Becky says things about … an American road trip – PART 4: Nashville

Not long after leaving Gatlinburg, and winding our way out of the sultry haze of the Smokey Mountains, Mother Nature decided she’d spoilt us with all the endless clear blue skies, and unleashed hell, in the form of a solid wall of rain.

Immediately, the ability to use my eyes to see things was rendered completely useless.

With astounding collective proficiency, myself and my fellow road users all slowed from 70mph to 20mph in about four seconds, and I crawled through the grey torrent for what seemed like an age, hoping fervently that I was still on the road (I say hoping, because I could see neither the end of the car bonnet, nor any evidence of road on either side).

This devilish downfall did eventually ease, but it set the scene for our visit to Nashville. We arrived at our Best Western in the rain, and admired our room’s view of the hotel pool in the rain, and overheard a conversation in the lobby that this was the most rain the city had had in approximately five billion years.

But despite the rain, we had matters to attend to: a trip to the Bluebird Café.

The Bluebird Café is a ‘listening room’: a tiny venue the size of someone’s living room, seating only about 70 guests; in the centre of the jumble of tables is a circle of four chairs where the musicians play their music to each other and the privileged audience who have managed to get through the Glastonbury-style competitive ticket process. The novelty is you don’t know who you’re going to see until you get there. We’re not talking mega stars here, although apparently Taylor Swift turned up there recently. So you never know who you’ll end up listening to.

Due to the intimate size of the Bluebird Café, it is necessary (and delightfully peculiar) to share tables with complete strangers, so Sarah and I were ushered through the tangle of fairy lights and chair legs to a table at which four 60-somethings were already sitting.

Now, we were acutely aware throughout our entire trip in the Deep South that us Londoners stuck out like a sore thumb, and that we wore our tourist-ness like giant flowing capes whether we liked it or not. However, I can tell you that two women from London do not stick out in a bar in Tennessee nearly as much as four wealthy retirees from Bel Air.

Sarah and I were immediately seduced. The twinkly-eyed gent who looked like Liberace introduced them all (which was a total waste of time, as neither of us can remember any of their names, hence they are resigned to history simply as The Bluebird Four), and collectively they quizzed us on our trip, tossing admirations like dollar bills over our ‘braveness’ to undertake such a trip as ‘two women alone’. (It turned out both couples had been together since high school. The two lady Bluebirds had, Sarah and I judged, never done a day’s work in their lives.)

We were entranced by them: their perfectly manicured neatness, their eye-watering private-members’-club politeness, their unquestioning assurance that we didn’t mind being given the Spanish Inquisition by four complete strangers (we didn’t). It was the start of a beautiful friendship, of that I was certain. We would be invited to their Bel Air mansions for Christmas, we would be presented with Rolexes in little white boxes, we would be written into their Wills….

Then 12 minutes into the music, as the musicians strummed their compositions into the respectfully silent room, Liberace fell asleep, the other male Bluebird started composing a lengthy and tut-ridden email on his phone, Liberace’s wife looked down at the carpet with an inexplicable single tear rolling down her expensively creamed face, and Mrs Tutting Bluebird hissed loudly into the centre of the table ‘We’re leaving after this song.’ Two minutes later, during the enthusiastic applause, the Bluebird Four rose en masse like bored Royalty and bustled out of the room, without so much as a ‘We’ll pay for your flights at Christmas’.

Despite our unceremonious dumping, we had a wonderful evening of country music, beer and Nachos, and if any of the BlueBird Four are reading this: we’re still available to come to Bel Air this Christmas.

The next morning we took shelter from the rain in the Country Music Museum, which was extremely interesting, but perhaps not as interesting as the astoundingly rubbish stone effigies of notable musical figures in the Country Music Hall of Fame, not least of our mate Dolly:

Then we found Broadway.

On Nashville’s Broadway a West Side Story-style musical battle plays out: on one side of the street a row of bars flashes neon signs and shouts live music at the row of bars across the street, which retaliates by doing exactly the same. The result? The coolest, oddest, let’s-get-drunk-est cacophony of music you’ve ever heard. In each bar’s open window was a band playing various sub-genres of country music, and as we sloshed through the puddles (yes, it was still raining), one song from one bar would fade, have a brief tussle with the song from the next bar, then that song would be beaten down by the song from the next. It was brilliant.

As we walked past the bars that were brimming with the sort of frenzied energy that, in a normal boring city, doesn’t bubble up until about 10pm, we were acutely aware of the serious and unspoken dilemma that we were now facing: we would have to start drinking.

There are times in one’s life when one has to make a potentially life-saving decision. Here, at 12.30pm on a rainy Sunday in Nashville, on the coolest and most lively street in the Universe, we were faced with two choices:

1) Sprint straight into the nearest bar, tell each other we would only stay for a couple of beers and then have a sensible lunch, a lunch that would never materialise, and instead we would simply descend into a long afternoon of booziness that would inevitably result in one of us being sick in a drain by 5pm; or

2) Have a very slow and very big lunch that neither of us particularly wanted, but which would at least arm us against the onslaught of an afternoon of crapulous inevitability, and hope that it would be at least 8pm before one of us was sick in a drain.

We sensibly chose the latter, and feasted on ribs, pulled-pork baps, potato salad and macaroni cheese at Martin’s BBQ. This killed a good hour, after which we almost ran back to Broadway and tucked ourselves into the dim, purple-lit Robert’s Western World bar where we did what any sane human would do on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Nashville: drink beer and listen to country music.

Which we did with gusto and aplomb.

Here is a diagram of our afternoon in Nashville:

If you’d asked us at 7.30pm on that Sunday, as we slumped over the bar at Teqila Cowboy, what Nashville is like, you would have received this reply:

Hence why we called it a day (yes, I know it was only 7.30pm, but that’s just how we roll), demolished a Nathan’s hot dog from a street corner stall, got a cab back our hotel and collapsed in front of a true crime documentary until it was an acceptable time to pass out.

If you ask us now what Nashville is like, you will receive this reply: Nashville is pure, untamed fun. If you like country music, BBQ ribs, and a down-to-earth, no-frills, shoes-are-slightly-sticking-to-the-floor sort of time, it’s the best place ever. Especially on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

And especially when it turns out neither of you needed to be sick into a drain.

UP NEXT: blues, ducks, and the deserted city in Memphis.

 

 

Becky says things about … an American road trip PART 3: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

After an overnight stop in Athens, Georgia, we ploughed up through the green and red fields of rural Georgia under a crystal clear sky, briefly cutting through a thin slice of North Carolina, where we passed more churches than was surely practical. I immediately had a burning question for these churches:

WHERE DO YOUR CONGREGATIONS COME FROM?

Seriously. This is how the drive went:

Church. Church. Fields. McDonalds. House. Church. Gun outlet. McDonalds. Fields. Church. House. Church. Gun outlet. Fields. Church. Rifle range. Church. McDonalds. Church. House. Fields. Gun outlet. Church. Church. Fields. McDonalds. Church.

I can only imagine that their congregations are solely made up of gun-wielding McDonalds’ employees.

After an hour winding through the deep green veins of the Smokey Mountains, we emerged into the flat valley of Gatlinburg. I had imagined a quaint Swiss-style resort tucked humbly in the mountains, hanging baskets blooming from wooden chalets, the smell of mulled cider wafting on the fresh breeze  – the odd cow roaming pensively – instead, we got the Blackpool of Tennessee. Under the disapproving gaze of the hazy blue Smokies lay a bustling strip of arcades, amusements, hot dog and doughnut stalls, tacky bars, shops selling all the tat you could possibly wish for – and it was when I saw the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the movie memorabilia store that I wiped a tear from my eye. It was ruddy brilliant.

Upon walking through the door of the Airbnb office, the moustacheod cowboy behind the desk drawled ‘Ah, there y’are, Becky and Sarah,’ and when I asked how he knew it was us, he replied ‘Cos there ain’t no other soul comin’ my way today.’

Three minutes later we were back out the door with the key to our condo. This relaxed process was a far cry from the Spanish Inquisition we’d had checking in to the Daytona and Athens hotels, where we had been asked for ID, credit card, date of birth, known allergies, top ten favourite album covers, mother’s maiden, and favourite sexual position.

Our Airbnb was on the fifth floor of a condo complex (block of flats to us Brits), with a view from the balcony that was reasonably acceptable.

A couple of hours later we were sailing high above the mangle of shrubs and trees as a ski lift hoisted us up the mountain, our bare feet dangling in the hot air, our knuckles whitening and our colons twitching at the beautiful yet almost-certain-death below us.

At the top of the mountain, bathed in the red evening sun, was an Alpine Disneyland: a toytown of chalet-style shops, a bar, and a complex of rope bridges clutching the tree trunks of the mountainside. All accompanied by some yodelling. When one finds oneself in a mountaintop toytown, the only thing to do is to have a pint of incredibly strong local ale and go for a stroll on the perilously high treetop walk. This we did with the alacrity of a couple of slightly tipsy mountain goats.

The next morning, we felt we should do A Walk as that’s what people do when they’re in the mountains, so we drove into the darkening, tangled heart of the Smokies to do A Walk to Grotto Falls.

At the entrance to The Walk was a sign telling us that at any one time there would be 37,000 bears watching us, and if we should come face to face with one we should firstly try this:

And if Mr Bear took umbrage to that, and if we were still alive, we should secondly try this:

That was the long and short of it, anyway.

Fortunately we didn’t get to practice our bear-survival skills, and made it to the extremely pretty waterfall with merely a few splodges of bear poo on the soles of our trainers.


Are you a die-hard supporter of the 45th president of the United States? Do you live in the Gatlinburg area? Do you enjoy a statement t-shirt? Then it’s your lucky day!

Bizarrely, neither Sarah nor I fancied any of these jolly t-shirts, but we DID fancy the movie memorabilia store, where we spent probably the happiest 20 minutes of my life.

After a hard day of not seeing any bears and avoiding being gunned down by Tennesseans as we took photos of us giving Trump t-shirts the finger, we spent the evening on our balcony playing cards (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cards – thank you, movie memorabilia store) and drinking wine, which was a delightful way to spend an evening until a bug flew into my nose and I threw my wine in Sarah’s face in shock.

Question: what do you do if you’re staying six miles from a Dolly Parton-themed theme park called Dollywood?

Answer: go to Dollywood.

It.

Was.

Brilliant.

For three solid hours we were flung about on some of the best roller coasters I’ve ever been on, and I became intimately acquainted with Sarah’s vocal chords.

In the gift shop – a veritable shrine to Dolly Parton, her plastic face beaming from every item – I had the following illuminating conversation with the pink-capped girl at the checkout:

Then came Funnel Cake-gate.

A Funnel Cake is America’s way of making a doughnut even more lethal to your arteries. Instead of a single lump of batter plopped into the fryer, the batter is piped into the hot fat so it creates an intricate nest, thereby increasing the surface area of available fat-soaked dough by approximately 23,000 times. It is then doused in icing sugar.

We demolished this arterial onslaught in around eight minutes (theme parks are hungry work) and experienced a brief moment of sugar-induced elation, during which we planned every detail of our campaign to be the first female presidential duo of the United States, and then, as though draining through the bottom of a bucket, our blood sugar levels succumbed to the greatest sugar and adrenaline crash in the history of the universe.

It was all I could do to drive us back through the mountains and crawl into a late afternoon coma. The lesson? Roller coasters + funnel cake = absolutely nothing. Forget it. You’re finished.

Conclusion: Gatlinburg is F.U.NAnd if you’re a Trump-supporting, church-going, gun-toting, bear-fighting, Funnel Cake-loving adrenaline junkie, then you should definitely go.

UP NEXT: Rain, country music, and another booze-filled afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Becky says things about … an American road trip – Part 2: Savannah, Georgia

Happily, the 230 mile journey from Daytona Beach to Savannah can be considered a success, because I only ended up on the wrong side of the road once, and nobody died.

Around 2pm, we crested a wave on the freewayhighway and sank into the plush green garden of Savannah.

Savannah is a small city near the east coast of Georgia, across the Savannah River from South Carolina. At its centre is a lush green canopy of live oak trees which hides a serene underworld of dolls’ houses and secrets. The grid of streets is puckered with 22 grassy squares, gently breathing under the tangle of branches. The pavements are tickled by the braids of Spanish moss that trail from the trees.

It was immediately the most beautiful place I had ever been in my life.

Our Airbnb was a wooden Victorian treasure trove just off Forsythe Park, complete with an actual porch and an actual wooden swing seat suspended from the porch ceiling. This caused perhaps over-zealous excitement.

 

After a lazy stroll through the squares, gulping in the green-sweet air, we emerged on the cobbled riverfront where an old steamboat hissed at the bank. There, we experienced a clear sign from God: it began to drizzle just as we spotted a chalkboard offering $5 margaritas. So we ‘popped in’ to a restaurant bar called The Shrimp Factory.

Four hours later, we popped out again.

Allow me to introduce you to our new Shrimp Factory friends (who will assume the names we prescribed them the following morning when our memory of exact details was quite sketchy):

Boston Sue and Donald Sutherland, a middle-aged couple from Boston. Sue’s initial reserved seriousness was magically transformed by the shots I was palming off on her, and suddenly she was whooping and hollering and trying to set Sarah up with the bartender; Pissed Ruth, a 45-ish woman travelling alone from New York, who sank margaritas and told us she’d had a terrible day, and who ended up getting absolutely smashed and hanging off our shoulders telling us we ‘motherfucking ruled’ for doing our road trip; and finally Mr and Mrs Jim, a charming couple from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. (We did know Jim’s wife’s Christian name at some point during the evening, but it is forever lost to Drunk Lost Property.) Married 45 years; ‘he still makes me laugh, and I still make him cry’. Jim happily supped beer and looked on while Mrs Jim downed cocktails at superhuman speed and clamoured over us, wanting to know our life stories.

By 7pm, we were all best friends and they all watched eagerly as the bartender gave Sarah and I two shots of Moonshine. This Moonshine was 100% proof. This could have set a dangerous precedent for when we returned to the UK.

When deep in such boozy conviviality, it is astounding how many topics you can cover. In this case: Trump (“the most retarded president we’ve ever had” according to wise old Boston Sue); the Catholic Church; youth vs age; the moral debate about legalising cannabis; the US penitentiary system, and death. All light, fluffy stuff.

By 9pm, we were all steaming drunk: Boston Sue and Pissed Ruth were dancing, Mr Jim and Donald Sutherland were swayingly discussing golf, and Mrs Jim was tearily confiding in Sarah about their gay son and about how Mr Jim was absolutely            fine          with it.

By 9.30pm we were back at our lovely Airbnb and I fell up the porch steps.

Despite a hangover the next day that was in the ‘top three worst of my life’, Sarah gallantly made it through a trolley bus tour of the city, and survived a surprisingly chirpy me dragging her round the muggy squares while I took millions of photos of millions of trees from millions of different angles.

At 4pm, an ice cream still hadn’t sorted her out, so the only thing for it was to have a drink.

It didn’t go down well.

We had an early night.


Fact: if you google ‘Savannah, Georgia’ the following picture will appear:

It’s not a mythical land, it’s not a scene from a Disney film, it is the Wormsloe Plantation, and I took the above photo the following morning whilst hanging out of the car window as we trundled slowly beneath the silent mesh of trees. Not bad for a woman in charge of a moving vehicle, eh?

We had a sweaty walk through what was essentially a tropical rainforest that screeched with peculiar insects, including forest crabs that scuttled willy-nilly across our path. This was unsettling, but I suppose it was preferable to the plethora of entirely possible alternatives.

The plantation ruins were a little underwhelming. I mean, they were only from the 1700s, and when we Brits have got castles and churches that date back to 120AD, it takes quite a lot to astonish us.

On our way back to the city, we broke a world record: the Longest Time Two Humans have Spent Trying to Fill Up a Car at a Gas Station.

28 minutes to be precise.

In our humble land, we fill up our vehicle with petrol, and we then pay for the precise amount of petrol we have used.

America likes to turn this simple process into a perverted game, whereby you have to guess how much petrol your car needs and guess how much it is going to cost. Before you so much as lift the pump from its clasp.

To make things even more fun, the little screen at the pump inexplicably needed to know our postcode, presumably so it could send us a Christmas card, and after the 17th time of being asked for this information and there was still no sign of petrol appearing from the pump, we were becoming desperate.

After what felt like three days of hopeless fannying around, an assistant finally coaxed Sarah inside, where Sarah guessed how much it would cost to fill up our little Hyundi with three quarters of a tank. Sarah’s guess was $60 off the mark.

Whilst we were delighted that it had only cost $20 to fill up the car, it meant another embarrassed trip to the assistant to get $60 put back on Sarah’s card.

Dear America:

After a fat Ruben sandwich at Clary’s Diner, and a cultured tour round the beautiful Mercer-Williams House, the muggy heat of the day got to us, so we sought refreshment in Pinkie Master’s.

Pinkie Master’s had been suggested by our Airbnb host in response to my question ‘where do the locals drink in Savannah?’, and it very quickly became the second most beautiful thing I had seen next to Savannah itself.

At 4pm on a Monday afternoon, it was just us, the bartender and the locals, and as we sipped jars of tequila and grapefruit slushies (which are gifts from the Heavens), we sank deeper into the wonderfully eccentric world of a local dive bar in an eccentric city.

As one local left, another took their place. We met Big George and Tiny George, Gregory ‘The Legend’, Irish Ian, and when the door opened and a big guy walked in to greetings of ‘Hey, Coach!’, I lost my shit.

We were told about the guy who used to come in to the bar with a tortoise on a lead (‘Fuck that tortoise’, grumbled the barman); we discovered that it was here that Jimmy Carter first announced he would run for President (apparently); we watched a good-natured argument across the bar between two locals, which ended with one happily saying to the other ‘I wish you were dead’.

When Carol and Ian from Bradford – yes, Bradford, England – came in, and we learnt that they had fallen in love with Savannah ten years ago and had actually moved here when they retired, I may have reacted strangely.

As the day darkened outside, and as the neon signs around the bar glowed ever brighter, I decided I wanted to move to this peculiar, beautiful town, and hole myself up in this dim neon-glowing room and become an eccentric local, and drink tequila and grapefruit slushies. Forever.

BEHOLD ITS BEAUTY.

Unfortunately, we had to drive to Tennessee the next day, so we dragged ourself off the bar stools, bid farewell to our 5-hour friends, stumbled home and assassinated a pizza.

Conclusion: If you go anywhere in the States, go to Savannah. It is impossible not to fall in love. And I don’t just mean with tequila and grapefruit slushies.

UP NEXT: Mountains, Dolly Parton and bears in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 

Becky says things about … a new year

So, dearest Listeners, it’s very nearly 2014, and Stickman, like a lot of us, is feeling a bit pensive.

new year1

Those old niggling feelings of regret and guilt are creeping up on as we teeter towards the cusp of a new year: was I productive enough this year? Was I a good person? Did I do enough exercise? Did I eat and drink too much? Did I finally sort out my iTunes folders?

new year2

We’re vaguely excited about a new year because it means we can start again, and get it right this time. Not like we did all the other years – all the other years, when we promised ourselves we’d be brilliant and then we turned out to be not as  brilliant as we’d hoped – because this year it’ll be different. 

new year3

We’re probably going to a party tonight, and are getting into the party spirit by playing a few excellent tunes, having a cheeky drink, dancing a merry jig, and waving off 2013 as something that happened to us once, and there’ll be plenty of other years ahead to play with. new year4

Or we’re staying at home and reflecting on how quickly it all flies past and how death is imminent.

new year6

Whatever we’re doing, and however we’re feeling, the new year is upon us – whether we like to stick with a lower case new year, or attribute seasonally erroneous capitals to our New Year to give it the magnitude it deserves – and there’s a whole heap of bugger all we can do about it.

new year5

So, I suggest we all have a good time, we all hug our friends, we all get a little bit merry and say something mildly inappropriate to at least one person, and we all look forward to being brilliant in 2014 and finally getting round to sorting out our iTunes folders.

new year7

 

A very happy new year, or Happy New Year – however you like to play it – for 2014 from myself and Stickman, and may the New Year bring You very many Good Things, a lot of Laughs, few Cries, Much Love, excellent Fortune, and a WhiMsicaL attItuDe To cApiTAl LeTTeRs.

newyear1

Becky says things about … Christmas as a grown-up VS Christmas as a kid

YULETIDE FELICITATIONS TO YOU, MOST CHRISTMASSY LISTENERS!! 

christmas5

The season of goodwill and gastronomic assault is upon us, the fairy lights are twinkling, the crooners are crooning, the kids are wetting themselves with excitement that Father Christmas is going to shower them with gifts, and the grown-ups are wetting themselves with fear that the tree is too big, the turkey is too small and the bank account is empty – which begs the important seasonal question: is Christmas as brilliant for grown-ups as it is for kids?

The Run-Up to Christmas

KIDS: You are in a constant frenzy and on the verge of soiling yourself. School is a dream: you spend lessons doing festive-themed wordsearches, colouring festive-themed pictures, or – and this is the most brilliant thing in the world – your teacher greets you with the words ‘I thought we’d watch a video today’, and she wheels the TV to the front of the class, shoves in a Disney film, turns off the lights, and life has never been more spectacular. 

christmas6

The world has become a sparkling, magical place. You are dribbling over Polly Pockets and Barbies and Lego and are hoping against hope that Father Christmas gets the letter you sent him, although you’re suspicious about the effectiveness of a postal system that involves chucking the letter up the chimney, especially as you saw said letter flutter down behind the fire grate and land amongst a load of dead woodlice, but your parents have assured you it’ll get to Lapland (wherever the hell that is. WHO CARES??) The house smells of pine, and the lounge furniture has been rearranged to make room for the Christmas tree, a necessary process which never ceases to be unfathomably thrilling.

christmas1

Christmas is the best thing ever ever ever.

GROWN-UPS: Work is becoming more tolerable because all you are doing is eating Celebrations, leaving post-its on your colleague’s monitor that say ‘All I want for Christmas is… you to stop bringing in f***ing leftover chilli for lunch’, and spending days trying to cure your hangover from yet another Christmas booze-up the night before.

christmas7

The world is a magical sparkly place, and you are enjoying the warm glow of lights twinkling in windows, but you are NOT enjoying the gladiatorial skirmish of Christmas shopping or the constant ejaculation of money from your purse, or the realisation that everything on your Christmas list are things you need like a new slow-cooker or a dustbuster or a nice practical desktop filing system, or the fact that you’ve done your back in rearranging the bloody lounge furniture.

christmas8

WINNER: Kids. The run-up to Christmas is a parade of relentless glee, mainly founded on a shroud of lies about a mythical avuncular stranger bearing gifts, the value of which you have no concept, and life is magnificent. Grown-ups are just finding the whole thing a bit tiring.

PRESENTS

KIDS: You have come out in prickly heat because you just cannot decide which of your phenomenal presents you are going to play with first. Will you perform an elaborate and heartwarming drama with your new Sylvanian families in your new dollshouse, involving Master Owl hiding all Mrs Badger’s silverwear under the stairs, much to the chargrin of Mrs Hedgehog the Cook? Will you construct the greatest feat of architectural mastery the Lego world has ever seen? Will you dress up your new Barbie in her sparkly ballgown that is so beautiful it is breaking your heart?

christmas12

It doesn’t matter what you play with first. Because the day ahead is a neverending heaven of playing, eating, playing and playing, and you wish it could be Christmas every day.

GROWN-UPS: You are smiling politely at your new desktop filing system, and spend 49 seconds arranging it neatly on your desk. You are thrilled with your new perfume and spray it on your wrist. Then you place it back in its box. Then you flick through your new book for a bit. Words and words. Then you sniff your new bubble bath and consider how nice it will make your skin smell after your bath. Then you think you should probably clean up those pine needles under the tree with your new dustbuster, and go and put the turkey on.

christmas16

WINNER: Kids again. You can play with stuff. All day. You won’t hear a grown-up gasping ‘Please can I plug in my new slow-cooker and cook something really slowly now????’

FOOD

KIDS: You are astounded by the abundance of festive victuals. You haven’t had lunch yet but you are already stuffed with mini mince pies, half a chocolate reindeer, a box of peppermint creams, and all the Quality Street toffee pennies. You are beside yourself at the presence of sausages with your roast dinner. That’s like two meals in one. You eat Christmas pudding until you feel sick, and then you spend half an hour puking it all back up again in the downstairs toilet while your mum rubs your back and tells you off for having eyes bigger than your stomach.

christmas9

You finish Christmas Day delighted with your gastric prowess, the puking incident is forgotten, and you go to bed and eat the rest of your chocolate reindeer under the covers.

GROWN-UPS: You are astounded by the abundance of festive victuals. You haven’t had lunch yet but you are already stuffed and a bit drunk with smoked salmon, scrambled egg, half a bottle of Bucks Fizz, a box of chocolate liquors and all the Quality Street big purple ones. You wish you’d cooked more sausages, you eat two meals’ worth of Christmas dinner, but you refuse Christmas pudding because you’ve never really enjoyed it since you vomited after eating too much of it as a kid. You finish Christmas Day in a drunken haze with your face in a Vintage Gouda and a vague despair at the weight you’ve put on but you don’t care because there’s CHEESE.

christmas10

WINNER: Grown-ups. Your stomach is bigger, your tastes are more refined, and you’ve learnt from childhood vomiting experiences. And you can drink enough mulled wine, champagne and port to sink a ship whilst laughing at the kids for having to make do with crappy squash.

CHRISTMAS FILMS

KIDS: You cry and cry at the end of The Snowman because the little boy lost his Snowman friend and he had had such a nice time with his Snowman friend and it’s just so sad that the Snowman friend had to melt like that, and what’s more, the fact you’re crying at Christmas is making you cry even more because no one should cry at Christmas, but oh my goodness me your new rollar skates are the best things ever and you immediately forget about the sad melted Snowman friend. 

GROWN-UPS: You cry and cry at the end of The Snowman because the little boy lost his Snowman friend and life is so brief and joys are so fleeting and everything good ends up dark and shit and death is only round the corner, and the fact you’re crying at Christmas is making you cry even more because it’s the ninth ruddy time you’ve cried this Christmas because everyone cries at Christmas and where the hell is the eggnog and you can’t stop thinking about death.

christmas11

WINNER: Kids. A blissful ignorance of all the profoundly depressing themes that permeate almost every single Christmas film is essential for festive self-preservation.

FAMILY

KIDS: After the initial shock of being manhandled by various people you vaguely remember from last Christmas, you are required to present to the assembled company a comprehensive list of your Christmas presents, after which you will be told you’re a very lucky girl and that they didn’t have nearly so many presents when they were children. Once the fourth batch of mulled wine has come out and Uncle Clive has started playing House of the Rising Sun on his guitar, you seize your opportunity to escape and resume building your neo-Gothic inspired Lego mansion. You return to the lounge an hour later to find everyone asleep and you cannot fathom how insufferably boring it must be to be a grown-up who falls asleep on Christmas Day.

christmas13

GROWN-UPS: After the initial shock at how many kids your cousins have managed to churn out and ignoring a look from your mother that says ‘When are you going to have one?’, you get heavily involved in the alcohol to numb the bewildering amounts of noise the kids are making as they leap around to something called a Wii, and after the fourth batch of mulled wine has been handed round you get a warm fuzzy glow of affection for these mental relatives who are currently dancing madly to Uncle Clive playing House of the Rising Sun on his guitar, and two hours later you wake up with Aunt Audrey dribbling onto your shoulder and her false teeth in your lap, and you are mortified that you have become so insufferably old and boring and grown-up as to fall asleep on Christmas Day.

christmas14

WINNER: Grown-ups. Kids have the benefit of being able to escape the ridiculousness of grown-ups at Christmas, whilst grown-ups have the benefit of being able to drink enough alcohol to remember that they adore their relatives and then  pass out to escape the ridiculousness of kids at Christmas.

So there we have it. Kids: 3, grown-ups: 2. A close call, a small victory for the small people, and one that we should instantly forget about because Christmas can be ruddy brilliant whether we’re 8, 28, 58 or 88 (although grown-ups have the staggering benefit of MULLED WINE, and enjoy your crappy squash, kids).

Happy Christmas one and all, thank you for being such amazingly devoted and wonderful Listeners to the things that I say, and may Father Christmas bring you everything your hearts desire (within reason – a latex bodysuit is a frankly perverted desire).

christmas15