Merry Christmas

Christmas selfie replete with tatty indoor knit. Baaaahh.

I don’t mean to sound like a Christmas agoraphobic – some slipper-clad curmudgeon hovering near the larder cupboard clutching a box of Celebrations (even though this is a pretty apt self-description) – but once work finishes on Christmas Eve, the snooze button goes on and I’m catapulted into my own-made groove on the couch, slippers and sweets in tow.

Last year was the first time in several years I got Stephen’s Day off, and this year I’m taking a whole week to traipse around in my dressing gown, refusing to wash my hair – with relish – like some scrubby kid.

But what gets everyone who comes into contact with me around this time is that I don’t celebrate Christmas. No really, I don’t celebrate Christmas.

I wouldn’t say my family, or even my upbringing was unusual, but people are incapable of wrapping their heads around this fact.

I receive litanies of questions about trees (no), turkeys (no), Brussels sprouts (NO!!!!). In fact while I have this platform I’d like to espouse my view that sprout-enthusiasts are clearly victims of a parent-sponsored brainwashing campaign.

But over the years my family and I have fallen into a slight pattern, albeit missing the gaudy, shimmery ornaments and eagle-sized birds that would take me a lifetime to finish.

The food:

I don’t eat meat but if I did I’d be inclined to bypass the turkey-and-stuffing routine and tackle Christmas head-on with a stuffed swan filled with piping meat pie (I saw this on The Tudors once and thought it was outrageously swag). I take luxury very seriously and a plucked, decapitated farm bird doesn’t spell it for me.

I do however eat fish (and would eat it by the bucket load were I not in my parents’ autocratic jurisdiction, or of course if I was a seal). But for the last two years, maybe three, I’ve managed to coerce my mother into making a quiche.

Now I literally never eat quiche (mainly because I’m one of those people who walks through supermarkets turning over products to inspect the fat count). Those so inclined will know that quiche is a real bad guy in the dietary books, but of course being Christmas and only happening once a year, the quiche goes all out with cream, cheese and crab. And the result is so rich that you can’t actually eat a lot of it anyway, so I feel like this is a win-win for decadence and my waistline.

Until the quiche comes out of the oven however, my day is made up of cheese eaten directly off a knife and endless trays of chocolates cos again, swaaaag.

Television:

I feel as a family that this is where we excel at Christmas. I’d go as far as to say we win. All traditionalists know it wouldn’t be Christmas without a torrent of misery thundering through the rails of Albert Square and belting down the streets of Weatherfield. Eventually there’s some respite through the wiles of Downton Abbey, while the rest of the day is lost to a deluge of Harry Potter films only punctuated by whatever box set made the cut this year – Breaking Bad, Homeland, whatever.

When it comes to the telly, we take it pretty seriously.

Decorations: 

I wouldn’t consider myself especially messy, just a little sloppy. I spill a lot of tea and even more wine but I wouldn’t be one to throw my clothes in a heap or leave a pile of dishes in the sink. Like everyone else though, I try to avoid cleaning and constantly catch myself dropping unworn socks into the washing basket in a lazy bid to avoid finding their pair or simply putting them away. This cycle is endless, and my socks do endless spin cycles in the washing machine as a result.

Consequently the thought of creating all that work for myself – heaving a dusty box from a forgotten cupboard, placing ornaments around the house to gather more dust, then having to pack everything away four weeks later – sounds like a cruel and futile exercise devised in a Dickensian Work House.

Clothes:

No niceties for me. I’m staying in my pyjamas all day, all week even. ‘Nuff said.

Bernadette

One of my friends returned from Brussels recently and I met her along with some other pals in town. Before I arrived though I had called into a bookstore and enquired whether they might have a biography on Bernadette Devlin. In fact I’d gauged the answer the night before when I put her name into Amazon; I discovered that yes, there was a biography, but no I couldn’t buy it on kindle or even firsthand.

The shop I called into tends to carry a sound selection of books and I figured that being Irish and in close proximity to Trinity it would likely carry works on Northern Ireland along with bios on key figures. But like Amazon, they didn’t have what I wanted and when I arrived to meet my friends (doing my round of meagre waves before sitting down), I launched into a bit of a tirade. My visiting friend is interested in women’s history but she hadn’t heard of Devlin. I wasn’t surprised – neither had I until a few weeks ago.

I live quite close to IMMA, The Museum of Modern Art, and frequently ramble around the grounds and through the gardens. I love seeing the same artworks again and again, sometimes discovering a new detail or re-experiencing a sensation through meticulously applied paint.

A cluster of new exhibitions had just launched and after taking in the permanent collection I slinked into a dark room playing black and white clips of a young woman with bushy eyebrows. I’d arrived late (the film’s around 40 minutes long and I’d walked in at the 25 minute mark) but I was so intrigued that I vowed to visit again and watch the film from start to finish. I did just that, arriving the following week three minutes before the next showing (all coincidentally, I’m not that organised on Saturdays).

The film, Bernadette, by Dublin-born artist Duncan Campbell, is an open-ended narrative about the Northern Irish dissident, Bernadette Devlin. It explores the subject matter along with the mode of communication (documentary film form) blending fact and fiction to examine Devlin’s fiery media persona versus the softly spoken, self-reflecting one. Told in three distinct phases, it begins with grainy footage and morphs into first person narrative, then third. It’s a conscious admission of the limitation of the documentary film form and instead of building up to a conclusion it consciously dissipates into something muddled, nothing.

Yesterday it was announced that Duncan Campbell had won this year’s Turner Prize for his series of films called It For Others. And as for me, well, I finally got hold of Devlin’s biography, The Price of My Soul, through the library. Now I can discover the real space and lived tension that rests between one newsreel and the next.