Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Merry You Know What!

Now that Christmas seems to have been officially abolished in Britain in favour of a celebration of retail mayhem and political correctness, it is pleasing to record that here in France the age old festival is as popular as ever.
In our village, the workers have been swarming up ladders, a hazardous occupation that would make the authorities in Britain weep, in order to string lighted banners across the road proclaiming “Joyeux Noel,” our Mayor has placed 4 foot Christmas trees with dummy presents at the door of every establishment in town and, please note, these are not secured in any way. As far as I know none have been lost in recent years.
The town is en fete and on their delivering my calendars from the volunteer firemen, les sapeurs pompiers, and from our postman, all wish me, not a “merry winterval,” but Joyeux Noel. The French will never let “political correctness” get in the way of a good party. And neither should the British.
But perhaps it was ever thus. During the Hundred Years War (you do remember that, don't you?) Jean Froissart wrote “The English in France enjoy themselves in their usual miserable fashion.” He was something of an Anglophile so it has the ring of truth about it and this view was confirmed for me by an article in a tabloid newspaper today (It had to be true, it was in the Daily ......). This listed the favourite programmes that the Brits would be watching on Christmas , oops, sorry, Winterval Day television. Good grief, they watch TV 364 days in the year – surely to goodness they could give it a miss for one day? Perhaps they might talk amongst themselves, as families used to, instead of watching repeats of hoary old standbys. Better still, the TV stations could close down for the day – some of them perhaps permanently!
Viewing Britain from afar, and this is probably the safest way at present, is like watching an old and valued friend losing their marbles. Seeing the dreary descent of a formerly outstanding nation into a jobsworth and CCTV controlled Stalinist regime (without the same degree of law and order) is a depressing sight.
Even pantomime is not immune to the joylessness of Britain today. The sweets, formerly tossed into the auditorium for children to catch, will now be distributed by ushers moving amongst the audience, no doubt wearing surgical gloves. It is to be hoped that they are distributed correctly according to ethnic groups to avoid upsetting anyone.
And I would caution children against booing too loudly or perhaps in the wrong place. There may be an ASBO awaiting you on your way out.
And it was not always this way. The world of Charles Dickens was an imperfect one but there was no criticism of Tiny Tim when he said:
“God bless us – every one.”
It was the spirit of Christmas – and so it should remain.


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