Saturday, 27 December 2008

Free to Choose

I've had a dreadful Christmas. All the in-laws descended on us, all demanding to be fed with food that it was assumed that I would cook. Midnight Mass carried on for ever so I didn't get to sleep until about 2am. Little Miss Patently woke us up with the announcement that her clock must be broken, because it still said it was only five to six in the morning. She did this at (you guessed it) 5:54 am, so I spent the day utterly exhausted from lack of sleep. My presents included a new pair of gloves, a new tie, a new pair of cufflinks, and a book by that renowned author, Richard Hammond. Then, round two the day after was to be the return trip to the in-laws, but their car wouldn't start. Positioned in a crucial blocking position on our steeply-sloping drive, pushing it was not an option (unless I fancied a visit to the orthopaedic surgeon).

Except that, in fact, I had a great Christmas. I do actually like cooking; although Christmas dinner for 12 is a somewhat stressful prospect, it gives you a moral high ground from which to demand help whenever you want. It also gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card for use at any time - "Sorry, got to go and chop the cranberries", plus your very own little retreat in which you have total power - "You're in the way, go and sit in the lounge". OK, I was tired, but Midnight Mass was beautiful and put me in the proper mood, and she was just excited - how many children aren't on Christmas morning? Richard Hammond actually writes quite wittily; he's not going to win the Booker prize, but it's good holiday reading all the same. And I do actually wear cufflinks and gloves and could do with a new pair of each. Oh, and the car problem was a useful chance to take charge and show my father-in-law (and Mrs P, for that matter) that I know what I'm doing in a "crisis" and can cope with this bloke stuff that all men are supposed to be born knowing.

Life genuinely is what you make it. Looking back, if I want to make the last few days seem depressing, then I can. Equally, if I want to make them seem good, I can do that too. The same material can be worked in either direction.

For the last few years, I think I have tended to look on things negatively. A general surfeit in the level of work and expectations placed on me, together with a distinct shortfall of sleep, seem to have made this the default. A little effort (and, admittedly, a little sleep) is all that is needed to look again at the same memories and see them in a positive light. And once you start to feel negative about things, you don't see the positive opportunities and things tend to get steadily worse. Equally, maintaining a positive outlook reinforces itself; winners do indeed make their own luck.

Which is why this is my New Year's Resolution:

Wishing you all a positive and lucky 2009.


  1. I never cook.
    But I carved some turkey and opened poured the wine.
    That way I could claim a totally unjustified partial credit for the meal.

  2. Go on - try it! It's easy, and chicks love it ;-)

    The advantage that men have when trying to cook is that it is like Dr Johnstone's dog - the one that walks on its hind legs; impressive not that it does it well, but that it does it at all.

  3. I once cooked some steaks and burgers with a flat mate. There was so much smoke that we lay on the kitchen floor to eat them.
    A neighbour called the fire brigade.
    They advised us to clean the cooker.
    We advised them to have a beer and they joined us on the floor.

  4. My brother gave me a copy of 'Yes Man' by Danny Wallace for Christmas. If you want to start thinking positively, there are few better places to start. Honestly, it's a really brilliant book and it's made me want to take life more positively in the future. Say Yes More.

    I do love Christmas, though - disorderly chaos is much more fun when there's children around, don't you think?

  5. How could I say "no" to that! "Yes Man" is now on order, courtesy of Amazon...

    And yes, children do make Christmas special. Provided they're not expected to eat Bill's cooking, I guess!