Help! Is it really a whole week to go? I'm not sure I can stand any more ...

Share
Related Topics
Another week? Whaddya mean it's not for another week? I feel as if I've already lived through a dozen Christmases in the past few days. I've done the multi-course seasonal lunch with 17 people eating goose and remarking how much more rewarding it is than turkey. I've already had the paper hats and squeaker thingies (crackers are now apparently mandatory at any meal in December that involves children) and the seasonal jokes about Michael Hutchence and Louise Woodward. I have flirted with the furthest extremes of unconsciousness by pouring Corvoisier over any and every pudding (except creme brulee). I have shopped and, furthermore, I have dropped. I've put in the hours at Accessorize and The Pier and Body Shop and Toys "R" Us and Peter Jones and Harvey Nichols, until I can stand no more sightings of Teletubbies Custard, vanilla-flavoured ("perfect for teenagers") lip gloss, cunningly wrought metal candle-holders, plastic money purses containing goldfish in water, Marilyn Monroe Barbie dolls, TV remote control holsters shaped like snoozing pussycats, pepper grinders shaped like claret bottles, plum-pudding-and-holly-sprig earrings, and silk blouses made of something that isn't silk. (These new words you have to learn - I'd just got my tongue round "ecru". I'd come to terms with asking for "devore". But what on earth is "cupro"?)

Out in the London streets, it has been like a dream of Christmas Past. I took an hour last Saturday struggling home up the road from the local garden centre, bent double under an eight-foot Nordic Spruce like one of King Wenceslas's more put-upon gatherers of winter fu-uu-el. Last night I sat in my Executive Outhouse/Garden Shed, trying to write with frozen fingers encased in Bob Cratchit mittens, waiting for the coughing wall-heater to do its stuff, and muttering "God bless us all, every one" through rattling teeth. This morning, inching the car through the horizontal sleet, I noticed, on the left, one frozen waif with tragic dog companion, propped against the wall in a cardboard sleeping- bag, then, on the right, one of those self-consciously archaic Edwardian vans steaming by on spindly bicycle wheels, advertising (I think) a screen- printing process, while in front Tower Bridge loomed up through the relentlessly falling white stuff, and I thought, my God, I've driven straight into an Atkinson Grimshaw painting. On the bridge, the traffic grunted and sighed as it tried to circumvent an awkwardly parked Corporation of London lorry, from which two chaps in overalls had descended in order to scatter tiny amounts of sand and grit under the feet of passers-by, as though dispatched to feed some very small sparrows. You have never seen epic pathos before. You are looking at it now.

And I've done the parties. I've done the Christmas book launches (ludicrously crowded), the style magazine, nobody-gets-out-of-here-'til-4am Christmas parties (ludicrously violent). I've done the office party in the Greenwich pub, where you try to interest the new work-experience girl in a half- remembered dance step (the Frug? the Shag? the Ageing Sexual Deviant?) and are unkindly captured on Polaroid cameras by the treacherous houris of the fashion department. I'd done the kind of party which starts well - you pop along to a fashionable restaurant off Regent Street, for a longish but civilised lunch with friends and perhaps a single glass of amusing chardonnay - but ends badly, with a tray-load of vodka martinis at the Atlantic Bar and a sudden inexplicable inability to utter coherent sentences any more, because someone has clamped your mouth with polystyrene and emptied the contents of a Victorian bolster between the cracks ...

I can't take another week of this. I shall be a frozen alcoholic or a terminal curmudgeon if it goes on any longer. Is it too late to fly to the Maldives, like the heads of British water companies seem to do about this time of year?

If you were thinking of flying off to sunnier climates, there is something you should know. Judging by some punishingly exhaustive research, I can reveal a paradigm shift in the capacity of the Islamic world to enjoy itself. My colleague Simon Calder, the wand'ring minstrel of the Travel section, presses into my hand a useful supplement from Travel Weekly magazine, detailing all the sybaritic wonders on offer in the Business Class of various world airlines. Scanning this catalogue of airborne hedonism, all the offers of free champagne, free chauffeurs, free hot towels, free stationery, free amenity packs, free headphones, free hors d'oeuvres chauds, free arm-rest telephones, reading materials, use of in-flight Internet, free wool cabin wear and free oral sex from Fiona and/or Jeremy (only kidding), your eye falls naturally on the airlines servicing Islamic countries. Memories of a frighteningly sober trip to Kuwait in the mid-Eighties come flooding back.

But what is this? Airlines that used to be as dry as an Ayatollah's sense of humour have had a rethink. "Free bar service with champagne and choice of at least four wines" is reassuringly, indeed insistently, offered by Emirates Air. Over at Pakistan International, they promise "free drinks" without specifying further. At Qatar Airways, they proudly announce, "Qatar Airways is no longer a dry airline and offers a superb choice of champagnes and wines from around the world", while Royal Brunei Airlines has a sneaky compromise - they won't serve alcohol, but you can drink your duty-free stuff and "the crew will happily provide ice and mixers". Only Saudi Arabian Airlines keeps the faith, promising "a special fruit cocktail" (yum-mee), tea and coffee, but no alcohol. So now you know. Book that flight to Brunei now.

The drink issue is, I hear, taking on a sudden importance in the Arab world, because, by a disastrous lunar caprice, the beginning of this year's Ramadan is likely to fall on New Year's Eve. Nobody can be certain, since the beginning of the holy month is decided when two men verify their independent sightings of the new moon in front of a tribunal of seven religious judges. (Telescopes are frowned on as un-Islamic). Since Muslims are forbidden to drink, eat or have sex from sunrise until well after sunset during the days of Ramadan, the coincidence of dates would, some think, put a considerable damper on any East-meets-West New Year frolics. And that's why, I hear, Arab hoteliers from Cairo to Abu Dhabi are currently trying to persuade the Muslim divines that another date - ooh, say January 2 - would be far more appropriate ... But however you spend it, Merry Christmas.

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum