OPINION - I long to be rocking around the Christmas tree with no vax chat or Chris Whitty as Santa’s elf

·3-min read
 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

So this is Christmas! By which I mean an apocalyptic doomscape which feels both new and raw and horrible, and entirely, dully deja vu — a Groundhog Day of R-rate slideshows, self-isolation and Chris Whitty, our mild-mannered Covid elf. Just the stuff carols are written about!

Anyway, you’ve either hunkered down for weeks in the hope you can take presents — not a euphemism for Omicron — home for Christmas, or you are one of the stricken who must spend December 25 alone. Either way, it’s a shit-show. At this stage, I think everybody knows “solidarity” doesn’t help much (the scales fell from my eyes a long time ago), but believe me, my thoughts are with everyone at this f***ing miserable time.

Anyway, worse still, we must continue to navigate the mores of this dreadful December; for against the odds, there are still social minefields to traverse and small talk to survive.

For example, while almost everyone has cancelled all plans (except possibly Downing Street, who are odds on to be rocking around the Christmas tree right now), you will have one friend — one stubborn, obstinate, naive friend — who is not doing so. In fact, quite the opposite, said friend is still sending exuberant WhatsApps, like: “I’ve stocked up on mulled wine, see all 100 of you on Wednesday!”.

Their spirit is pure, and how we wish we could join them. If you want to party, technically you can, though if you don’t (possibly wiser) then my advice is to play dead and hope they don’t blacklist you next year when all this might just be a serious buzzkill of an anecdote (maybe?).

What if you find yourself at an outdoor, negative-lateral-flow-only, sub-zero Christmas party in the park this week? Small talk is trickier when you’re slack-jawed with existential doom; how to avoid saying “this is all a bit shit, isn’t it” on repeat? Short answer is you probably can’t, but at least you’re all as boring as each other. Other diversionary topics include New Year (also cancelled!); the PM’s baby name (should bank you two, three minutes of chat — good luck); and which festive film can best distract you from the apocalypse (I sense it’s probably not Die Hard). Merry bloody Christmas.

One of the few redemptive experiences still available to us is the booster (thank you, NHS!), but even there, sadly, the pall of the doom looms. When I went for my appointment last Tuesday, they were playing BBC News, not Mariah Carey. Guys! Anyway, bring a hip flask of mulled wine and try piping some carols — or calming whale music? — in via headphones.

Meanwhile, if you have fled the capital for somewhere with a lower R rate, well done! Unfortunately, the social complexities continue. No one is glad to see you — possibly not even your own family, who keep “suggesting” you sit outdoors (“don’t worry, you can stay near the window so we can hear you!”) and musing pointedly about when you last did a lateral flow (clue: the only right answer is “15 minutes ago”). Thing is, you’re from Plague City, where rates of Omicron are miles higher than anywhere else in the country — so try not to say anything to any local, lest they suss you out and start warding you off with squirts of anti-bac, or threatening to call the police. There will be curtain-twitching, there may well be pointing and staring. Honestly, lay low — it’s just easier.

See you all on the other side — how I miss the most wonderful time of the year...

Have your Christmas plans been affected by Omicron? Let us know in the comments below.

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