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.”