Category Archives: Christmas
Sales of Christmas lights have quadrupled this festive season. A message is being sent to Johnson and his coterie of doom-laden cohorts.
We are a happy, positive people, and we will not allow you to depress our spirits for another Christmas. We will illuminate the darkness with our message of hope and optimism. We are content to shield behind the ramparts of our brilliant scientists who, with their vaccines, have done what you are not doing: give us hope and inspiration to see this through.
Between 1939 and 1945, one went to prison for “spreading alarm and despondency” – exactly what our current leaders have been doing for almost two years now. Such activity was regarded as one step short of treason. Imagine if Churchill had gone on air predicting hundreds of thousands of deaths due to Nazi bombs, as he might very have done had he been lily-livered and flanked by the likes of Messrs Whitty, Vallance and the boffins of Sage. Instead, he raised the spirit of the nation into a can-do crusade.
I only give the prime minister credit by default for the ordering of massive doses of the Covid vaccines then under development. His mantra for all things is to spend, spend and spend again. Remember the Thames estuary Airport, the bridge to Ireland, the new Royal yacht, the long-forgotten water cannons to control protesters when he was mayor of London? These he had failed to clear with the Home Secretary, so had to be sold at a loss when she declared their use to be un-British.
The massive vaccine order was one project in which his normal financial incontinence and recklessness actually paid off. The truth of the matter is that the real heroes were the scientists and the woman put in charge of the rollout, Kate Bingham.
For almost two years now, we have been assailed and bludgeoned into a mindset of misery and despair and the nation has had enough. Hence the nationwide illuminations; a finger up to the doom-mongers if ever I saw one.
The trail of carnage which the handling of the pandemic has left ranges from suicides and child and domestic abuse to fatally late diagnoses of cancers, mental breakdowns and lost businesses. It is beyond quantifying and we will never know its full extent. Books will be written, but the collateral damage – and let’s not forget the horrifying debts we have incurred – may turn out to be worse than the disease itself. It has reached into every corner of life.
And this accounts for our brilliantly lit cities. It is a message of defiance and the belief that better times are coming. In the light of the spectacularly wrong stream of forecasts of deaths, you would have thought that the government would have shown a degree of caution about the latest 75k forecast and hold back from moving to fresh restrictions until firm evidence emerged to justify it. But, true to form, ministers panicked once again and lost their nerve. Not only did they move us to so-called Plan B, but they started leaking about a Plan C.
All the while, we are finding that all the evidence is pointing in the opposite direction and that the latest, more infectious variant in fact makes you much less ill and in the great majority of cases can be handled at home. Where hospitalisation is required, oxygen is rarely needed and patients are released much quicker. Much more is understood now about the disease and more effective treatments are being delivered.
In the end, this new variant may be doing us a favour by being more transmissible as it may quickly achieve that long-sought-after end, herd immunity, without killing us in the process or even making us seriously ill like the Alpha and Delta strains before it.
Basically, all we needed to do is protect the vulnerable, which we now have the means to do, and life can resume a more normal pattern. Of course, the truth is that the virus never did have an interest in killing us. It was only keen to spread as since killing its host defeats that end.
So where are we now? The government is getting ready to ruin another Christmas by moving to Plan C – which it has hurriedly cobble together – but lo, the angel of the Lord has intervened in the form of the ninety-nine MPs who said no. By their rebellion in the Commons, they have sent the most alarming of shots across the prime minister’s bows. They have made it virtually impossible for him to move beyond the restrictions he has already imposed. Those ninety-nine MPs who put principle before their careers are the true heroes of recent events.
Not only have they said thus far but no farther, but they have extracted a promise that no further measures will be enacted without parliament’s approval. Johnson knows that although he has got his panicky way yet again, it has only been achieved with the embarrassing support of the official opposition. Such a rebellion has made it next to impossible for him to pull off such a stunt again. If he got a bloody nose from his own side this time, he would receive a knockout uppercut if he tried it again. Those fifty-four disgruntled MPs needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in his leadership would become an avalanche.
Pity the new incumbent of Number 10 who would have to live with Carrie’s choice of bizarre furnishings and wallpaper. We might even forgive him or her in spending yet more money in reinstating John Lewis.
What a turnabout from last year! In the Christmas week of 2010 we were in the deep freeze, with snow and ice which had bedeviled us since late November and would not yield till January. But replacing the rigours of the weather that year have been worries and gloom concerning the economy and global instability. What has given the whole business an extra edge of frustration is that we had started to believe the worst was over.
But the Autumn Statement put us right on that. To add to the three we’ve already had, we have six years more of belt tightening – a period as long as the Second World War – before we can expect to see the ‘sunny uplands’. Seldom have we looked at a future so bleak and protracted.
And compounding it all is the worry that, despite all our best endeavours, the whole Europe house, and with it very possibly the world economy, will come crashing down about our ears. We can, however, take some comfort from the fact that we have battened down the hatches in good time and so can hope to weather the storm better than most.
Yet hard times encourage new, or should I say resurrected, values to take hold again. What passes today as hardship would be regarded as luxury living by those who lived through the late ’40s and early ’50s. So perhaps we should not feel too sorry for ourselves. Earlier generations knew much worse. Today we have an overarching, cradle-to-the-grave Welfare State which has, in my opinion, got out of hand and is now arguably very much part of the problem. No one needs to go to bed hungry, have no roof over their head or worry about medical bills.
But at least we have upon us that special time of year which is sure to bring some cheer! As I write this the weather is supremely benign – with primroses coming out – and Christmas only a few days away.
I personally have been amazed at how people have been determined to cock a snoot at the recession by putting out their Christmas lights, with certain regulars still trying to outdo the Vegas Strip. Some will have done so because, although they are suffering financially, their pride will not allow them to advertise the fact to their neighbours. But most will have done it because they love a good display, perhaps accompanied by a harmless desire for a bit of showing off.
All in their own way, including those of us who have put a modest wreath on our door or a little display of lights on our shrubs or windows, we are sending out a message of good cheer. And sad, indeed, it is to walk past a string of houses where not one has made any concession to this very special time.
We would all like to be better than we are: less selfish, more caring and forgiving. Christmas appeals to our better angels and for a few precious days we declare an armistice and genuinely feel a greater warmth toward our fellow man than we do in the rat-race that passes for normal living. It is a spirit wholly to be commended and encouraged.
The fact that it is a Christian festival is almost beside the point; whether you are from another faith, Agnostic or an Atheist, I defy you not to be swept up a little in the euphoria of the celebrations to come. Even most of the criminal classes desist, I suspect, from many of their activities.
What is important in this great coming together of people and families is that we do not forget that there are a great many people out there who, for whatever reason, are alone. The very nature of the goodwill directed everywhere except to them serves only to reinforce their sense of loneliness.
We cannot know what 2012 will bring; no forthcoming year in living memory has had so many questions marks hanging over it.
The ‘Arab Spring’ which promised so much may yet turn into a nightmare: Syria is already that. Iran’s pursuit of the bomb can only be galvanised by the attention paid by the world to the tuppenny-halfpenny basket-case of a state of twenty-two million which is North Korea. The Iranians will say to themselves: ‘Look what respect you get if you’ve got the bomb!’ But Israel is unlikely to stand idly by while the final touches are put to a bomb which could enable the barmy Ahmajinedad to carry out his threat to ‘wipe it off the map’. And if they do strike first, then the Iranians will close down the Straits of Hormuz through which 25pc of the world’s oil passes.
Nuclear-armed N. Korea is now in the hands of an inexperienced boy ruler who only last year ordered the unprovoked sinking of a S. Korean warship and the equally unprovoked shelling of S. Korean installations, all with substantial loss of life.
And as if all this is not enough, the West faces economic meltdown if the euro crisis achieves critical mass.
But hey, look to! Humankind will always bounce back: we’re hardwired to do that. It has even been suggested this year that our very intelligence came about entirely due to climate change which forced us to seek out solutions to survive. So who knows, maybe a little climate change will stimulate our little grey cells some more. But meantime, let’s all party and remind ourselves that there is much that is decent and uplifting in our aspirations.
Finally, to my readers: my heartfelt thanks for allowing me the privilege of sharing my thoughts with you here and in The Herald.