SOME people wonder why I take this week off every year, with the holidays approaching. What sort of a daft thing is that to do, they ask, with Christmas on the way and any remaining annual leave at a premium?
The thing is, I have a very special mission at this time of year, a secret mission, which is on par with the work of Santa, the Elves and Toy Show Tubridy put together.
(For those of you who aren’t aware, Toy Show Tubridy is the annual yuletide upgrade of the TV presenter that we get for one night only. We grow to love Toy Show Tubridy over the course of the nine-to-12 hour running time of the Toy Show but normal service resumes a week later when we sneer at him interviewing Nathan Carter for the 30th time in a year.)
My secret annual mission, which I am going to reveal in a world exclusive to Southern Star readers this week, is that I run a small, secret organisation in the heart of Dublin called the PBCC, or the People Before Christmas Campaign.
We are a small cell of radicalised middle-aged men and women who have grown sick and tired of the relentless commercialisation of Christmas, as it moves closer to September year by year, colonising most of the autumn with its stupid music, aggressive lighting and shouty advertising.
It’s a seasonal disgrace and it must be stopped.
We are not Scrooges. Our group actually loves Christmas. We are not to be confused with the joyless crowd in the ABC (Anything But Christmas) brigade, a miserable rival group of people who would outlaw the holiday entirely.
No. We love the making of the list. The checking of said list twice. The Midnight Masses. The mulled wine. The endless omnibuses of soaps that all seem to come along at once.
The problem is, Christmas is supposed to be a short burst of light, faith, joy and togetherness in the middle of the deep, dark winter. It’s been designed over centuries across multiple cultures so we might hold our collective nerve through the gloomy months surrounding it.
The reason it has always been so special is that it is a short, sharp respite, not an interminably never-ending story that kicks off in late September and splutters out like a fart some time after the January sales.
So, our PBCC cell of yuletide radicals is a small, guerilla team of high-impact vigilantes operating in and around central Dublin, with a sole mission to stop Christmas starting too soon and at any cost.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
We reach our peak this time every year because the wheels are really starting to come off at this stage. Festive displays are appearing in front gardens. Adverts are already beginning to shout and roar at us from the television. Black Friday! Yellow Tuesday! Red Dead Wednesday!
You start to sense that Michael Bublé might appear around any corner.
Action must be taken
And so we start by taking the law into our own hands. We travel around Dublin quietly removing blinding-white reindeer figures from gardens in the dead of night. We sneak into the corners of pubs and snip the speaker wires whenever people start playing Fairytale of New York at an unacceptably early juncture. We viciously pull the antlers off cars.
Some years it feels as if we are fighting an endless, raging torrent of Christmassy nonsense. You begin to feel like Bull McCabe trying to beat the Atlantic Ocean back with his stick. We are a lone group of warriors struggling against a marauding flood of tinsel.
But we must continue, to keep Christmas short. To keep Christmas … well, Christmassy!
We do it so our bright, festive blast of love and positivity every year doesn’t turn into some bloated, endlessly expensive chore that we grow to despise.
We do it for Santy and the Elves.
We do it for Shane McGowan.
We do it so you don’t have to.
And I see you! Put away that Elf on the Shelf for at least another fortnight!
Hats off to the Crown team
MYSELF and herself have been glued to The Crown on Netflix all week, like all good Republicans.
I’ve got to say, my expectations were very low after all the lukewarm reviews in the press.
A lot of people are complaining that the series diverges too far from established facts, playing too fast and loose with the truth about our shiny pals The Royals.
Presumably, all these critics thought the first few seasons were a documentary or something.
Sure, the whole thing has been a cartoon, let’s be honest.
Personally, I think Imelda Staunton’s depiction of QE2 has been quite outstanding, and the writing team’s handling of the drama and furore around the Charles and Diana story has been rather compelling.
I mean, clearly, it’s loaded with conjecture, and filled with on-the-nose scenes that would never have happened in real life.
But that doesn’t stop it from being a compelling and entertaining drama.
In same ball park as Putin
THE World Cup in Qatar has definitely started with a whimper, and I’m glad it has, too, given the horrendous history of this particular event.
After the World Cup in Russia in 2018, and the huge boost it gave to Putin’s kleptocracy, we should know by now that you validate these monsters at your peril. And I’m delighted that a regime that has been behind such cruelty and bigotry in Qatar is being exposed for what it is in front of the world.
Still, your heart pines for the beautiful game, for the simple innocence of Mexico ‘86 and Italia ‘90, when we were less aware of all the grubby dealings in the background. Holding these events to higher moral standards is good for us all ,though, and long may it continue. If Fifa is serious about the noble ambition of bringing the world together through sport, they might consider getting their own house in order first.