You see I can see the local supermarket from my living room window as a sit on the floor, wrapping presents, listening to Classic FM and sipping coffee (I am a woman, so naturally I multitask). I can see the people of Balham piled into their cars (ranging from the small city cars to the huge range-rover that is so favoured by some well-off people in South London) desperately queuing to get into Waitrose. It is mayhem. People honking, turning their cars into strange angles, yelling at each other and even on occasion driving up on to the pavement out of frustrated desperation. God knows what kind of battle will be going on inside!
Let's imagine that shall we? Brussel Sprouts are flying through the air, mince pies are being crushed under foot, a woman is clutching a slice of Stilton and weeping with relief and two mothers with toddlers on their hips are arm-wrestling for the last tub of brandy butter.
Ridiculous! I hear you say? Not so! I have actually seen two old ladies fight over the last tub of brandy butter in Marks and Spencer a couple of years ago. What is ironic about this situation is that brandy butter is extraordinarily easy to make. It is basically brandy, butter and sugar. I remember when I was at university, making it myself and then, without a care for the dangers of heart disease, eating it straight out of the tub for several hours each day.
I also have first hand knowledge of what it is like to work in food retail during Christmas. For around a year, I worked at a delicatessen serving cheese and slicing salami. When Christmas came, we would open early in the morning and customers would be lined up in a queue to get in, that would stretch down the whole street. When the doors opened there would be a mad rush for Stilton and Cheddar cheese. And invariably we would run out of food as the day wore on. 'What?!' one woman once shrieked at me, 'There is no more Cropwell Stilton?! But what shall I serve on Boxing Day?! Our Christmas will be ruined!'
Of course no one's Christmas is ruined, even if they don't have the gloriously yummy Stilton to eat on Boxing Day, just perhaps lighter in calories.
As I write this, the horn honking outside has reached a crescendo at the appearance of a large John Lewis delivery van stuck on the street. Yes, the Christmas traffic has reached crisis point. The driver revs his engines and honks his horn impatiently, like his display of motoring frustration will make any difference to the Christmas-food-obsessed shoppers who have backed up the traffic for a mile in either direction. My husband is laughing so hard at all the honking (schadenfreude), that he has actually ended up knocking his knee on the coffee table in our living room. 'Merry Bloody Christmas!' yells an irate man out of his car window. Tensions are bubbling over and tempers are high. After all, those Pigs in Blankets aren't going to cook themselves!
And the most strange thing is that I know in around 4 hours time the area is going to be deathly silent, the roads will be empty and when my husband and I sleepily stumble to Midnight Mass at 11.30pm, the only people out will be a few drunk revelers and some church-goers. The people of Balham will be snug in their houses, watching TV, trying to get their kids to go to sleep, putting out a snack for Santa or tucked up in bed - all of them with a fridge full of food.
So without trying to sound trite, let's remember what Christmas is all about. Yes, in part it is about stuffing your face with food and unwrapping presents, but it is also about giving gifts to others and spending some quality time with those people who put up with you when no one else will. ie. your family. And...it is also about the celebration of the birth of a little baby and the joy of his parents. Now if that is not worth celebrating, I don't know what is!
Merry Christmas Everyone!