Spreading the news.jpg

Spreading the news

BY: Skip Bandele

Email: skip.bandele@portugalresident.com

HAPPY CHRISTMAS! Yes, we have done it again, reached that time of year, scoffed at decorations going up for sale in shops and supermarkets at the end of September, only to find the festive period coming around in the blink of an eyelid – how does it happen so quickly?

And once more our old friend Scrooge is doing his best to spoil what should be a time of celebration and happiness, especially for children, this time in the shape of primary school teacher, Jane Woodley.

In an era that seems to have banished basic common sense beyond the Christmas Islands, the politically over-correct form mistress left her nine-year-old charges in tears, telling them that Father Christmas does not exist. To compound her crime, she went on to insist that Rudolph is a cartoon character and that Christmas trees come from Germany – what utter codswallop! Send her to Lapland, I say. What is childhood without dreams? There is plenty of time for grim reality to make its presence felt, to destroy illusions and the wonders of growing up.

Christmas parties

Adults too, have not been spared by the 2006 PC brigade. Love them or hate them, office Christmas parties are turning into minefields. Today, bosses have a lot more on their plates than worrying about the leggy junior secretary disappearing into the broom cupboard with the sales manager. Here are some of the latest ACAS industrial tribunal guidelines:

DO NOT attempt to sell raffle tickets to Muslims as Islam forbids gambling.

DO NOT give meat or alcohol as prizes as they, too, offend.

DO NOT let staff make remarks about ‘being gay’ in the pub before the party or anywhere else for that matter.

DO carry out a ‘proper risk assessment’ before putting up decorations.

DO ensure staff have taxi numbers, or put on a bus to take all drunken revelers home.

DO finish the party while public transport is still running.

DO make sure there is a mix of music to avoid age discrimination.

I beg you, whatever next? Party? What party!

On a more nostalgic note, Britain’s last traditional toy manufacturer is to close after 76 years. The appropriately named Merrythought can no longer compete in the production of handmade teddy bears, rocking horses and soft toys in the face of Far Eastern rivals and will live up to it’s Latin motto, Parate Compleri, meaning “Get Stuffed”.

There appear to be more and more adults determined to take the magic out of the few moments of ‘normality’ remaining in our lives – take Christmas cards, for example.

Replacing this traditional exchange of good wishes with instant e-mails is bad enough, but the latest fad of ‘round robin’ newsletters really takes the biscuit.

Newsletters

The worst characteristic of these impersonal circulars is that they impart excessive admiration for the sender’s offspring, eulogising perfect exam results, Oscar-worthy acting abilities, Olympian sporting talent, musical genius and part-time charity work that would make Mother Theresa blush. Doesn’t today’s generation get drunk, smoke or swear?

Bull(etins) such as: “My ears were ringing with praise of Jake(!) from his teachers at our perfectly harmonious parents’ evening, only to arrive home to find Emily(!) opening a letter telling her that she had won a scholarship to Oxford! To read medicine, no less! It is a four-year course, so she has had to postpone her gap year in Latin America.” Come on, who are you trying to kid? If there is one thing that enrages the recipients of Christmas newsletters as much as perfect children, its self-congratulation, smugness and the unspoken theme of the communication: don’t you wish you were us?

Holidays and ‘do-gooders’ are the worst. “We have managed the usual (ha!) assortment of activities – plant sale in April raising 15,000 for local charities, hospice garden party in May, parish weekend in June, Tom to Canada on a Rotary fellowship exchange in July, a ‘Bolivia Bonanza’ again in October, which raised 5,000 for Lucy and Pat’s work there – after which we enjoyed a ‘rest’ for a week in Tunisia, seeing Roman remains and experiencing Ramadan!” Don’t these people work or get depressed, divorced, ever? Or are they just spreading lies which massage their lacking self-esteem?

Would it not be more truthful, interesting and reassuring to receive more ‘colourful’ accounts, such as: “Emily is back working in Manchester, she has a new pimp, which is a great relief to us, since the last one was violent and insisted on sending her to some quite unsuitable clients.” Or: “Jonty’s crack cocaine business goes from strength to strength, we couldn’t be more pleased with him.”

Christmas – a time for reflection, peace and joy. I am sorry to have shown such irreverent tendencies up to this point. Let me get serious and spread some serious news, thoughts that everyone is aware of, but tend to forget about among the helter-skelter of daily life now culminating in all those festive preparations.

A yuletide recipe for survival and a more fulfilled 2007: Skip’s Ten Commandments:

Enjoy yourself

Mild sunburn, a couple of beers or a sauna can reverse the aging process. Scientists say ‘stressors’, such as a small dose of poison, radiation or heat is good for you.

Stay in a relationship

Cats and dogs are a temporary alternative, but are not a long-term substitute for human companionship. Being sociable really does help you live longer.

Move home

If you are reading The Resident on a sun drenched terrace in Monchique, you already have. For those online fans of this column shivering in freezing Skegness, think about relocating to a ‘longevity hotspot’ like Hawaii, Sardinia or … the Algarve!

Have a drink

A vice in moderation, whether it’s chocolate, whisky or gambling does have a positive effect – just don’t stake your home at the Roulette wheel or down all those well-meaning liquid Christmas offerings – save the hazelnut centres for me!

Work your brain

Knit, do crosswords, go walking, take up a hobby – mental and physical exercise is vital and stimulating. Just avoid level five Sudoku number puzzles and jumping out of airplanes.

See the doctor

A bit of hypocritical advice, really. My personal philosophy is: “If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it!” But for the rest of you, have regular check-ups and if you’re sick, get treatment fast.

Eat healthily

Keep to low-fat foods, don’t overdo it on the red meat front and stop before you’re full. Again, this takes strict self-discipline, which I do not possess – McDonald’s has some great ‘eat until you burst’ Christmas offers ….

Take risks

A change is as good as a rest – intellectual challenges, travelling, or learning a new language (Portuguese!) can all add years on to your life. Again, it doesn’t have to be parachuting or playing the Japanese stock market ….

Seek a long life

Try not to be too dogmatic, intransigent or introspective – embrace any new technologies and changes of any sort. Move on, don’t stand still, meet some new people, even if they do seem a bit ‘different’ at first sight.

Be happy

Smile, keep your sense of humour and keep old age at bay.

Above all, be nice to your fellow human beings, treat others as you would like them to treat you. Kindness and warmth are not weaknesses, nor are they qualities to be reserved for a single annual outpouring on Christmas Day.

I wish all readers a wonderful festive period in the sun and an even better, happier New Year.