Wishing you a puckaterry Christmas
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“Cor, blarst me, we ent harf in a rum ole puckaterry!”
There are times when only a sharp blast of tried and tested Norfolk vernacular can sum up a certain situation. This verdict from a venerable native who thought he’d seen it all before fits our festive bill perfectly.
‘Puckaterry’ is an old local dialect word for muddle or panic, probably a corruption of ‘purgatory’. It’s unlikely to be unwrapped during any press conferences or parliamentary debates in the next few weeks.
For a select few, however, it’s beginning to sound a lot like this Christmas. Baubles and bubbles. Tinsel and tiers. Crackers and Covid. Jokes and jabs. Mistletoe and masks. Silly dancing and social distancing … all part of a potent puckaterry recipe.
Perhaps it may suit traditional cynics who dismiss Christmas as the sulker’s Mount Everest, hell in a stupid sweater, a holiday in which neither the past nor the future is of as much interest as the present -- and magical time of year when all your money disappears.
They even try to besmirch Santa’s reputation with scurrilous rumours like him being drunk and holding a painting by a French 18th century pastoral artist and a bit of paper out of a cracker ….. “Oh, no! He’s blotto in the grotto with a Watteau and a motto”.
My amble towards what all too often proves to be the Great Season of Too Much has shed some of its retail peril this time with lockdown limitations delaying a festive charge normally beginning as August wanes.
An obvious desire to make up for lost time places me on full alert to avoid MOB rule in local shops. Miserable Old Beggars have every right to grizzle and grouse at the height of any holiday campaign clearly too big for its Poppyland slippers. No excuse, however, for carrying on like geriatric killjoys when we’ve got the place back to ourselves.
There’s a small but cantankerous minority determined to mark their twilight years with a graceless slouch towards the Great Checkout Counter of Destiny. They snarl past with wire baskets and truculent trolleys primed to be used as weapons of mass disruption.
They treat every cheery greeting and smile as totally unwarranted intrusion into a cherished right to spread as much doom and gloom as possible. They dare shop assistants or onlookers to offer to help them find the correct money or insert items neatly into a gaping bag so they can inform the world they’re not completely useless, thanks very much.
Then they hint this may be the case by getting lost on looking for a way out and blaming stupid people who moved milk and yoghurts to where soup and sauces used to be. No, they don’t want a ‘flu jab this year. They like getting the ‘flu. It gives them something else to moan about.
I know people of all ages can turn shopping into a perfect excuse for a rant against everything from circuit-breakers to the flavour of streaky bacon. Even so, mouldering oldies do it best. I know north Norfolk has a high number of mature residents, me included. That’s why doctors should hand out a reminder that growing old is something you do if you’re lucky.
Holt’s refined air does not completely blot out bursts of pensioner petulance among the peaches in brandy and vintage port. And woe behold any miscreant who approaches a certain cheese counter without a ticket. I know. I did. I squirmed.
I can only find shopping bearable when accompanied by a bit of banter and a laugh or three. It can be useful to float a juicy rumour if you’re at the back of a lengthy post office queue. An outbreak of coypu ‘flu in High Kelling or a heavy shower of meteorites on Cromer Pier can get things moving.
Sometimes you don’t even have to wait to start one and get one free. I recall how a wintry forecast back in the late 1990s cleared every toilet roll, loaf of bread and bottle of cough mixture off the shelves in town soon after breakfast.
One old friend assures me there’s no point in doing Christmas shopping early to avoid the rush: “Last year, I did mine a full 12 months in advance – and the bloomin’ stores were just as busy as ever”.
Mob rule on road to the aisles. Rum ole puckaterry!