So this is Christmas…

…and what have you done?

It’s sad to see the footage from John Lennon’s music video where the title and the above-line is taken from. It was in the mid-late 1980s that my parents bought what I remember to be my immediate family’s first Christmas compilation – that song being the first one going. As I mentioned in my previous post, given that the problems of war and global poverty have not been anywhere near dealt with, it’s sad to see the church I was once part of really going vociferously against equal marriage – and on today of all days. Given the consistency of message (if not the frightening rhetoric) with other dioceses in other parts of the world, this has clearly been co-ordinated centrally.  The Anglican Bishop of Cork at the same time cautioned that the behaviour of religious institutions were pushing away people from it and its beliefs. I’m not going to pretend the issue of equal marriage isn’t divisive – it clearly is. But then so were other civil rights struggles too.

What messes things up for me personally is that, having had a childhood brought up under the cloud of such an institution, the religious festivities associated with it are very difficult to disentangle from the institution. Thus all things Christmas and Easter are associated with the baggage of the institution. Thus I find myself alienated from two of the biggest religious and cultural festivals in the country. Christmas carols have baggage – as do the various festivities. I can’t get away from it. It’s like this permanent dark cloud that I cannot shift. Why would I want to celebrate the birth of a figure that founded an institution that did so much harm to me? That’s what makes carols and other Christmas songs from those days so hard to cope with.

So…that’s why over the past 48 hours I’ve been Twitter-ranting through Puffles.

As you probably found from my previous post, Christmas was not a big deal this year – nor was it last year. Or in the years before that if the truth be told. The big difference this year was the presence of baby Lozzles – my less-than-week-old niece who I spent what felt like an eternity cradling as she slept in my arms as her older brother ran riot in the house. Other than her, it was a broadly unremarkable Christmas – though in part it’s sort of out of choice at the moment. As you can gather from above I’m not in the right ‘place’  geographically, life/work situation and in terms of state of mind for anything other than something small and family-based.

The sales frenzy

Well it kicks off now and all the people will be swarming like crazed livestock dashing for the bargains to be had – the ones they were previously buying at marked-up prices for Christmas. In recent years, shoppers have been waiting till later and later to do their shopping in the hope that retailers will cut prices to entice them. And who can blame them? What surprises me is that more families have not ‘postponed’ Christmas present-giving time till the New Year so that people can save a fortune by buying up things in the sales.

I spent part of last night looking online to see if there was anything of interest. There were a few stupendously expensive ones way outside my affordability. In anycase, the items were ones for a different world – the one of formal balls and receptions. I don’t really go to such things any more. I used to go to several during my civil service days – at least four balls per year. Yet the clubs and organisations that put them on are on a smaller scale than before, and are also difficult to get to if coming in from Cambridge. Also, organisations that would have previously put on formal receptions – especially ones where public servants would sometimes find themselves – are (understandably) no longer put on or are on a smaller scale. As more grey hairs appear, it seems I’m more likely to be found in pubs than grand buildings.

Actually, it’s quite a relief not to feel the pressure of having to spend money in the sales. In Richard Layard’s book on Happiness, one of his observations is that our happiness (as far as consumer goods is concerned) is based on what others around you do and do not have. Think back to the playground and the kids that had the best trainers, bikes and computer games for us boys. All the way through to the sixth form where it seemed that the ‘best’ designer clothes and expensive cars bequeathed by affluent parents were what some people judged each other by. I say ‘best’ because in later years I began to learn what really does and does not count as far as purchasing a quality product that meets whatever requirement the purchaser requires. Hence why whenever buying clothes, I always look at the label…on the inside (as opposed to the brand on the outside). As a personal rule, I try to avoid formal clothes that contain polyester or variants of. There are others I have too.

So…what is going to make me happy?

I could tick the boxes of ‘girl of dreams,’ (still single), ‘own place’, ‘own motor’, ‘own office with telephone and fax machine’ – a sort of Keeping Up Appearances view of life. But I’m a complicated creature. Given the deep-thinking disposition and the wider worldview that I have, I can’t see myself reaching such levels of fulfilment in the short-medium term. Health is the big barrier, and sorting those issues out will take time. My challenge is what to do in the meantime that will improve health and contentment – because I’m clearly not content with things.

At the same time, I’m also in a situation where I don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. I’ve also learnt to cut losses far earlier than in the past. If I cut losses between ages of 16-21 the way I do now, my chosen A-levels and friendship groups at sixth form would have been different and, assuming I ended up at the same university on the same course, would have pulled out not long after the first term.

Funnily enough, the world that revolves around Puffles makes me happier. The people, the activities, the meetups – the work even. Puffles is a very useful filter. The people I meet that don’t ‘get’ Puffles tend to be hostile towards social media. Fortunately, most of those types are the ones that, at public events at least are the ones least likely to approach a bloke carrying a dragon. Thus the people that tend to approach me at such gatherings seem to be the nicer ones. This pleases me immensely!

Looking back on the past two years, what I’ve unwittingly achieved through Puffles is building a supportive community. I never had the intention of this when first launching Puffles onto Twitter. It’s just something that evolved – as did the persona of Puffles. It allows not just myself but other people to have the sorts of friendly social gatherings that we might not otherwise have, and meet people who we would not normally meet and converse with in normal life.

For 2013? I’ll save that for the New Year.

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