Four months to Christmas - but will there be any festive cheer this year?

PUBLISHED: 15:09 19 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:52 19 August 2020

Usually Helen would be irritated by signs of Christmas starting to appear in stores in August - but she's wondering whether there will be any festive cheer this year. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Usually Helen would be irritated by signs of Christmas starting to appear in stores in August - but she's wondering whether there will be any festive cheer this year. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto


Lockdown has ruined the summer for most of us - but what happens when we get to Christmas asks Helen McDermott

About this time, as August begins to fade and take the summer with it, I would usually be starting to suffer the irritation of Christmas Creep. Shops and businesses everywhere would be affected, suffocated by a rash of baubles and tinsel and tunes that are intended to cheer us up and put us in a mind to spend. Every year I would rant softly and sometimes loudly “far too early, put it away”. This year, though, I feel even farther from being merry. I’m sad and sorry for businesses having more to deal with than stocking shelves for Christmas. Just to survive is enough.

The word is that we are deep in recession. Certainly when shops initially opened again there was flurry of interest and excitement but it was short-lived and our high streets are struggling again.

Sitting out in the glorious sunshine recently I did try to “live in the moment” but couldn’t help thinking about the cold, dark months to come and how we might still be coping with the threat of Covid and also the lack of Christmas Cheer.

I keep reminding myself how lucky I am. I’m a pensioner living in a nice house with only my family and cats to look after. Talking to a friend’s daughter who was waiting for her exam results I found it hard to imagine what life will be like for her as she tries to find work in her chosen field in the arts, a crowded and competitive scene already.

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We are told again and again how bleak the future is for theatres and other indoor venues. I’ve written here before how this is the time we would normally be promoting our pantomime at Gorleston Pavilion. Other pantomimes would be busy doing the same. This year we all have the same sorry tale to tell. It will be a rare wand that gets to wave this Christmas.

There surely can’t be anybody who isn’t aware of what’s been going on. And yet, and yet ... One local radio station phoned to try and sell airtime promoting Mother Goose which should have been onstage at Gorleston. Sadly I had to decline their offer, pointing out that the Evil Fairy Covid had cast a spell over the land and our pantomime like many others wouldn’t play this year. What live wires they must be in the advertising department of that radio station, just as lively as the wires on their newsdesk.

One venue that has managed to open is our local pub, the Black Horse, where we went for a birthday dinner in the warm evening sunshine. We were a tiny group of old codgers surrounded by tables of young people, well-separated and well-behaved (that was them, not us) with lots of laughter. When it came to the walking stick count we outnumbered them.

The pub team did us proud with both food and service, and their masks were immaculate. About now that pub would normally be well advanced with Christmas plans but this year is as different for them as it is everyone else: they have to take each day as it comes.

In the doctor’s surgery well-spaced waiting room I got reminiscing with this lady, facially finely covered. The subject was silly games and how we may never be able to play them again, old-fashioned foolishness like pass the parcel, or variations like passing the balloon between your knees, beating the burst or the music stopping. Would there be no more flirting in a stupidly suggestive way as a masked stranger attempts to take the orange from between your chin and chest by clamping his chin and chest on the desired fruit?

Never a great Halloween fan I do wonder what it might look like this year. No apple-bobbing, of course? No trick or treating? I could live without that, though there could be some ingenious masks.

In the scale of things there’s far more to be concerned about than games. Yet I do hope for some Christmas cheer. I look forward to a time when we can complain again about it coming too early.

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