Granny An­nexe Vir­ginia Iron­side

VIR­GINIA IRON­SIDE has de­cided to an­noy friends and fam­ily by not be­ing a grump

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

HAVE YOU met any­one over the age of ten who, at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber, starts rub­bing their hands with glee and say­ing: ‘Oooh, goodie! Christ­mas is com­ing!’?

The older I get, at the very men­tion of Christ­mas, the more peo­ple put their heads in their hands and wail ‘Not again!’ They com­plain that Christ­mas starts ear­lier and ear­lier in the year, that it’s no longer called Christ­mas, it’s the ‘hol­i­day sea­son’, and that Fa­ther Christ­mas him­self has been re­placed by a com­mer­cial crea­ture known as ‘Santa’. They refuse to send Christ­mas cards any more, they make pacts with each other not to give presents that don’t cost more than a fiver, and they com­plain about it last­ing weeks.

How do I know all this? Be­cause I have been a prime mover in the anti-Christ­mas move­ment. And it’s small won­der. My child­hood Christ­mases were al­ways spent vis­it­ing my school, hosted by the head­mistress, my great-aunt Rene. I re­mem­ber re­ceiv­ing an im­prov­ing book about Nor­man ar­chi­tec­ture two years run­ning. An­other year it was a small vol­ume about Italic Script. If they were lucky, my par­ents might have been given a tin of As­sorted Bis­cuits. My doc­tor grand­fa­ther, a rather creepy old roué who had been struck off for get­ting his rich pa­tients ad­dicted to drugs, would of­fer me, bristling with face­tious hu­mour, a cig­a­rette, and I, aged six or so, would have to go through the blush­ing rit­ual of re­fus­ing and hear­ing ev­ery­one laugh.

My sour-faced great-aunt would pre­side over the Christ­mas lunch – con­sist­ing of one small chicken be­tween six, ac­com­pa­nied by over-boiled pota­toes and tinned peas – with a large jug of wa­ter be­side her. That was to en­sure that no one be­came tipsy af­ter the very small glass of sherry they’d been of­fered in the cold sit­ting room be­fore lunch. There was never any wine or crack­ers.

So you see why Christ­mas has never been one of my high spots. But hav­ing read re­cently that it is pos­si­ble to de­cide to be happy I am plan­ning to have a happy day even if it kills me.

Yes, it’s the year that my fam­ily go off to spend the day with the ‘other’ fam­ily, so I shall be on my own. But I will not let this get me down. I will put up the dec­o­ra­tions, de­spite the fact that my son has or­dered me never to climb a lad­der again, and that both arms are so arthritic that I can­not reach up above my head to pin up the garlands. And if that ends in tears, I shall spend Christ­mas in hospi­tal, tak­ing up es­sen­tial beds needed for more de­serv­ing cases.

I will put up gar­ish Christ­mas lights in front of my house, and laugh it off when the neigh­bours tell me they can’t sleep be­cause of the glare.

I will send out hun­dreds of cards and in­side I shall in­sert an hon­est news­let­ter – de­scrib­ing the reti­nal de­tach­ment that went so wrong, the an­tic­i­pated op­er­a­tions for new knees and shoul­ders, the dis­as­trous run at Ed­in­burgh and the plans for eu­thana­sia.

I will buy ex­tremely ex­pen­sive presents for all my friends and when they look ap­palled and say: ‘Oh, but we only got you a book’ and pro­duce the re­view copy of a mis­ery mem­oir they’ve been sent at the of­fice, I will smile and say: ‘Don’t worry! It’s Christ­mas! A time for giv­ing!’

I will make my own mince pies and of­fer them to the dust­men, the milk­man, the news­pa­per boy, the road sweeper and the post­man and I’m sure they’ll pre­fer them to the usual mer­ce­nary £20 tip.

I will at­tend mid­night mass and sing carols at the top of my voice all the way home, wak­ing the neigh­bours. And I will ring my friends in the United States to wish them a won­der­ful day, and I shan’t worry that it’ll be 3.30am their time.

And when I leave the house I will wish ev­ery stranger a Happy Christ­mas, even though I live next door to the sec­ond-largest mosque in west Lon­don and no one within a mile of me knows what Christ­mas means.

I will en­joy my­self so much that next year my friends and neigh­bours will be just long­ing for me to go back to be­ing the old grump I used to be.

Happy Christ­mas ev­ery­one!

Yes! I Can Man­age Thank You!, Vir­ginia’s lat­est book, is out in paper­back (Quer­cus £7.99).

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