Wednesday, December 14, 2011
1985: Far across the world
Some people want to spend Christmas in warmer climes, banishing winter chills and with only sunny blue skies and the feel of the hot sun on your skin.
But not if you're me.
Famous for my preference of slate-grey skies over bright blue ones any day, to have to spend Christmas in Bahrain was never a pleasure, weather-wise.
Those stories you heard about Australians eating Christmas dinner on the beach always sounded like a nightmare to me. At Christmas, nothing was less appealing. I wanted frosted holly trees, the moment when day turns to evening and you're in the car whizzing by Christmassy shops while Roy Wood was on the radio wishing it could be Christmas every day. I wanted to be collecting my grandma while DLT played selections from Phil Spector's Christmas album. Even if it wasn't snowing or that cold, there was nothing cosier than Christmas in England.
Before 1985 I'd only had one middle eastern Christmas, in 1982. We went to another family's place for lunch, and in true expat style drew the curtains and watched last year's Christmas Day TOTP and the most recent episodes that featured tinsel and Kid Creole and the Coconuts doing Annie I'm Not You're Daddy, then switching vids to the Two Ronnies or a costume drama. No one even looked outside.
So why did we do it? Seeing as i was the only on in the UK it was far cheaper to get me out there than it was for the family to decamp home just for my benefit. But we all agreed it just wasn't the same. Christmas had always been a huge family affair, with everyone to ours for lunch then over to theirs in the evening, with Boxing Day always a big party at my aunts, Uncle Tony mixing endless G&Ts in the kitchen and people dancing to Tie A Yellow Ribbon once they'd got a bit squiffy. I still miss those days.
So we were doing every other year. But I really didn't want to go. My uncle came to my student house to collect me and drive me to the airport. As I was packing Walking In The Air was playing. Not my favourite, but when you couple it with footage from The Snowman it's the ultimate in cosy, traditaional festiveness. It was a very dark day, chilly and cold, really Christmassy and I had a new (secondhand) overcoat. There was no point taking it with me. It would be t-shirts once I got there. Oh how I wanted to stay in England.
It was never so bad, and I look back on it as on odditty I'm now rather nostalgic about. Coming down in the morning with Carols From King's on the stereo followed by a Christmas album. Mum and Dad did their best to make it seem like the 'real' thing. It wasn't that Bahrain wasn't Christmassy at all, surprising reallly, it being a muslim country. All the shops were geared up for it and the radio played the usual fare. But there's nothing like Christmas at home, is there?