OPINION - Bah humbug!

Charles Graham
Charles Graham

IT is at this time of the year that I am at my most Grinch-like.

I am just not ready for Christmas, and get very crabby with anyone who wants to put me in that festive mode prematurely.

There are certain pre-Yuletide preparations one can’t avoid of course.

The choir I’m in has been rehearsing carols for a couple of weeks now (‘tis difficult to sing through gritted teeth) and if you have relatives in the Pitcairn Islands or Antarctica then you’ve already missed the last post for greetings cards.

But otherwise November in Graham World is strictly Christmas-free. On goes the mute button at every advert that adds sleigh bells to its soundtrack.

A scowl crosses my face as we drive past any house already sprouting national grid-shattering amounts of fairy lights.

And I beat a hasty retreat from stores that are already bombarding customers with those hoary old musical chestnuts from the back catalogue of George Michael, Paul McCartney and Bing Crosby.

I read this week that some supermarkets are already selling natural Christmas trees.

Surely anyone buying one now will have little more than a bald branch and a pile of needles on their lounge floor come December 25.

For Christians Christmas only begins on that date and the four weeks of Advent that precede it are still a way off.

But it’s not only religious folk who would rather just save up their excitement for nearer the time.

If anything, leaving it late intensifies the actual occasion, however you celebrate it. Creating an unnaturally long and lurid crescendo will, more likely than not, lead to an anti-climax.

I could understand the huge build-up if Christmas only came once every four years like the Olympics, but we only get a 10-month reprieve before this remorseless, tedious and vulgar commercial juggernaut rolls into town all over again.

Bah humbug!

HALFWAY through Coronation Street the other night ITV’s continuity announcer said: “And now for a very special advert.”

Millions of viewers then watched the latest of many screen re-enactments of the famous 1914 Christmas Day truce in the trenches during which Tommies and Fritzes exchanged gifts, chatted and even played an impromptu game of football.

What happened that day almost 100 years ago is an astonishing piece of history.

Nothing during that horrific four-year conflict better illustrated the futility of it all and how in some wars ordinary folk can be made to imagine a vile enemy only to discover they are no different from themselves.

The prime time piece of television was lavishly made, as movingly told as any other version (see also Oh! What a Lovely War) and effectively contrasted with the made-up drama of Britain’s most-watched soap.

I did wonder where all this was going though as the playlet lasts for several minutes. So when the word Sainsbury’s appeared on screen at the end, I first found myself wrong-footed, before the anger set in.

Yes, it was good of them to remind everyone about the human side of war during this centenary year since the outbreak.

But this is a major retailer which is desperately trying to claw back custom for the Christmas rush.

Hijacking one of the world’s biggest bloodbaths as a means of getting us to buy our 24 packs of Stella, frozen turkey and giant tins of festive chocolates, I’m afraid, is nothing but the most cynical form of advertising.

All the middle market superstore chains are feeling the squeeze at the moment and perhaps desperate times call for desperate measures.

But this takes the Yuletide biscuit.

What next? A high street food store making some tasteless link between indulgent meals and emaciated Holocaust survivors?

There have been programmes aplenty this year about the First World War over which we have been given the opportunity to mourn lost souls and innocence, recoil at the atrocities, marvel at heroism and get angry about the madness of it all.

And many more will doubtless follow until the end of 2018.

If you want to shed a tear at an advert this festive season, save it for poor Lynda Bellingham’s Oxo curtain call on Christmas Day.