not clever or funny

I'm not often shocked, but I almost spat my breakfast Valium into my Buckfast when I read that A THIRD of British kiddies aged 12 to 17 have admitted FAKING mental illnesses, seeing them as "trendy" and contributing to their idea of themselves as "unique", according the the online therapy service Mentaline.com.

The top five faked freak-outs were eating disorders (22 per cent), self-harming (17 per cent), addiction, depression and bi-polar. These young frauds need to be snapped out of it, PDQ. Or before you know it they'll be 19 and swinging on the Cenotaph and pretending to be a starving student when REALLY they're Little Lord Fauntleroy who've swopped a cummerbund for a keffiyeh, and their stepdad's worth a million billion trillion in loose change alone.

And how sad would THAT be – imagine!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us