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xmas Welcome to this December edition of Hackwriters and hope you'll stay to look around. Read us and review the amazing archives too. 14 years on-line and 7440 articles - reviews - stories - destinations.
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Editorial: Funny how a lot of important things happen in December. Nelson Mandela dies - the world mourns. He could have never have thought that would be possible in all those dark days of incarceration on Robben Island. I am hoping his legacy will see South Africa remain a fair and free democracy, but ANC corruption from Zuma on down is so endemic, it is in definite jeopardy. Our tribute here. Then Peter O'Toole dies - one of the greatest most compelling actors of the 20th Century. December also brings memories - Pearl Harbor attacked on Dec 7th 1941. A shock that woke up the USA to the real horrors of war. And now China playing games with it's airspace this December between Japan, South Korea and Taiwan gives notice of future battles to come. Watch that space - as they say.
Peal Harbour attack

Of course China should be congratulated for landing a lunar rover on the Moon this week - that's a positive development - 40 years since the first American landing. Asia dominates our news a great deal now. North Korea executing all who stand in the way of the glorious leader's total domination. Will the heavy boot ever lift off the face of North Koreans? One wonders what George Orwell would have made of that particular madness?

December brings with it a lot of baggage.  Did the year go well?  Did you achieve all you set out to do?  If not why not? And how can you make it better next year?  Trouble is you have to take the baggage with you and sometimes it’s heavy stuff. Some folks love Christmas.  Getting together with family and bickering over piles of food and complaining about all the repeats on TV. I’m not one of those. Never really liked Christmas – not for a long time.  Or family.  Or bickering. Or Turkey riddled with MRSA.

When I was younger we used to live in Africa and go to the beach on Christmas Day (usually Simonstown rocks where the Penguins live or Noordhoek Beach (but the ocean is too darn cold), but sadly now living in the UK in winter (and by a beach) it’s usually a brisk walk, well wrapped, battling against the wind. But at least there's a host of others doing it too and actually smiling at each other for that one day in the year.

Personally I’d like to go for a nice brunch in my favourite café, have a walk and then go see a movie.  None of these things are an option as you have to book some heavy festive meal somewhere at a crazy price – served by people who hate you for ruining ‘their’ Christmas. Plus there are always kids screaming or fighting over something all riddled with bitterness over the present they didn’t get, or the wrong colour of what they did get.  The Cinemas are closed and it’s all pretty bleak really. *We actually did this this year at the Black Swan and yes add dogs and floods into the equation. 'Nightmare at the Black Swan' in Surrey - PD James should have been there.

The ‘Holiday Season’ can be quite painful, especially if you are single, or old, or plain anti-social like moi.  People are full of resentment, the frenetic sales, the heaving crowds, the money you 'have' to spend.  With luck I’ll stock up on some good books by Patrick Rothfuss and hope that I can find a quiet coffee shop or pub with a crackling fire to read by.  Better still there’ll be the dog Barnaby we can borrow for Christmas and have nice walks in winter leaves.  But even now, as I write this I can still hear my sister screaming at the top of her voice ‘Why Can’t You Get Into the Christmas Spirit!!!’  She is the reason I dislike this time of year.  The pressure on faking happiness, gratitude, getting ‘stuff’ you’d never buy for yourself.  Christmas is for people who love pain and arguments in our family.  It has always been thus as I recall.

A Christmas memory:
John, a friend of mine at the Film School flew with me from London to Cape Town to spend Christmas with the ‘family’, only my sister had insisted it had to be at her house – 1000 ks away.  So we drove up through the Karoo via Kimberly in the summer heat and when we got there – she invoiced us for the two nights we’d be staying there.  This after refusing to serve me supper for some imagined slight…

I decided to leave. Sheer pettiness I guess - but there was a lot of history here. Poor John was utterly bewildered – to add to the problem – there was petrol rationing at that time and we ran out of gas in a University town called Grahamstown.  (Lovely blue Jacarandas are all I remember).  Someone took pity on us and we got enough gas to get to the coast.  Ran out in some godforsaken place at the coast and the only place we could get food was in an old people’s home.  Brussel sprouts and mash – even in the heat.  We nervously slept on the dunes.  John thinking he’d get his throat cut – me worried about scorpions (which I didn't mention to John obviously).  The next day John was taking photos in some remote mountain spot when suddenly we were startled by two African boys in full paint and spears journeying on their month long walkabout, their initiation to manhood, survival in the wildness time. They must have been as startled as us. Makes my brief time as a Cub seem pretty darn tame.

Blake We finally got as far as Port Elizabeth (where they make VWs) and found a rather scruffy hotel with rooms on Christmas Day.  Watched a 16mm movie - Robert Blake in the wonderful ‘Electra Glide in Blue’ on the hotel screen and swam on the beach in a warm Indian Ocean.  Dinner was hot dogs and box wine.  Perfect Christmas.  No family.  Not one argument and petrol was available again on Boxing Day. John, I think, perhaps doesn’t remember it this way and still shudders at the memory. 

Every year since then it’s been you have to spend it with ‘family’ – blackmailed with the ‘your mother may not be alive next year’.  Well only decades later did we discover she is immortal and will never depart this earth ever and now it’s time to rebel.  Leave her to my sister to scream at her, find the batteries for the hearing aide that doesn't work, cook the meals she won't eat, as there won’t be anyone else.  I’ll turn my phone off too – to make sure no one can check I am ‘happy’.  No doubt, as usual I’ll return to a pile of rubble, a wrecked oven, burned saucepans and a blown kettle – but I care not.  I will just have to face the dreaded question - ‘What are we going to do for New Year?’   Arghhhh
* My sister excelled herself this year and tore the door off the oven on Christmas Eve. Now I have to find £300 for a new oven. Sigh

Ignore me - you go out there and pretend to have a good time and perhaps when spending your money think about all those refugee kids from Syria who won't have a good winter and may never get back their own country except when every last one of the fighting 'adults' are dead.
The Editor December 2013


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