SHHHHHH! It is not yet dawn on Christmas morn and I am perched in my daughter’s London loo writing this column. Let me explain. . .
There are certain times of the year when your columnist’s wife abandons her fabled tolerance of the newspaper contributor’s art, when her usual encouraging remarks (“It’d better not be about ME again!”) are replaced by an anguished wail beginning with the words “No! NO! You are NOT writing a Journal column on Christmas Day/at Easter/on the way to your own mother’s funeral!”
On those occasions she demonstrates, in my opinion, an unreasonable lack of understanding of the symbiotic relationship between writer and reader, on the grounds that my ego-driven need to communicate with you, my (imagined) panting band of followers, is ruling (and therefore ruining) our lives.
So I am sat shivering in the littlest room, a full hour before the central heating kicks in, trying to decipher a sheaf of notes accumulated surreptitiously with which I intend to provide a provocative defence of North Korea’s sense of outrage at Hollywood’s mock assassination of President Kim Jong-un.
After all, I plan to rhetorically ask, was it not a mere five days ago that Lord Tebbit and assorted Conservative grandees were protesting at the “tastelessness” of BBC Radio Four’s intention to broadcast a Hilary Mantel short story which culminates with the assassination of Margaret Thatcher?
At least the old girl is already dead, I would argue in mitigation; a controversial figure consigned to history, while Kim, odious as he and his regime might be, is a living leader whose comic fictional demise merits a mite more sensitivity than the movie makers’ mockery.
Your columnist’s furtive scribblings were interrupted at this point by an urgent rapping on the loo door. I am now tapping out my thoughts in the nearby Cafe Lemon on the iPad Mrs Santa delivered three hours ago with one restriction: “Do NOT try doing anything resembling work on this machine for at least five days!”
Okay: where was I before I was so rudely interrupted? Oh yes, I was criticising the movie whose funniest ‘gag’ conspired to encourage an assassination that could have led to nuclear Armageddon...
While it’s ugly and unkind to mock people for their religious or sexual orientations and actually illegal to be racist it is surely downright foolish to make fun of powerful crazies who have nuclear missiles and no sense of humour.
Oh-oh! Just spotted another notoriously humourless personality approaching Cafe Lemon, presumably in search of coffee and her miscreant mate.
Consider Hollywood roundly criticised and me firmly ensconced in Kim Jong-un’s corner. . . just don’t tell ‘Er In A Mood you’ve read this, and have yourselves a Controversial Christmas!
YOU are reading this on Boxing Day; with a bit of luck, as we are down in The Smoke, Mrs Banks will NEVER see it, especially as I’ve kept quiet about my subscription to the digital Journal enabling me to read my favourite daily wherever I happen to be.
In which case I can be doubly indiscreet and reveal to you My Aussie Christmas from Hell when your columnist, the original Fool at Yule, left all his gift shopping until Christmas Eve.
Cunningly, I bought everything at one department store, right on closing time to avoid the crowds. The plan unravelled when I drove around to the collection bay to pick up my purchases.
Gemma’s music centre, far from appearing gift-wrapped and beribboned in one festive package, fetched up in an agglomeration of five drab cardboard boxes; the children’s trampoline appeared in one thin, totem pole-shaped wrapping.
“Haven’t you forgotten the legs?” I asked, puzzled that the trampoline was anything but the table-shape I had foolishly expected.
“Nah,” grinned the cheeky assistant as he clanged closed the metal shutters, shouting through the grille: “It’s all flat-packed for your convenience.”
There followed a frantic, four-hour battle in 90-degree heat to erect and correctly tension the children’s trampoline on the front lawn. Ending long after midnight, the contest reduced your gibbering correspondent to the state of semi-naked sumo wrestler, sweating profusely and uttering foul oaths that the following morning were explained away to sleep-resistant children who had heard every word as the grunting of Santa’s reindeer.
The music centre required three further days of round-the-clock construction before we got a squeak out of it; I never discovered where the aerial plugged in and my tool kit still contains a plastic bag full of unused nuts, bolts and screws.
May your Christmas have come fully assembled. Santa should be a fully-qualified electrical engineer. . .