I am not feeling at all Christmassy. This is not due to any Scroogish bah humbug tendencies. I love Christmas and refuse to get cross about it. I don’t even mind that it has become too commercialised, which is the general contemporary complain. The wail is that Christmas has become all about presents and shopping, when really everyone should be sternly contemplating the Baby Jesus. A lot of people get furious bees buzzing in their bonnets and talk crossly of the ‘true meaning of Christmas’, whatever that is.
Usually, by this stage, I would be decking the halls, but the halls remain resolutely undecked. This is partly because I’m running up to another deadline, and I can think only of character arcs and plot development and tightening up my paragraphs. It is partly because my red mare has taken a glorious leap forward in her education and so when I am not thinking about work, I am contemplating the beauty of a soft cue. It is also because dear old Scotland, after a vicious storm which blew in from the west, has reverted to her most benign and gentle state. Morven, my favourite mountain, usually bright white with snow at this time of year. This morning, it remains resolutely unfestive.
The sun shines every day, and the turf is green and springing, and the temperature soars to an absurd thirteen degrees. We do the horses in our shirtsleeves and each morning I ride up to the top of the hill and look out over the rolling mountains, which are blue and serene in the light. It looks more like October than December. There are no glittering hoar frosts to get the Christmas spirit stirring, no holly berries traced with silver, no hint of snow.
I suspect it is also because I do not watch commercial television. This is not a famous last stand against the kind of cheap entertainment which rots the brain. It’s just that I grow old and fogeyish and prefer Radio Four. So I do not see all the advertisements which want me to rush off to the shops and buy festive items and appropriate foodstuffs. I see no comedy reindeer, hear no sleigh bells, observe no laughing Santas. The nearest I get to anything remotely Christmassy is Linda rehearsing her pantomime in The Archers.
I’m also on a bit of an economy drive. I like shopping for Christmas. It is not just the choosing of clever presents which I enjoy, it’s the getting of a ham, or armfuls of eucalyptus, or delicate silvery jangly things to hang on the mantelpiece. This year, in the new austerity, I am going old school, and making most of my presents, and relying on the old decorations which live in the Christmas cupboard, and next week I shall go out into the hedgerows and gather my own greenery. The red mare, unbelievably muddy and furry and scruffy. It is too mild for rugs, so she takes the opportunity to indulge in a daily mud bath. I suppose I could brush her up and put some tinsel in her mane, but I almost certainly won't.
The funny thing is that, without meaning to at all, I have denied that commercialism which makes everyone so cross. I do admit, it is rather restful. There is not the usual stress and challenge, the annual drive to make this Christmas the most Christmassy ever. It’s all very calm and low key, and leaves my mind free to contemplate vague things like goodwill to all men, and women too. I’m not going to get so pious as to give everyone a goat for Africa instead of an actual wrapped present; I shall impose no self-denying ordinance to ignore the festival altogether. It’s just a rather quiet, bare bones thing this year.
It is amazingly soothing. I wonder if, quite by chance, I have cracked the thing. Perhaps I shall never again have to read one of those strict articles about how to survive Christmas without resorting to strong liquor or having a nervous collapse. I shall ride my dear mare and look at the old hills and feel vaguely benign towards my fellow humans. Perhaps, in a few days’ time, I shall push the boat out and go a buy a nice stollen cake. And that really will do.