I have a confession. Every Christmas Eve, if I spot a big truck driving by, I try to spot where they have come from. If the address on the side is one from the far reaches of the UK (well, away from London) or even from abroad, I pause and think to myself that I hope that the driver will get home in time for Christmas. I don’t know why I think this, but it’s one of those tear prick moments.
It’s the same feeling I get when I hear the line ‘the boys of the NYPD choir are singing Galway Bay’ from the Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ that’s played endlessly this time of year. The plaintive minor key modulation speaks of a wistfulness for home whilst the main protagonists find themselves in the drunk tank. I’m not Scottish, but I get a spine tingle if I emerge from Edinburgh Waverley Station and hear a lone piper playing. For Scots it no doubt says ‘I’m home’.
I’m afraid Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas doesn’t quite do it for me.
Home at Christmas with rich family traditions is a familiar trope and one which advertisers also play on to get us to buy into products that will enhance this sense of mutual wellbeing . But we know that family time spent together in an atmosphere of forced conviviality can be stressful and that the season is ripe for fallouts and in some cases worse. Let’s also not forget the excuse of ‘come on it’s Christmas’ for unwanted touch. This column doesn’t offer any solutions however, and if you are seeking advice about a stress-free Christmas any number of lifestyle magazines or websites can provide this.
The sights, sounds and even smells of Christmas can have real poignancy, especially if a particular person is no longer at home through absence or passing away. Or simply that that there is another home to go to in the complex world of twenty-first century family life. But being home and close to loved ones at this time is important and people make great efforts to be there, flying around the world in some cases for a few precious hours.
I think my most tear-pricking moments at Christmas are when I see an elderly person, on their own with a small old fashioned suitcase and a stick looking around in bewilderment at the crowds swirling around the concourse of a London main line station, as they seek to identify the correct platform for their train. They are probably far more resilient than I imagine, but I still hope they get to wherever they are going safely, that all will be well when they arrive, and that they will be loved and cared for. I’m probably channelling Paddington Bear the movie here, but what immediately pops into my head are lines from Away in a Manger – ‘Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay; close by me for ever and love me I pray’. This is the gulp moment that can take me unawares.
Wherever home is for you this Christmas have a good one.
This is the final blog for 2018. In the new year I start a new role with the Connexional Safeguarding Team, but I hope to continue in similar vein. If you have been a regular or just occasional reader, thanks for reading – I hope you’ve at least found the odd nugget of food for thought.