Christmas, as the
TV adverts would have us believe, is a joy-filled time of goodwill to
all men, a real family occasion, a time for giving thoughtful presents
and indulging in all the delightful seasonal treats on offer. The reality
can be very different, family can become people we hardly know. Presents
arent always that carefully chosen or wanted. As for the seasonal
delicacies, does anyone really like liqueur filled chocolates or dates?
Its no wonder that some people get fed up with Christmas when
the big day itself has an excessively long build up. Once Guy Fawkes
Day is out of the way, towns and cities hoist up their Christmas lights
and the shops go into overdrive to entice us into spending our cash.
What always annoys me is the office Christmas tape. A fellow member
of staff will bring in a tape of festive tunes in early December, sentencing
his or her colleagues to hours of Mistletoe and Wine and
other songs best forgotten. Think twice, however, before complaining
that Christmas has lost its true meaning. Lament the over commercialised
nightmare that it is becoming and youll suffer taunts of Bah,
Humbug! wherever you go.
Having said all that, I dont actually hate Christmas at all -
in fact for me its usually been pretty good. Its just easy
to let the negative aspects cloud our minds and become jaded with the
whole idea. If you want to see just how much youd miss Christmas
if it didnt happen, then try being ill.
Obviously this presents a problem; its impossible just to summon
up a minor ailment. But I didnt need to because I caught the flu.
I first noticed something was wrong on the evening of the 23rd. Its
my birthday on Christmas Eve, which when I was younger seemed ideal.
It meant that I got presents a day before everyone else. When youre
older though, and want to go out with friends to celebrate, then Christmas
Eve must be one of the worst birthdays to have. Its a day when
people are heading off to see their families. The only option therefore
is to celebrate beforehand, so this year I arranged it for the 23rd.
Within the first hour I was declining offers of birthday drinks. I felt
totally exhausted, a bit nauseous and had a headache brewing. So I walked
home early with my girlfriend Lynn. The next day it really kicked in.
I have heard doctors suggest a way of distinguishing between colds and
flu, in bid to stop us overcrowding their waiting rooms with cases of
minor sniffles. They cite the five pound note on the pavement test as
a way of self-diagnosis. That is, if you see a fiver lying in the street
and cant face crouching down to pick it up then youve got
the flu. That morning I wouldnt have stopped to pick up even a
To make matters worse, my girlfriend succumbed to the same nasty microbes
just hours later. When she had left me lying in my sick bed she seemed
totally fine. Lynn had gone to Tescos to get some last minute Christmas
shopping. When she returned it was evident that the flu had taken hold.
We wanted to wait until Christmas morning before deciding whether to
cancel our plans or not. We were going to my Uncles farm in Suffolk
for a few days, as had become tradition in my family ever since I was
little. We were not feeling very optimistic about the chances of recovery
but were reluctant to accept the likelihood of spending Christmas on
the sofa with a box of tissues and some paracetamol. We didnt
need to wait for the morning to settle our plans, we both spent the
night waking occasionally in a hot fever or rushing off to the toilet
to be sick.
So Christmas for us was spent on the sofa in front of the TV. We watched
childrens cartoons in the morning, the Queens speech later
on, then drifted in and out of sleep all afternoon and evening. We received
the occasional text message from family and friends, who were all having
a great time. The comedy highlight of the day for us didnt involve
corny jokes in Christmas crackers, or the hysterics that ensue when
trying to play Pictionary when drunk. It was when Lynn sneakily took
a photo of me whilst I was sitting with a tissue stuffed up each nostril.
For my part it was a purely functional attempt at removing the need
to continually blow my nose, as it was getting very sore. But even before
Id seen the photo I realised that I must have looked quite comical.
Christmas Day came and went but the flu lingered on. I now understand
the importance of immunisation programmes for the vulnerable. I have
already mentioned the snot, headaches and nausea but thats not
all it brings. Every limb aches so those simple tasks become feats of
endurance. Your bodys thermostat breaks down so that you have
to alternate between semi-nakedness and full Eskimo attire.
The day after Boxing Day things began to improve and we somehow mustered
the energy to get out of the house. We hobbled down the street like
an old couple propping each other up. We hadnt eaten anything
but soup for days and we felt in need of something more substantial.
All we could find open was McDonalds. We sat eating our cheeseburgers
in sulky silence, wishing Christmas had turned out how we had planned,
and also feeling slightly unsure about whether our stomachs were ready
to accept solid food. On the way home we looked forward to a nice warming
drink, not mulled wine of course, but a festive mug of Lemsip.
Never again will I side with the cynics who regard Christmas as a time
for crap TV, unwanted presents and having to tolerate obnoxious relatives.
It may well involve those things to some extent but I dont care.
Thats half the fun.