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Archive for the ‘Christmas 2010’ Category

The Bird

So I am minding my own business at work ( for those coming in late I work alone at night on a telephone crisis line). The colleague I have replaced hands over and goes home. When I arrived she had the door open to allow fresh air in. I am a big fan of fresh air however we have not been allowed a screen  door on this doorway (as it will upset the air conditioning or some rot ) so I close the door so as not to spend the evening with a thousand bugs.  This is important. I close the door at 2030.

I also close the one other door to the hallway for the night. My theory being if a killer comes in at least I will hear either door open so I can be aware and terrified before I am killed as opposed to not knowing it’s gonna happen…. hmmmm, wait a second…..

So I am sitting in essentially a closed room all night, other than when I go to the bathroom down the hallway, and am minding my own business. I go to the bathroom at 6 in the morning and there on the floor, in front of the door to the hallway is a bird. Quiet, head under its wing, not moving.

I assume it’s dead and get something to pick it up and it scares the bejesus out of me by moving its wings. It clearly is a very sick bird and I have no idea what to do with it. So,  when in doubt, ask. Fascinatingly the first person who I think will know what to do and who will be awake is Wesley who I try to call but end up texting cos the phone line doesn’t want to work for me for some reason.

Now stop a moment to marvel at this. In a situation of which I am unsure, the person I am able to rely on lives in the US AND I am able to contact him incredibly easily. This is the most incredible age. Ten years ago I would have sent him an air mail and waited a few weeks for him to respond.

While I wait for his reply I remember that one of the security guards  is a complete Grizzly Adams and would be able to care for the bird. I ring security but the person I am thinking of isn’t on shift tonight. However, I am told, another one of the security lads also takes in stray birds who need getting back to health. (Why do all these security guards take in stray birds? Is it a sideline?). He will come around and take a look.

Wesley writes back with some sound advice and I do as he suggests. The security lads come to see the my poor bird and deem him to be “stuffed”  (I also thought that was probably the case as the bird must have been in the room with me all night and didn’t make a peep.  It was clearly dying a long time.) 

One of the security lads takes the bird away to ‘take care of’ the ‘stuffed’ bird.  I am not sure what taking care of it entailed and I am sure I do not want to know either. He brings me back the empty box though which was thoughtful. Sheesh.

I dread to think what they do with the birds they take home.

So, there you go. Poor Bird. Evidently it was one of those bastard birds that swoop at you as you walk so I am not as upset as I probably should be.

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In the midst of coping with the silly season, I completely forgot to tell you about the days themselves. This is what my brain is like at the moment. A steel trap.

So Christmas Eve/ morning was spent at work dealing with a number of very sad, very drunk people who were very unhappy that they would be spending their Christmas alone. Dealing with them finished at 7 am and I was intending to get to my brother, Robin and sister-in-law Allison’s house straight after. Their rationale was that Rebecca (3-year-old niece) would be up at 6 anyway. So I arrive at 730, having stopped at the garage to get some much-needed extra caffeine coke, and Rebecca is still fast asleep. Fast asleep. Woke up eventually at 8 which would have been a Christmas miracle had I also been sleeping.

The rest of the family joined us at 9 by which time Rebecca had opened her pink scooter ( which was all she wanted for Christmas) and a play dough Mr Potato Head set (which I personally found very therapeutic).

Presents shared and breakfast outside with Robin and Alison’s mad dog, Rupert then we all traipsed to Jane’s house, Alison’s sister (my sister-in-law in law) for Christmas lunch. Now the Vanstones are incredibly set in their routines and have not ventured outside their homes on Christmas day for all of my life. However, this year, Jane had recently lost her husband and so we were there as a diversion/ distraction for Jane and her children on their first Christmas without him.

Equally oddly, this was the first year ever the Vanstones had taken advantage of the hot weather and had a cold lunch. Normally we do the proper Christmas turkey and trimmings etc… this time it was cold turkey roll and salad. Given the circumstances it was a pleasant afternoon, all told. We all spent time in the pool which was necessary for me as by this time I was awake for 3000 hours or something and was lapsing into a coma.  Rebecca enjoyed ‘swimming’ even if she does constrict her arms around your neck and stop you from breathing as you swim with her. Rebecca is also completely in love with her 16-year-old cousin, Alexander, who was incredibly patient with her. Importantly, I think Jane had a decent day.

Eventually, when the day is over, I collapse into bed after being up for 36 hours.

Boxing day is spent having the Christmas Dinner we should have had yesterday. Dinner is lovely although I have been ruined for turkey forever, I am afraid. The day works out well for two reasons.  One reason is that I teach my nephew how to make martinis (bless him, he wanted to learn). Phillip develops a knack for this – I am so proud. What he doesn’t develop a knack for is measurements ( which can be a good thing, depending on your preference.) As such one of his martinis is the equivalent of three. My brother Robin is under the table with just one glass, the light weight.  I take three before I am officially blind. The rest of the day is spent being incredibly happy and missing people who would have enjoyed the day.

The other reason; this:

This is what you get when you have a gay uncle and a niece who loves dress up.  Tomorrow, the princess Dress.

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Boxing Day

Coming from an English background, the concept of Boxing Day has never seemed alien to me. The day after Christmas, the second of the twelve days of Christmas, the day you also get presents.

Boxing Day began as a tradition ( though competing theories differ) when people, such as my grandparents, who worked in service (ie worked in  Manor Houses for the gentry) were given a half day off and presents from their masters on the day after Christmas. As the servants were required to work on Christmas Day they were allowed time off the day after to spend time with their families.  It was the custom of the time that the Lords and Ladies of the Manor would give their staff boxes of leftover food and presents in the morning of the 26th as a thank you for their servitude through the year.

My grandparents, coming from being in Service, kept the tradition of Boxing Day presents alive in their years. Sadly over the last few years, financial restraints have prevented this from happening. However the custom remains adorable. And you can never get enough presents.

So, in the spirit of boxing day, here is my present to you.

Remember this. The best ever Christmas show.

Well, here’s how you can go and watch it. Allow yourself 26 minutes of not being interrupted and enjoy.

Sadly the video where it is in one piece is missing so had to go with the three parter, sorry.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Enjoy and Happy Boxing Day!!

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So, given that in the last 72 hours I have probably slept 7 due to the silly season being very silly indeed, I am giving myself  a Christmas present of a night off and will be back tomorrow with wit and repartee once I have slept.

Much to discuss about today, many interesting things. However since it is now 2200 on Christmas night and I have been going since 3 pm Christmas Eve, it can all wait.

It was a nice day and I hope yours was,  or will be, as well.  Bless my US readers…

Time to shower and sleep. Tell me what you got for the day, either pressies or memories, while I slumber…. Dazzle me

Night.

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Night shift is 90 minutes from finishing. Technically Christmas has been going for 5 and half hours. In half an hour my niece will wake up and see all her presents at her bed. In an hour my nephew, older but still liking loot, will wake up and not see that as all of his presents are at niece’s house this year.

Glad I’m not around for that fallout.

In three and a half hours the family will be together at niece’s house. In four hours some family member will be annoyed with someone else for some reason. In 6 hours the entire family will traipse to Sister in Law In Law’s house for the afternoon. This is completely out of convention for the Vanstones however Sister in Law In Law’s husband recently passed away so we are going as ( hopefully) a distraction and diversion on this, their first Christmas without him.

In 10 hours we will leave Sister in Law In Law’s house and head to Parents house. In 12 hours I would have considered I had stayed a civil amount of time and excuse myself to go home to bed as, by then, I would have had 6 hours sleep in 72 hours and will probably be psychotic.

In 15 hours, if the world was fair, I would be getting up and having Christmas morning coffee with my friend.

On this day, no matter how you spend it or what your beliefs, may you have a wonderful and peaceful time. Thank you so much for reading this and being such faithful readers of this silly little thing over the last year. I truly appreciate it, more than you know.

Hope the fat guy is good to you. 

Merry Christmas.

 

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Father Christmas

Following on from the BEST ever Christmas show, comes the thematic sequel/ bookend, Father Christmas.

Based on Raymond Briggs’ book, Father Christmas, this cartoon, like The Snowman, perfectly recreates the book for the screen.  If you have ever wondered what does Father Christmas do on the 364 days when he is not employed, this is the show for you.

It is perfectly charming. Father Christmas goes on holiday on locations around the world, converting his sleigh into a caravan (bless him!) all the while having to move on as children recognise him, all the while swearing like a g rated trooper ( He says bloomin’ a lot).

The animation is wonderful, the story sweet. Unlike the Snowman, this is dialogue heavy and, as such, doesn’t have the same lyrical quality as it’s predecessor. The reason it doesn’t rate higher is that it seems like a poor cousin to the epic, The Snowman. Truly it is a beautiful film, whimsical rather than enchanting, and worthy of viewing, especially in conjunction with the Snowman. It is because it is merely fantastic rather than completely magical that the film seems the poorer, which is completely not fair. On its own merits, this film is superb and a fantastic half hour well spent.

It’s just not The Snowman.

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I am surviving on six hours of sleep in the last 48. I have had so many jobs to do and so little time and I am at work on Christmas eve and wow, it’s going to be a busy one. I have already taken so many calls from drunken, sad people that my heart is hurting.

Sigh.

Anyway, onward and upward. I have left the best till last.

The Snowman

THE best ever.

This is a cartoon based on the bestselling book by Raymond Briggs about a boy who builds a snowman who comes to life and takes him to the North Pole to meet Santa.

This is the closest animation comes to being a work of art. The production is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful works of television you will ever see.  Brigg’s illustrations have been perfectly captured for the television. The flying scenes in particular will take your breath away. The story, seemingly simple, is one of the most moving  pieces of television. There is no dialogue in the entire show, the film is carried by the expressiveness of the animation and the soundtrack. It is a poem without words.

Simply put, the film is about the loneliness of being a child and the power of friendship. There is no reason for the snowman to come to life, simply the magic of Christmas and the power of the child’s imagination.  It is a bittersweet film, beautifully capturing the joy and heartbreak of Christmas. How animated films about snowmen should be done!

Unbelievably stunning. A masterpiece.

Brandy score: none. Not a single drop. This film will enchant you.

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Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that a house has to be cleaned prior to Father Christmas arriving. Firstly I don’t know how that even makes sense,  and secondly, even less so as I live alone and if I don’t give myself a gift no-one else will. So Santa really doesn’t care.

I know that.

I have, however, been cleaning like a man possessed.  Even drawers and things that can wait until I am on days off. I am on night duty and sleep is a luxury. But no, I am cleaning and thinking to myself, “You should be sleeping” then off I go  rearranging the cupboards  so the store goods are in alphabetical order.

It makes no logical sense whatsoever and I am so tired I could sleep for Britain at the moment.

Santa better bloody appreciate it. The house is spotless.

On a brighter note, an absolute gem for today. It was almost the top movie but got pipped at the post by a truly amazing piece. That’s for tomorrow though.

A Christmas Story

I saw this when it was first released in 1983 with my best friend, Andrew Pearce. I liked it, it was an ok film. Nothing to write home about but  a few chuckles. I watched it again a few years ago and it was a revelation. The first time I saw it I was far too young to appreciate this film. This is a children’s film for adults.

Ralphie, our hero, wants nothing more for his 1940’s Christmas than an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle only to be stifled at each turn by every adult imaginable who tells him he’ll shoot his eye out. Undeterred he plots, schemes and machinates all the while enduring the childhood land mines of bullies, washing your mouth out with soap, major awards, dare etiquette and frozen flagpoles.

This film is one giant love letter. It’s a love letter to childhood and being a kid and all of the trials childhood entails. Bullies, friends, getting in trouble and covering your ass, swearing, waiting, whether it’s  for Christmas or the Lil Orphan Annie decoder ring. It beautifully (and humourously) captures the essence of being a kid. Being a kid is frustrating. Nothing quite equals the power of the imagination of the child so that your life is a constant cycle of anticipation and disappointment.  Decoder rings are way better in your mind, finding out they’re not as good as you hoped (for amusing reasons) is a lesson learnt on the path to maturity.

The film is littered with the minutia of being a child. Overdressing in the cold, presents for your teacher, feigning innocence (badly) to save your butt, the pointless power of the bully… the milestones are all there. What adds to the enjoyment is the film is narrated by the adult Ralphie (who gets all the best lines) so there is a layer of adult cynicism and  hysterical interpretation laying over Ralphie’s actions. “Was there no end to the conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?”

It is also, and most importantly given this list, a love letter to Christmas and all that it entails. The film goes into great detail the timeline of Christmas for Ralphie starting from the opening scene of the ritual of admiring the store Christmas window  through to the quest for presents to the quest for a tree to the (again hysterical) Christmas dinner on Christmas day. The film also takes no prisoners when it depicts Christmas. The anticipation and the campaign of action to obtain his Red Ryder prize makes up the better part of the narrative. But Christmas day is often a disappointment. For every Red Ryder BB gun there are clothes that well-meaning aunts make for you. And getting what you want is, more often than not, not as much fun as wanting it.

This film is superb. Seriously superb. It demands repeated viewings as there are so many elements vying for your attention that you will miss out the first time around. The essence of childhood and Christmas are captured perfectly and with great humour. It is an easy film to watch and rewatch, each Christmas season. And it is the rare beast, a Christmas story made for adults. Kids are welcome but they’re not gonna get it. They are still going through the minefields the adults watching the film will remember so dearly.

Brandy Score : 1 out of 5, Don’t need it as the film is the best ever but have one to toast your childhood anyway.

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How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Firstly we are talking about the 1966 animated film here, not the Jim Carrey overacting travesty, ok.  If I am truly honest, and being very Grinch like here, this was only ok to me. I’ve included it in the honourable mentions as it is important to so many people but, dunno, maybe it caught me on a rough day or something. I was only so-so about it. Perhaps, as I had heard so much about it, my expectations were too high.

The people of Whoville prepare for the Christmas season. The Grinch, being grinchlike and with a heart three times too small, becomes a reverse santa claus and steals everyone’s presents, intent on ruining Christmas.

The film, a Dr Seuss classic, is narrated in rhyme (it’s Dr Seuss, after all) by Boris Karloff and he is excellent. That Boris Karloff did the role adds serious coolness points to this film. And the film’s message, and the lesson that the Grinch learns, is wonderful; Christmas is not about the presents, Christmas is about the people. The people of Whoville still celebrate the day, sans presents, giving the Grinch a life lesson he is never to forget (until the sequel).

I am freely going to admit it might be me but it just didn’t float my boat. I was more impressed to have reference to the scene in Glee where they essentially recreated the cartoon. As a cartoon, it’s ok. As a source of cultural reference, fantastic.

Brandy Score: 3 out of 5. I am sure that would have helped.

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Sorry for posting so late yesterday. I should do so more often though. Cracked a hundred readers finally. Don’t get me wrong, I know in terms of the superblogs that’s nothing, however I am super stoked. Prior to going on holidays I was averaging 10 a day and wondering why I was bothering (perhaps you were too.) Anyways I am suitably chuffed.

I was having a chat with a cleaner at work yesterday ( I worked extra during the day) . He, an adult male and seemingly sane, believes in Father Christmas. Now the hospital I work at employs a number of challenged people in the cleaning department however, truly, I don’t believe he was one of them. Anyway, bless him, we had a lovely chat about what Father Christmas might be doing  now getting ready for his big night. It was sweet and surreal all at once.

Currently I am on nights and it is warming up in Australia. The bugs are out in the office and I have been bitten on the elbow. My elbow is now puffed up like a balloon. Hope I live through the night. Smite my enemies if I don’t.

And we enter the top 3……

The Royle Family Christmas Special – The Queen of Sheba

OK, this one is going to take some explanation as I am sure, of everything on the list, this is the one most people wont have heard of.

The Royle Family is a British television show that revolves around the daily life of the Royles and, by daily life, I mean sitting in front of the tele. It is a masterpiece in minimalism, as there are, for the most part, only two sets in the show, the living room and the kitchen, and everything in their lives revolves around these locations. It is almost a fly on the wall documentary with acidic wit and the most realistic of characters.

The family itself, Jim, layabout husband; Barb, long-suffering wife; Denise, manipulative daughter; Dave, Denise’s dim husband, Antony; slave son and Nana,who desperately wants to live with them and over Jim’s dead body, are the epitome of working class. They aspire to spend the night in front of the tele, a night out is at the pub, a social call is a visit from the neighbours. The ash tray teeters with cigarette butts, nights are endless round of cups of tea.  They are ghastly and hypnotic all in the shame breath. They are also amazingly loveable and funny as hell.

This show is legendary in Britain. It sounds like nothing, I freely admit, however it is the most captivating and emotional show Britain has produced in the last decade. It ranks with Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Abs Fab, Vicar of Dibley and Blackadder as one of the best and funniest British comedies. It is an acquired taste and the humour; the long pauses between tele watching; the petty arguments; bad language; the farting; the  inane conversations is decidedly black. There is an emotional warmth in the characters. Despite appearances, this is a family that deeply cares for each other and, as a result, you become invested in them. This is a comedy that will have you laughing out loud then sobbing with tears in the same scene. It really is that good.

The Queen Of Sheba is a Christmas Special later in the programme’s life and it was meant to be the end of the show. (There have since been two further Christmas specials.) It is, in my opinion, one of the best hours of television ever and certainly the best Christmas special on this list. The reason it doesn’t rate higher is because to truly appreciate it, you need to watch the first three seasons of the show for it to have the huge emotional impact it deserves.

To be honest, there are worse things I’ve asked of you. The Royle Family is one of my most favourite shows and much, much better tele than what is currently on offer. It will be time worth spending. It may take a couple of episodes to get used to the humour (it is much more complex than it appears – it is a show that thrives on repeated viewings) however the investment is worth it.

The Queen of Sheba is about a significant change in the lives of the Royles. Nana has finally managed to get to live with the family and the show is a series of vignettes about how this impacts on the various characters. Be aware, I am being deliberately vague as I really don’t want to spoil anything for those who havent seen it, however it is one of the most emotionally moving hours of television. You can watch it blind, ie not having seen the show proper, and you will still love it.  However, if you watch it having seen all the series and how the characters arrive at the destination they are in  at the start and end of the Queen of Sheba, the show will be that much the richer for it. Sorry, homework for Christmas.

Brandy Score: 1 out of five brandies; not for the show itself but to calm yourself down afterwards.

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