26 Dec



I hunker down between the folds of the couch, the crash of crockery and banging of pans resonating off my floral printed palisades, and pray for the next twenty four hours to pass as quickly as possible. Like artillery shells falling on a Somme trench there is little I can do to protect myself from the friendly fire of Christmas preparation. The horrors already experienced are nothing compared to the human assault which even now is pounding on my front door. I brace myself for the attack, check the batteries in the remote control (the television, my last line of defense), and pretend to ignore the creeping barrage. The thuds begin again and I cringe and shake; the tremors in my left hand betraying my abject cowardice, my right eye twitching uncontrollably. After weeks of softening up, the preliminary probing of the enemy conducted via telephonic exchange and the miracle of the web, expectation is great. The build up to these familial battles is always a stressful time. It’s not so much the fighting, it’s the waiting, the not knowing; the uncertainty of a fresh campaign. We had hoped it would be all over by Christmas however it would seem that Christmas is only the beginning.

Defensive fairy-lights have been strung, and silver streamers hang around the house like concertinaed barbed wire. Colored baubles and kid-cut snowflakes hang from everything in remembrance of soldier’s superstition. There is only so much I can do to escape my fate. If my rifle and bayonet can’t save me then maybe the Christmas angel can. The winter barrage has been sustained for nearly a month now, the cacophony of jingling bells and chorused carols screaming their mayhem and crashing devastation through our radios and television sets. Weeks of preparation have gone into what has become the annual festive campaign. Having failed to learn lessons from holidays past we must stupidly repeat the mistakes of Christmases long long ago.

Outside the weather has closed in and snow hides the shell holes in the back yard, blanketing the unkempt battlefield in a pristine mantel of white. Birds hop between the bushes, foraging for the red berries neglected by Mother Nature’s bitter frost. There is a kinship, as like beasts, we too are subjects of King Winter and don’t dare to venture into the no-man’s-land of ice and snow. Luckily we have stocked up on provisions and it would be fair to say that we have enough food in the bunker to feed an army. Family members who only days before were morose and anxious are now filled with the joy of Christmas, careless of the coming battle. Thoughts of better times and home baked goodness fill the waiting hours and detract us from what still must be achieved. Once the whistle is blown there will be no choices left and we will be forced to fulfill our duty. For god, King, and country we must grab ourselves by the Christmas balls and go over the top.

 There it goes again, the clanging chimes of doom of the front door. I look at the willing victims laid out in the bottom of the trench in front of the television; poor innocents who know not what they are about to receive. Eager as new recruits to prove themselves they have already dressed and are ready for the quagmire of Christmas. Having donned their waterproof slippers and clad in Sponge Bob and Disney pajama fatigues, they can’t wait for the battle to begin. My sergeant calls my name from the kitchen, where even now she is putting the finishing touches to the victory feast. Enough food to feed a small African nation has been prepared and paraded for those who can drag themselves away from the horror of Christmas morning television. The Santa Clause automaton on top of the fridge starts to chime. The sharp campanology of machine gun bullets whistle and shriek around me and I know that death is on hand.

Why me, why now, why not them?

The sergeant bellows again and I am forced to accept the duty placed upon me, just as I accepted the King’s chocolate shilling all those Christmases again. I reach up from the parapet and, grabbing the wooden ladder of will, pull myself up from the couch.

Go. Go. Go!

Clasping my can of beer in one hand I grit my teeth and emerge from the trench into the wintery wilderness. I see my objective in the distance, focus myself, and make my way towards the front door. It’s no use skulking behind the furniture as the compressed wood from Ikea offers little protection. I press forward slipping and sliding on the wooden floor as my socks struggle to grip the puddled morass of my suburban Flanders fields, through the branches of the Christmas tree and past the plastic snowman. I stab in his general direction and he goes down in a fizz of sparks and a fart of expelled air. Just a few more yards and it will all be over.

The bell knells its persistent diabolical dirge as the thump-thump of hand artillery smashes onto wooden panels. Why me god, why me? I have so much to live for! With one last super human effort I unbolt the latch, flick the catch, and swing open the final obstacle.

Light floods into the darkened spaces. Perhaps this is it, perhaps this is my final journey, the peace I have been waiting for – the outer-body experience we have all tried to believe in, the expectation of an afterlife proven through the revelation of day-time chat shows. No such luck!

There they stand, the enemy; armed to the teeth with festive good will and fake store bought cheer. Clearly their advance was successful and we stand together on this field of Elysium.

 Eye to eye, cheek to cheek, jowl to jowl.

I move in for close combat, thrusting my hand forward. The enemy counters, blocks my attack and grasps my hand in a practiced pincer movement. I try to hide the look of horror in my eyes and deceive myself that death will be quick and painless.

Death by Christmas; the in-laws have arrived!



  1. Olivia Tejeda December 26, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    Ho ho ho hope it was a jolly one!

  2. Steve Green December 31, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    A very well worded tale Colin, with many witty comparisons and analogies, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

  3. John Wiswell January 3, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    This has a firm attitude and some crackling wording. Accompanying photos usually jar me, but I liked them here. Thanks for sharing!

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