Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Ghosts of Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year. As I ran the gauntlet of waddling men in trackie bottoms dutifully trailing their strident current partners, revealing sweaty arse cracks as they lurched along, half-supported by their bulging shopping trolleys, even as their own trolleys lost the fight with gravity, little did I know that all over social media a gathering storm was, er… gathering. As embittered fathers tried to control errant kids their rabid mothers foraged for a vegetable that most people only ever regard as a penance and for no known reason. And thus engaged in the hunt, all were ignorant of the events about to unfold many miles away.

It’s the time of the year when everybody is reminded of our mortality as ancient celebrities pop their clogs to be lionised by the media despite never having done a single original thing in their lives. Mediocre, yet long-lived actors, famous for a brief flowering in the seventies, singers with a single hit record, itself a cover of a greater talent’s work. But eulogise or despise them they had their time in the light and are thus fair game for criticism, so even when the Joe Cocker jokes were flying few were genuinely offended.

But, in the bustle for baskets piled high with biscuits which are only ever munched on Boxing Day, when the good ones have all run out; as chaotic couples telephoned each other from adjacent supermarket aisles, desperate to secure one of the last several thousand tubs of goose fat; as frantic families fought as if for their lives to procure the festive feast they truly believe they deserved; as all this was going on, in Glasgow some people they had never heard of were about to lose everything to fate.

People die every day, in their millions. Some of them suffer unspeakable and lonely misery, some of them perish in floods and earthquakes; a few even choose to put themselves in the firing line for a cause. And some, a small number in comparison, succumb to sheer accident. But unless it is somebody with personal significance to me, I refuse to be cowed by the bleating grief-seeking masses who want to turn every parochial calamity into a national tragedy. And when did it become an actual crime to not adopt this self-imposed, self-righteous rending of garments? What was in it for those who turned on the idiot who tweeted a joke too soon? I blame Diana.

For what it’s worth, my thoughts are never going to ‘go out to’ or ‘be with’ those in whose personal tragedies I simply have no involvement. It doesn’t make me heartless, it merely shows I have a more refined sense of empathy, focused on who is important to me and not turned on by whipped-up, mawkish sentiment; I refuse to be defined by my readiness to cry to order for people I will never know. Peace on earth and goodwill to men has to include – just as with freedom of speech – those with whom we disagree.

Ho ho, no!
Santa's little accident...

But you know the truly most offensive thing about the Glasgow incident? For the first few hours, everywhere you looked, the BRITISH online media were describing the bin lorry as a ‘garbage truck'. Now there, surely, is something we can all rally around and join in the unanimous condemnation of. Now, get back to your own Christmases and stop worrying about everybody else’s.


  1. Just what is happening in this country? Every single tragedy whether almost minute or of seemingly great importance, no matter how remote from the individual elicits a huge vicarious response expressed in an outpouring communal grief and breast beating exacerbated by endless media attention amounting to corporate voyeurism en masse. Nothing is left unprobed, raked over in ever increasing minute detail not forgetting the inevitable vox pop interviews of the world, his wife and dog all of whom were nowhere near the event nor remotely connected to those involved..

    The first occasion that I recall national mass hysteria was the death of Diana where the people spoke and wailed widely as well as often vacuously about someone whom the overwhelming majority had never met nor were ever likely to do so not even moving remotely in their same circles. The media had an absolute feast with every news bulletin and publication carrying hardly varying reports and images, constantly reiterating what had already been made known, however little that may have been. Endless speculation as to causes, outcomes for the family and nation as well as the conspiracy theorists having an absolute field day.

    Did this undoubtedly tragic event affect me in any way? Only to the extent of the horror of what had happened and sympathy for close family and friends. I will not be adding to florists profits nor that of soft toy retailers.