While some might think it’s invasive and unfair, I consider it an occupational hazard of being related to me (or friends with me, or a man with funny hair who once served me in a shop) that every now and then you’ll be exposed in this column. I think it’s testament to their rich personalities that their quirks and foibles get committed to print so regularly.
And of course, the quirkiest and foibliest of all is my mother. I’m genuinely surprised that her mandatory dressing gown policy for the Christmas-New Year period hasn’t yet been enforced, after I wrote about it a whole year ago. People of Worthing, you’re missing out. We could all be dancing merrily around a flannel bonfire in the ‘burning of the dressing gowns’ ceremony right now, if my mother’s immortal genius had been listened to.
So when my mother said to me about an hour ago, “whatever you write about, please please don’t put anything about how sad our new year’s eves are”, I believe she actually meant, “Here’s a great idea for material! Write about our sad new year’s eves!”
“Let the world share in our yearly angst, as we realise that all the struggles and successes, progressions, discoveries and personal triumphs of the last twelve months culminate in a bowl of broken twiglets and a telly programme called “Phillip Schofield and Some Celebrities Who Were Once on Reality TV For Three Minutes Reminisce About That Time Someone’s Top Popped Open on Bargain Hunt”*.
It’s important, I think, for these things to be admitted openly. It’s about time someone took a stand against all the propaganda, and exposed New Year’s Eve as the sham it really is. So, for the sake of my family and everyone else up and down the country making duck mouths out of Pringles as a fitting tribute to their year, I am going to be the one brave enough to ask: Does ANYBODY ever have an exciting new year?
As a child I believed New Year’s Eve was something only TV people could do, like magically making dates over the phone without saying the time or place, or waking up in full make-up without pillow creases down their face and hair like Mrs Twit. New Year’s Eve was a time when people in films got engaged, people in Eastenders got their faces punched in, and people in my family got to finish off the Christmas cheese and fall asleep at 10.30.
Then as I got older, I realised that New Year’s Eve wasn’t the sole preserve of people in films and telly, it was just the preserve of everybody in the world apart from people you actually know. The same way you always suspect everybody else can finish a Guardian crossword or drink Campari without gagging, despite never having seen anyone do it, you always believe the whole worlds is having fantastically glamorous parties full of popping champagne corks and air-kissing and fireworks on boats, despite everyone you know claiming their New Year’s was just as crap as yours was.
The upside to our traditional family New Year’s, other than holding a fake countdown at 9.30 so no.2 brother could be put to bed with minimal violence, was Jools Holland. Uncle Jools. Uncle Jools, who selflessly let us join in his own party every year, giving us the warm cosy feeling that we were part of something. “It’s ok that we’re not galavanting somewhere, Jools approves! If Jennifer Saunders and Ade Edmundson spend their New Year’s sitting at a table watching Franz Ferdinand, that’s not so very different from us sitting on a sofa, watching Jennifer Saunders and Ade Edmundson sitting at a table watching Franz Ferdinand. Hoorah!”
So of course, it was more than a little soul-destroying when recently, after over a decade of contented New Years with Uncle Jools, my mother discovered the awful truth. That the Hootenanny, despite its realistic air of natural jollity and mirth, is actually pre-filmed at the beginning of December. The liars!! And so the New Year sham continues, aided by some of our best-loved D-list celebs. We all know, deep down, that it’s because, come real New Year, they too are all at home polishing off their selection boxes over a nice jigsaw. We all know it, and yet somehow I still can’t quite believe it.
*If we’re lucky it might be an extended special called ‘Top 100 People’s Tops Popping Open of 2008’, and we can go to bed satisfied that the year wasn’t wasted.
In which I consider what's in a name
4 months ago