SMOKE: All I Want For Xmas
Originally published: 26 November 2003
Why is it that with each passing year Christmas just gets crapper and crapper?
When I was a kid Christmas was this magical, fairytale thing that happened once a year, filled with bright lights, pine needles, stockings hanging over the fireplace, plates of carrots and milk for Santa's reindeers, the joy of unwrapping presents and dried fruit for breakfast.
These days it's just a mission, with all manner of social engagements, forced smiles, polite but meaningless banter and kitchen utensils. The only magic part of it is getting home after an exhausting day and toking down a fat slowboat.
As kids it was impressed upon us that the day was all about the birth of Jesus and shepherds and wise kings and mangers, and that the presents and good food were completely secondary to the religious part of it.
We would nod sagely, faces radiating saintliness and filled with an outwardly spiritual bonhomie, while wondering whether Santa had delivered on his promises and if that suspicious bulge in the present under the tree was what we really thought it was.
But all the magic has disappeared from Christmas for me. Now it's all about whether someone will get me a new six-pack of (extra large) jockeys to replace the ones that have almost broken apart from constantly trying to restrain the power of the impressive package contained within.
Seriously - as a kid the last thing on Earth I wanted for Christmas was socks or underwear, but these days they are top of my priority list. I can't get enough of them.
T-shirts are also great, as are any other items of clothing - I never spend money on clothing for myself and rely exclusively on the generosity of others at birthdays and Christmas for my wardrobe.
Goes a long way to explaining why - were I to walk into a shop on Savile Row - I would be taken around the back and savagely beaten.
The problem with being an adult at Christmas is thus: as a kid there are thousands of cheap toys that can be bought that will impress the pants off even the most discerning of youngsters, but when you're all grown up the stuff you really want is always way too expensive.
It's why I always ask for underwear - if I were to make up a list it would contain items like a new computer, a digital camera, a video camera, a personal hovercraft, radio-controlled cars (never got one as a kid - still my greatest childhood regret), a Ferrari Maranello, a Playstation 2, a Palm pilot and so on, not one of which is within the budget of my permanently poor friends and relations.
So underwear it is then, with a more than generous pouch in front.
The problem with Christmas presents is that most people see them as a chore, and very little thought or work goes into them. This leads to extreme falseness on the side of the receiver, who has to constantly find new ways of exclaiming their sheer and utter delight when getting their fourth bottle of Radox in as many minutes ("Dahling - you have no idea how much I've been wanting this! I ran out of last year's stock of bath soap just last week, and now I have four new bottles! Thank you, dahling! Mmmwah! Wow - cool!)
Yeah, right. Woolworths and the Bubble Shop have a lot of personal pain and disappointment to answer for.
I actually think women get a far worse deal than men at Christmas. As soon as someone has no idea what to get for a woman they head off to the cosmetics counters at Stuttafords, or the aromatherapy section at Clicks, and voila! - something vaguely female-orientated is purchased and some poor slapper is getting a bottle of something awful that makes her itch.
Blokes are easier - go to the kids toy section of a Hyperama Superstore and you'll have him sorted and happy in no time.
When we were kids we were encouraged to make things for others, from poems we had written for them to board games we had conceived and made up ourselves, and while I always preferred a scaletrix set or the latest water pistol, there was something rather noble about taking the time out to put some thought into making somebody happy.
I don't know why people bother buying others a box of Quality Streets or a large slab of Turkish Delight or a bubble bath or a candlestick - it's pretty obvious you have made no effort to find out what they would like and you couldn't be more unoriginal or generic if you tried.
What's special about that? And what the hell is the point of Christmas? To make yourself broke buying a bunch of crap that nobody wants and spending hours listening to their false platitudes while getting sickly pissed in the hot afternoon?
Maybe I sound like an ingrate, but really - don't bother getting me something if you don't mean it. I would be perfectly happy not to receive any presents at all, rather than have some cheap doily foisted off on me because someone feels obligated to. Saves us all a lot of pain and money.
But get me a sixpack of Calvin Kleins and you're onto a winning ticket. I'll take them home, put on the black pair and spend a happy evening convincing my wife to take them off and do filthy things to the pleasant surprises contained within.
So yeah - all I want for Christmas is a bit of consideration, the finest undies known to humankind, 20-grand in liquid cash and a side of beef with roast potatoes.
Oh - and world peace. Of course.
All Smoked Out,