Well, Christmas sped by, as I predicted it would. There will be some pleasant memories to dredge up in coming years, but already Christmas 2010 is receding hazily into the past. There’s still New Year’s Eve to come, but after that it’s January, that most unrelenting, hopeless of months:
I was hoping that our tree might just soldier on till the new year, but I made the mistake of picking the first shapely one I could find from the pile outside the supermarket, and overlooked the fact that it was rootless. Alfie’s tail and the underfloor heating did for it. By yesterday, it was visibly sagging under the weight of the decorations. It had to go. This morning, just after my sister and brother-in-law headed back to Limoges airport and thence to Southampton, my daughter and I stripped it bare. My wife has draped the lights artistically around one of our free-standing shelf units. It looks pretty enough to help fill the vacuum left by our denuded tree.
With my sister gone and the socialising over, we all sat down early this evening to watch the DVD that formed part of Tilley’s present. The Shining. It must have been at least 30 years since I’ve seen the film. Tilley sat on the sofa clutching a cushion and constantly seeking reassurance, but all I could remember was the infamous ‘here’s Johnny!’ scene.
Kubrick pulled out all the stops: the discordant music, the long tracking shots in pursuit of vulnerable characters, the queasy décor, the visual clues scattered hither and thither, the nightmarish hallucinations (that must surely have inspired David Lynch, particularly when dreaming up Twin Peaks), the suffocating sense of claustrophobia.
I remembered Shelley Duvall’s dippy wife, Wendy, brandishing the kitchen knife unconvincingly, but I’d forgotten quite how often Jack Nicholson turned into a werewolf. And I’d forgotten the wonderful husky-voiced, bandy-legged actor, Scatman Caruthers, was in it – forever cherished here for his cameo in The King of Marvin Gardens (‘What’s your name, boy?’ ‘They call me Johnny the Wonder-boy…’ ‘Well I wonder why you don’t get the hell out of my kitchen’) – mainly, it seems, to deliver the snowmobile that enabled wife and son to get the hell out of that cold, cold place.
I’d also forgotten Room 237. Scatman warned the little boy about Room 237, but human beings can never resist temptation. The bedroom is the equivalent of Pandora’s Box. And as soon as little Danny enters the forbidden room, all hell breaks loose. All the resident evil in that snowbound hotel rushes out like a gust of wind.
Christmas is my personal Room 237. Dashing around my supermarkets of choice just before the festivities, I found myself as usual recklessly putting all kinds of things that I would never usually contemplate into the trolley: bottle of champagne, smoked salmon, ludicrously expensive Swedish crispbread, German Christmas cake, chocolate, more chocolate…
Starting on Christmas Eve, the next week or so becomes one long snack. After my sister’s departure, Debs and I swore abstinence only to succumb immediately to an opened bottle of wine. Our daughter accused us of ‘hitting the liquor again’. She no longer recognises her normally abstemious parents.
What is it about Christmas that causes you to lose all sense of reason? Is it the fact that it represents the end of a long, hard year? Is it the thought of January to come – and all those weeks of little more than leaks, cabbage and potatoes? I don’t know the answer. It’s a question of eat now, pay later.I only hope that when retribution comes – as it surely must – it doesn’t come in the shape of a deranged, unshaven half-man/half-werewolf wielding an axe.