God knows I’m no theologian, but I understand that once Christmas had a religious significance and something to do with the concepts of fellowship, compassion and goodwill to all mankind. The good news is, those days are gone. Now it’s all about twatting each other in Tesco for a 50” TV, binge eating and pissing into a McDonald’s cup on the last train home.
But, properly planned, you can find moments to step outside the consumerist shit-fest and domestic trauma and find a sort of seasonal peace. ‘Preparation’ is not a word you hear frequently in the corridors of Deserter Ltd, but a modicum of advance thinking can reap dividends for all. And in particular – and best of all – you.
Here are some tips for a Deserter Christmas.
Most people already know that annual leave should not be taken pre-Christmas. There are simply too many free lunches, knock off earlies and beers at your desk to be had. It’s a slacker’s paradise.
Less obvious, perhaps, is the rule that you shouldn’t take annual leave between Christmas and New Year. This period is ideal for the worker: The trains are empty, you can rock up at something past ten, sit alone in the office drinking tea and installing a new OS on your phone, take a long lunch and piss off at four. No, save your leave for proper working days, when people are trying to get things done.
During the Christmas break itself, remember, at all times, that you are on your holidays. In the run-up, be sure to let everyone know how much you need some time off.
‘Sweet Jesus, this break can’t come soon enough,’ you might say, to anyone that will listen, but particularly to those with whom you will spend Christmas. ‘My doctors have ordered complete rest. They say I’m clinging on. I’m a medical miracle.’
This sets the expectations of friends and loved ones, making it clear that you cannot possibly be expected to do anything like peeling sprouts or clearing up over the holiday.
‘Lovely to see you all!’ you say, loudly, on arrival, as you kick off your shoes, pull over the footstool and reach for the remote. ‘My God, you don’t know how much I’ve been looking forward to this.’ And everyone will know not to bother you with something as trivial as the dishes.
As a child, when you’d had enough of the family you could retreat to your room, peel a satsuma and stick on some Stockhausen. Now, for some reason, as an adult you’re supposed to be ‘around’.
When it comes to getting a little me time, it’s no good just standing in the larder with a pint of gin and tonic – lovely as that is, you’ll be discovered in no time. Instead, make a song and dance about upgrading the WPA key on the router or sorting out that stuff for charity in the garage and you can buy yourself an hour with Spotify here and there.
But of course, nothing compares to the nap. If childcare is an issue, talk to to your other half about ‘tag-napping’. One of you sits with the littl’un, shelling walnuts in front of Shaun the Sheep, while the other lies face down on the bed for as long as it takes to feel human again, then you swap over. Let’s face it, if you’ve been on the bubbles since breakfast, as you should be, you’re going to need it.
Does your work mean that you have to be ‘on call’ over Christmas? If yes, excellent. If no, well it does now.
Being on call serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it’s vaguely impressive – someone, somewhere is relying on you, of all people. Secondly, it evokes sympathy in anyone you tell (which should be everyone). Inevitably, you will have to disappear for a couple of hours to sort something out with the guys in Maintenance. But of course, you’re not on call, you’re driving around the empty streets singing your tits off to Mariah Carey, just like last year.
Cards and Presents
Forget the arse-ache of Christmas cards. It’s too hard. If quizzed about them, seize the moral high ground by citing ecological concerns.
Even E-cards can be an uphill struggle. Try simply forwarding any you received from last year. Yes, the links will be dead, but it looks like you’ve made an effort.
Presents should be bought well in advance to avoid panic-spunking on over-priced tat down the Esso. Deserter chum, Roxy, buys all her presents in the summer sales and it’s certainly a novel experience to unwrap flip-flops and crop tops in deep mid-winter.
Here’s an idea for men: Rather than buying your partner things you’d like yourself, try thinking about what they might like. This may, of course, entail you actually observing your other half for a bit, but the dividends of this simple exercise are huge, not just in terms of their appreciation of your selflessness but also by way of a scintilla of lightening within your own black heart.
Best of all, it may allow you to use the line: ‘I got the missus one of those new LED make-up mirrors from John Lewis. You should have seen her little face light up!’
Of course, if you get stuck, there is always Deserter swag or now, our book. Go on, treat someone, especially yourself.
With each year that passes, scouring the Radio Times with a marker pen to plan your holiday viewing holds less allure. No-one can survive on a visual diet of Christmas specials, round-ups of the year and The Snowman.
Instead, take the opportunity to hole up with a box set of one of those shows you missed that everyone was talking about. Where do they find the time? Pour a large one, stick on Stranger Things or Get Shorty and catch up with the rest of humanity. Hopefully, The Good Wife knows about not Waking the Dad.
Yes, we all tend to overdo it at Christmas, and sure, we all feel maybe we should do something about it afterwards, but the real Deserter knows that the traditional January abstinence is a mug’s game. If ever there was a month in which you need the warming succour of booze, it’s January. Plus, of course, the pubs are all nice and quiet again.
No, if you need a period of sobriety (and there are good reasons for this – not least that it makes beer taste even better when you return to the fold) the true Deserter might consider the counterintuitive notion of staying dry in December. After all, pubs in December are a nightmarish melange of bants, punch-ups and shrieking office parties. Not to mention that someone may hand you eggnog.
Instead you could give yourself a dry run-up to Christmas Day itself, when with great fanfare you announce that you are going to sit down and get shit-faced, which is no more than you deserve after what you’ve ‘been through’, having not had a pint for almost nearly a week.
There is a growing trend for eating out on Christmas Day. We would counsel against this. Eating Christmas lunch out is expensive, loud, busy and tiring – everything we stand against. Sure, you may save on the washing up but, as we’ve already established, you’re in no shape to do the washing up anyway, you’re too drunk and ill.
The days between Christmas and New Year – the perineum of the year – would, on the face of it, seem like the ideal time to do your tax return or replace all the dead light bulbs in the house. But fuck that shit. What’s wrong with the pub? Gone are the party hats, the queues and the basins filled with sick. You’ve got your lovely pub back. At least for a few days, until the amateurs all come out again for New Year’s Eve.
Merry fucking Christmas.
There’s more on Deserting at Christmas in this podcast: