The Sunday Post (Inverness)

How to ensure the big day does not plunge into festicuffs

Take a lead from Robert The Bruce... choose your battlegrou­nd, fight like a guerilla, and don’t let the rum run out Chill out, change your religion, and buy sweets


The turkey is in the oven, the potatoes have been peeled, and the trifle is crammed into an overflowin­g fridge, but it’s not just stomachs that are beginning to rumble.

Disagreeme­nts over politics, wrestling for control of the remote, and a few too many festive tipples can threaten to derail your peaceful celebratio­n – and that’s when you need to deploy every weapon in your arsenal to maintain control.

But, according to Tony Pollard, professor of conflict history and archaeolog­y at the University of Glasgow, you might already be at a disadvanta­ge if you aren’t on home soil.

“When you’re at someone else’s battlefiel­d, your options are obviously limited,” he explained.

“You become, in essence, a captive if you’re at someone else’s house for a few days, so picking your terrain is the first tactic I would put into practice.

“This coming festive season I’ve actually taken a leaf out of Robert The Bruce’s book and chosen the ground on which to fight my battle – my mother-in-law is coming to stay at our home rather than the other way around!

“At the Battle of Loudoun Hill, Robert the Bruce prepared the terrain to put him at an advantage, and at the end of the day he was victorious.

“He was successful because he fought guerrillas­tyle warfare, he was always at the battlefiel­d in advance and,if necessary, he modified it to put him at an advantage.”

He joked: “I think I even talked in these terms with my wife just the other day.

“I said, ‘I would feel much more comfortabl­e being on our own turf’ – as much as I love my in-laws.”

As an expert in battlefiel­d conflict, Tony admits there are many similariti­es and parallels between waging war and committing to our own Christmas campaign.

And with the festive season seemingly starting earlier and earlier each year, he advises families to prepare for the big day with military precision – especially as an army marches on its stomach.

He said: “Food is a very important factor, and supplies are key for any campaign. Training is also a factor, and every victorious army needs to have a degree of training.

“Personally, I’m more than slightly concerned I have failed to carry out adequate training.

“It’s a bit too late in the day now, and by the time we get to the end of the Christmas campaign I will be feeling, shall we say, more battle-weary than I might have been otherwise.”

He added: “There is so much pressure on Christmas Day that warfare can break out at any minute – especially when the rum ration has been depleted.

“I’m a veteran of a number of them myself.

“The negotiatio­n over Christmas telly has led to conflict in my own household, but it’s slightly easier now thanks to technology, which has always played a key role in conflict and warfare, be it from the introducti­on of gunpowder to the use of aircraft.

“Once you get to a couple of days in, you really need to deploy survival mechanisms to keep the peace.

“Every great military commander will know when not to fight – and keeping the peace is key at Christmas.”

If military or mediation tactics don’t lead to a silent night, it might be time to adopt Swiss neutrality.

Jo Brand’s new book, Born Lippy: How to Do Female, tackles Christmas as she points out why we might all enjoy the season far more if we cared a little less. Luckily, the chapter on surviving family

get togethers includes her tips for a peaceful Yuletide. “The family Christmas can be imbued with a gravity and importance it doesn’t really deserve, and if only people chilled out a bit it would be so much more fun. Instead everyone has to enjoy themselves,

and smile as if their lives depended on it,” she writes. “Avoiding conflict is easy if you convert to another religion or become a conscienti­ous objector to Christiani­ty. Changing your religion, however, doesn’t rule out the issue of avoiding a family Christmas. “It just means you will have get-togethers with your family at different times of the year. If there is a tendency for rows to arise, spend a shorter time at whichever relative’s house it is, or resolve not to rise to the bait of your dad’s

annual speech on immigratio­n. “Go out for a walk – that’ll unite the family. We all hate a walk, there’s hardly anything open so you can’t even buy any sweets, even though you’ve just had 14,000 calories for lunch. “Failing that, pretend

to be asleep.”

 ??  ?? It isn’t the sands of Iwo Jima where American troops raised the flag but a family Christmas can be a brutal affair
It isn’t the sands of Iwo Jima where American troops raised the flag but a family Christmas can be a brutal affair
 ??  ?? Jo Brand
Jo Brand
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