I think, historically, this is the issue where I am supposed to write Happy Christmas to one and all but, if you don’t mind, I might refrain from it this year for a few reasons. One, because as things look right now, a more thrilling festive time could probably be had watching a house-fire! Two, the word 'lockdown' has made it into the top ten English words spoken over the last 12 months, which in itself is a bigger tragedy then the collective works of Shakespeare. But mainly, as I write, it is still November and I am a card-carrying member of the 'Keep Christmas In December' club, a rapidly growing group of grumpy old bastards who go around metaphorically ripping down premature festive decorations and warning small children not to trust anyone in a white beard! We even have a theme song to underpin our campaign which actually made it into the charts in, er, November 2017!
Another reason for my prolonged irritability is that usually at this time of year we are heading to Scotland with our jolly "let's wrap up warm and enjoy the winter scenery" hats on. Well, we haven’t actually got all those words printed on a hat, even my head's not that big, but you know what I mean? Instead, the people of Fife are in tiers (see what I did there, ed?) which our emphatic erratic leader is permitted to change on a whim, until nobody knows what the hell is going on. One minute you're sitting down to a fish supper and a pint of Tennants in the local, the next the polis are at the door and you are all lifted for breaching a curfew that didn’t exist ten minutes earlier. Such is the confusion and uncertainly of the Covid situation up there that, for the moment anyway, we are staying put in France where, although we need licence and a damn good reason to even step outside our front gate, we all know what the rules are.
In a mission to avoid spending twelve hours per day in front of the TV all winter I have embarked on writing another novel, my first for four years and, for the first time in my life I am finding myself stuck for words. 'Distraction', 'procrastination' and 'ineptitude' are not the names of a trio of extra Horsemen of the Apocalypse but just a few of the reasons that I spend hours sharing my time equally between staring at a blank screen and watching animals falling over on social media! Last month I even sat watching the swing-o-meter showing the painfully slow and incremented demise of Donald Trump rather than fathom the way through my whodunit story and an acceptable daily word count. There was an original notion that this, my 41st book, would be done and dust-jacketed in time for the aforementioned late December gift-list but that is rapidly disappearing with any hopes of a visit to the boozer.
Of course there is always sport to aid with the diversion, despite the fact that nobody is allowed to witness it first-hand. Actually, I quite enjoy watching golf without American morons shouting 'In-the-hole!' every time Tiger Woods so much as sneezes near the ball. There is a sense of pleasant solitude seeing rugby games on TV without the whistling hordes hurling abuse from their sideline seating although it did make me laugh when, at a recent Scotland footie match, the pretend crowd noise was set to 'boo' when the opposing side took a penalty! As many may have heard, after some twenty five years of soul searching and ineffectiveness, they have actually made it into the Euros next year, the most exciting thing that has happened North of the border since William Wallace discovered blue make-up! The fact that England are in the same pool has added a few extra chilli-flakes to spice up their deep-fried Mars-bar of hope.
On that very subject I was recently enlightened by a podcast I subscribe to, of a rather bizarre true story that happened the last time these two teams met at the event, back when England hosted it in 1996. Just as the Glasgow midfielder and captain, Garry McAllister was about to take a penalty which would have drawn the teams equal, the ball moved a few inches of its own accord from the spot at the very time he was taking a run up, causing him to miss the goal. Within a minute the 'bag of shame' that was Paul Gascoigne scored up the other end, sealing Scotland's exit from the competition, breaking a lot of Northern hearts and windows in the process. But, and here is where it gets both spooky and hilarious in parallel, the rationale behind the slight movement of the ball was claimed by none other than Olympic spoon-bender himself, Uri Geller. In a later interview he alleges that he was just passing over Wembley by helicopter, for reasons unknown, and noticed McAllister running for the spot. He then channelled his kinetic energy into moving the waiting ball, and thus claiming his part in England's promotion to the semi-finals! The fact that the Israel born British illusionist couldn’t repeat his effort to see the hosts through to the podium did nothing to detract from the eleven thousand hate letters he received from grieving Scottish fans in subsequent weeks!
A couple of times I have referenced our leaders above and I could continue in that unremarkable vein until the cows come home. However, the latter cliché could almost be true as there is a growing trend in the stupider parts of USA to appoint an animal as their local leaders. Apparently, Lucy-Lou, a brown border collie, was elected as mayor of Rabbit-Hash County in 2008! This in itself is quite extraordinary, if only to reveal that somewhere called Rabbit-Hash County actually does exist. In fact she stepped down from the post eight years later to run for President in 2016, I kid you not, but was beaten by the Trump campaign! Her replacement in the local ballot vote, one Brynneth Pawltro, is a bulldog of some standing and has held the post for four years after narrowly beating a cat and a donkey for the electoral post, although, sadly, not a rabbit!
And Scotland thought having a highland cow in charge was a problem!