Season’s greetings later, OK?

You will notice that I haven’t mentioned two things on this blog, Br***t and Chr*****s.

The first frustrates me immeasurably and if I were to give voice to my feelings then the Internet would rise up in horror and ban me for ever. So the blog is going to remain free of that discussion until I have some good news worth commenting. Mind you, this graph is interesting!

That leaves us with the seasonal obsession. I’m afraid that X**s celebrations for me start, as they have done for the last fifty years, in the week before 25th December when traditionally we had the round of seasonal work partying and then families got together to try to be civil to each other until Boxing Day.

Oh, those parties! While at University they went on almost until morning. Without a babysitter available at that time of year my eldest child slept peacefully in the ‘Calculator Room’ while we partied on next door. Yes, in those days we had a room to hold the three calculators that our Department owned. The oldest of these, an ‘Original Odhner’ is still with me. A massive weighty collection of gears and levers which jammed solid at one point and was consigned to the scrap heap until the Superintendent gave me permission to rescue it. I stripped it down, cleaned and reassembled it and it now sits on our windowsill, a magnet for my eldest child (who has claimed it when I die) and for my grandkids who are equally puzzled at how it actually works and how old I really am.

The Odhner was made by Willgodt T. Odhner of St.Petersburg, based on his invention from 1874. Large-scale manufacture did not commence until 1886 when the W.T.Odhner factory was built. During the late revolution the factory in St.Petersburg became the property of the state, the equipment was moved to Moscow, and soon the manufacture was entirely discontinued. However, Odhner’s legal successors went to Sweden where they founded the Aktiebolaget Original Odhner in Göteborg and resumed the manufacture of the Original Odhner.

Picture copyright Nigel Tout

Ah, how I ramble on… parties… yes… I sincerely believed that I was an exceptional dancer. In those ‘disco’ days I gyrated with gay abandon (gay only meant happy then) for hours on end fuelled by gallons of homemade wine and beer. We would spend a significant number of the dark cold November nights brewing real beer from hops, malt and sugar in big 5 gallon drums. At the same time we would have four or five demijohns (one gallon glass jars) bubbling with the fermentation of berries and fruits to produce some devastatingly potent wines.

Bottling of both was always an activity fraught with some danger. I remember one wine bottle succumbing to the pressure of secondary fermentation and exploding with enough force to take out four of its neighbours in our small airing cupboard. That year we were sober for an extra day as a result.

So we partied and we drank and we danced. But we never seemed to get drunk. The wine and beer were much more alcoholic than today’s commercial alternatives but at the end of the night we were sober enough to sit together and have rational conversations on topics ranging from sunspots and politics to the atom bomb and religion. Perhaps not sober enough to drive home – although there were no laws against it in those days. So we sat, and we chatted, and we waited for the sun to come up and our bodies to sober up enough to return home, flop into bed and grab an hour’s sleep before our children woke to start their brand new day.

Strangely, we never argued. Despite holding diametrically opposed views we discussed them civilly in a manner which would seem foreign to today’s millennials. Our discussions were searching, not opposing. We sought enlightenment not victory in our warm and befuddled state. At the end of it all we remained close friends and work colleagues, sharing greetings cards, hugs and smiles on the last day of work before the bank holiday.

…and here is where I get to the point of this blog post. Never at any point have I mentioned gifts or the fat red-cloaked chappie. There weren’t really part of our seasonal priorities. Yes we gave, and got, small gifts but it was never a race to the top, a competition to spend the most on the best. Our seasonal priorities were companionship, spending scarce free time with our children and our families and enjoying the real, true pleasures of celebrating the birth of a man who, no matter what your personal faith, typified all that was good about mankind.

Happy Christmas – when it arrives.

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