Whoever designed these calendars – with all their national holidays and bizarre chronological fumblings let themselves and the western world down with this one didn’t they. I mean. December is just plain wrong as a month… But now? Now is the dark time. The eye in the storm.
You start off all hyped up. With Christmas party after Christmas party. Rolling like a punchdrunk boxer from one pointless round of boozy shame to the next. Waking up each morning riven with nausea, fear and the gut wrenching guilt that every office party brings. Wondering whether you’ll even live to see the next year or whether your merciful liver and heart will do you a favour and just give up. Then you’re thrust into a maelstrom of Christmas panic. Gift shopping, overspending. Buying enough food to give an army gout. Sitting on the floor of department stores weeping, still drunk from the night before wondering if this overpriced piece of novelty plastic is really what your loved ones need to have.
Then it arrives. And you spend a few days doing nothing but cooking, eating, drinking, wearing a smile like armour as you graciously open your own novelty plastic, or socks, or jumpers, or soap, or whatever. Throwing out the well-practiced “thank yous” before settling down to stuff yourself with fat and guilt and booze to take away the ache of how much all of this actually cost and how much of it will go to waste.
Then it’s over. Whatever endorphin rush you might have had. The faint lustre you felt when you opened a gift you really wanted or sank down a stone heavier in a fug of gin and sugar to enjoy the Christmas special of some awful celebrity television show or other. Well it’s all gone. Christmas has spat you out the other side. Suddenly you are Free. FREE to actually get on with your life and try to ease the memory gently away by looking FORWARD – at the brave new world to come.
Well. That’s how it should be. Christmas should be this cathartic blow out. Getting all the old demons to have a party in your brane then BANG you expel them like some sort of wine-soaked exorcist leaving you clean, shaking and newborn for the new year.
But Christmas can’t let go that easily can it. It leaves its clammy claws in your flesh and it’s alcohol soaked tongue in your mouth a few days longer. Like a desolate ex who has to hack your Facebook account one last time before the restraining order finally takes them away from you.
Instead of a fresh start the calendar throws up this limbo. The dead zone between the overwhelming consumption of the Christmas bank holidays and the fresh austerity of the New Year. If you’re one of the lucky ones you’ll aimlessly roll yourself out of bed and crawl downstairs in whatever clothes you fell asleep in to perch yourself on a sofa and consume your weight in leftover fat or salt based snacks drinking beer, wine, spirits, chlorine or anything. Mindlessly wallowing in television repeats of everything that Christmas threw at you when it was actually happening. The less lucky go to work. A few days of solitude in a half-empty office killing time and counting down the minutes until they can vacate their desks and run back in the miserable cold without arousing too much suspicion.
But secretly the unlucky ones are the lucky ones. That frosty air they suffer on their commute? That’s real air. The FRESH stuff – from “outdoors” a place they probably barely saw except when piling in and out of cars to see family or friends. That thing they’re doing with their legs? That’s “walking” – something some people might have forgotten as they looked down at their bloated appendages on boxing day wondering through a gin-drenched fug what the pointy bits of flesh and bone were actually for. Getting out and about can be part of the rehabilitation of Christmas. And best of all it saves you from the god-awful dirge that the news tries to dish up into your lap like recycled sewage during the limbo days.
That’s right. I’m talking about the endless “year in review” programs and articles that the press and media hide behind to disguise the fact that they actually have nothing left to offer us for the year. All the glitz and glamour they had before December 25th is faded. Newsrooms everywhere are on a skeleton staff, churning out sweet nothings because, lets face it, there isn’t much to report when Corporate PR offices stop throwing out press releases and a large part of the world sits on the sofa for days on end. Yesterday the BBC were reporting from a recycling centre to crowbar in a story about post-Christmas waste disposal – I’m even sure I heard something about Goats being herded on a motorway.
Instead the news tries to bury us in nostalgia. Remind the mouth-breathing public with its goldfish memory and fickle imaginings what it was that made them so angry or interested in the world around them a few months ago. Long forgotten montages are thrust back at us with some hangdog anchor droning on at how “great” it was when there was a royal wedding or how marvellous a job we did in invading Libya and killing Gaddafi (and a few thousand civilians) – conveniently rewriting bits and pieces here and there, like the fact that we were only supposed to get involved in the civil war of a sovereign state to safeguard civilian lives.
It’s a cheap trick – but fuck it – without a boxing Day Tsunami to capture the world’s imagination there’s nothing more the media can do than dredge up stuff that should have been long-forgotten. And it can’t do any harm can it? I mean. The past is the past. All the news has to do when it reports these dull-as-dishwater years in review is just run an endless loop of shit that has already happened and hope that a general public, dulled by alcohol and saturated fat will lap it up. In a way it’s almost an exercise in branewashing. If you end your year with a review of what you think is important then the bovine oafs weakened by Decembers exertions and struggling to find meaning in these scant days before the financial chill of January will remember your opinion and maybe take that as theirs going forward.
The good news then is that sometimes the press do get it wrong. Spectacularly wrong. Perhaps wrong enough to rouse people from their slumber and actually express an opinion of their own. The safety of regurgitating old copy or footage and accompanying it with commentary that was probably subbed as far back as October to fill up the column inches and airwaves now gets called into question. Especially when you see mistakes as monumental as the BBC’s when they reported “Faces of the year 2011 – the women” yesterday. Even a newsjaded cretinous cynic like myself was mouth agape in a mixture of rage and hysterical laughter when I saw the weight of the clanger being dropped by a press room so obviously full of festive opiates.
That’s right. Not satisfied with deciding women weren’t good enough to even warrant being shortlisted for a pointless sporting accolade this year, the BBC decided to grind the noses of 50% of the world’s population further into the dirt with their women of the year list.
If you can’t see very well I can tell you that one of them is a Panda. That’s right. Not. A. Woman. A. Panda. But to me that is not the worst of it. In a year when women continue to struggle against male patriarchy there are a host of women who could step into the limelight as influential and crucial figures. But instead the focus is on people like “Pippa Middleton” famous for … erm… attending a wedding? or “Kelsey de Santis” who basically went to a ball with Justin Timberlake. Or the “Duchess of Alba” famous for looking a bit strange and marrying a toyboy.
The list is vapid and sickening in a year when we’ve seen Angela Merkel at the heart of European politics and Aung San Suu Kyi returning to politics after 15 years of house arrest in Burma. Instead of congratulating Christine Lagarde for heading the IMF the BBC decided to make Nafissatou Diallo a woman of the year simply because she accused the former head of the IMF of raping her. The Panda adds insult to injury but the real problem in this is that the BBC has decided that women need to be remembered for sex, marriage and their subjugation to men rather than for their actual achievements. Something that, thankfully, enough people have noticed is just plain wrong.