How I’m Coping with Christmas Lockdown

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

For the first time ever, the British government is telling us who we can see over Christmas 2020. I know we’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic of CORONAVIRUS. But the powers that be totally messed up the crisis from day one. The fact we’re in this situation and not virtually virus-free after nine months, like most other island nations, says plenty. So, coping with Christmas Lockdown has become essential.

Happy Families: Coping with Christmas Overkill

At the end of the day, carping is not going to change anything. The fact that I’ll be spending Christmas Day alone is, to be perfectly honest, great news. After a lifetime of forced joviality at family Christmases I do crave my own company. Stick with me and I’ll tell you how I’ll be ‘coping’.

As a child, this forced festive joviality took place with my parents and sister. Back in the 1960s, when we lived in Yorkshire, we’d be joined for Christmas by Uncle Geoff and Great Aunt Maud. Geoff was my mother’s only brother and the first gay man I met. Although he went to great lengths to disguise his sexuality, even as a child, I knew he was ‘different’ to my other uncles.

Life in the Slow Lane

Geoff lived in a remote service station on the Yorkshire Moors with his younger mechanic lover and spoke like Alan Bennett imitating Russell Harty. He drove his Morris Minor very slowly. This obviously had nothing to do with him being gay but it was excruciatingly embarrassing. Especially when you’re overtaken by cyclists, as we often were. His favourite expletive was, “Oh, Lordy!” which he delivered in a high-pitched voice at regular intervals.

Geoffrey subsequently went on to buy an apartment building by the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall, and leave all his money (millions) to the teenage son of his cleaner. But that’s another story…

Great Aunt Maud was well into her eighties and the oldest person I knew. She lived in an expansive flat above a Siamese restaurant in Horbury (yes, such things existed, even in the early 1960s), for which she paid a peppercorn rent. The landlord used to release rats and other nasties into her living quarters at regular intervals in a bid to get her out, but that’s a story for yet another day…

A Child’s Christmas in Wales

My father eventually worked out that moving several hundred miles to the far end of Pembrokeshire in south-west Wales would deter Geoff and Maud from visiting over Christmas and he was right. It would have taken Uncle Geoff eight days to drive there and another eight days to get back. This meant we spent the holiday period as the typical nuclear family: parents and two kids. This carried on even after I left to go to college, aged 18, despite my protestations. I broke away just once. On that occasion, I was arrested for burglary. My landlord had ‘forgotten’ to pay the electricity bill and the house was freezing. I’d kicked down the door of the garden shed to get wood to burn. But, you guessed it: that’s a story for another time.

I married in 1998 and had a family of my own, which meant spending Christmas Day with my wife’s family. To give you an idea of the high regard in which my mother-in-law held me, my Christmas presents from her over the years included a £1-shop screwdriver set and a very small pre-packed supermarket cheese. Usually, the novelties in the crackers were of higher value than my present. I can laugh about it now but at the time it got me fantasising about a day spent in my own company. Hanging out with my son was great but the rest of the Christmas Day package was not something I’d ever look forward to.

How I am Coping with Christmas Alone

Spending Christmas Day alone is way more enjoyable than most Christmases I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been part of the Happy Families set-up for fifty years so a change was needed.

How do I cope with Christmas Lockdown?

Simple. I just switch off my phone, open a bottle of something too expensive and put on a movie.

Rinse and repeat.

Merry Christmas!