Andrew Martin: Here we go again. Now surprise me...

I like the rituals of the season. Up to a point...

Related Topics

Emerging from A Christmas Carol in 3D last week, and acclimatising to the real world – which, disappointingly, is not quite as three dimensional as that of the film – I asked myself the question prompted in my mind every time I see a version of that story: "How Scrooge-like am I?"

The answer is that, if some stranger stopped me in the street and said, "Merry Christmas, sir!" or – less Dickensian but more likely – "Merry Christmas, mate!' I wouldn't reply, "Bah! Humbug!" but rather, "Merry Christmas? Oh yeah, definitely. Same to you." It's not that I anathematise Christmas – I'm just bored by it. Obviously, Christmas is meant to be always the same. It is a religious event for most of us, at least in the sense that it is ritualistic. That's why the current Radio Times is modestly billed as "The Legendary Christmas Issue".

If you hear one bloke saying to another in the pub, "What are you up to at Christmas?", you never hear the answer, "Don't know.... Play it by ear, I suppose." Instead, the answer is in the present tense, "Well, the wife's mother comes down on the morning of Christmas Eve, then we ..."

If I wanted to ruin my own wife's Christmas, I'd just have to say, "Why don't we have smoked salmon with the scrambled eggs on Christmas morning, instead of just scrambled eggs on their own?"

Perhaps it's just mid-life, but I have the sense (a) that my Christmases are never as good as they were the year before and that (b) they weren't that good the year before, either.... So there's no point trying to emulate the year before.

I've had a few New Years when unexpected things occurred. On New Year's Eve in about 1984, I was in the Lamb and Flag, Blossom Street, York, when a plausible, charming man came up to me and my mate, and handed us an address, saying, "Want to come to a party? You have to bring a bottle." "But we've run out of money," we said. "Oh well," he said, "Come anyway."

A little while later we turned up at the address given – a stylish Georgian house – and the door was opened by a beautiful, laughing young woman dressed in a slip, and holding a bottle of whisky and a cat. In the background was a selection of the most glamorous people from York University (as I subsequently discovered) dancing to "Miss You" by the Rolling Stones. It was a good party.

And last New Year's Eve, I found myself on the beach at Southwold with some children I liked (don't worry, I'm CRB cleared, and they included my own) watching fireworks being let off. This was good because we didn't know there were going to be fireworks.

But it's less likely that different things will happen on Christmas Day, because Christmas Day is a lockdown. In my childhood, there was only one that was different, and that was when Uncle Cliff came round to us. Normally, you see, we went round to him, but Uncle Cliff was a bachelor, and had better things to do than spend quality time with his extended family at Christmas, so he came round to us because this – I see in retrospect – this would allow him to leave our company at a time of his rather than our choosing. But I believe his motivation made him guilty, so he went over the top with the presents. Instead of a selection box (his usual), he bought me what remains the most exciting present I have ever received: a Dinky Model of a Chipperfield's Circus transporter lorry.

This Christmas I'm hoping for a jolt of some kind: a power cut on the big day, perhaps, or Uncle Cliff himself turning up on Christmas Eve. That certainly would be a jolt, since he's been dead for 30 years.

Andrew Martin is the author of The Last Train to Scarborough (Faber)

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own