Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas - A Cut Out and Keep Guide

When it comes to tackling the nightmare of undertakings and expectations December 25th forces upon us unasked, the biggest weapon in our arsenal is preparation. Just like decorating, job interviews and major crime, laying the ground work before the event can save all sorts of heartache and imprisonment later.

Unlike TK Maxx you don’t need to start in April, but by late November, four weeks ahead of the day itself, I’d suggest you take a few preliminary steps, and then work out a program to build on these as the countdown progresses. Below I detail a carefully -  scientifically, really - designed process that should solve a lot of your problems (not all of them obviously, I’m not a social worker).

Week One:

It’s vitally important that you start attuning your mind and body for the chaos ahead. There are four main areas where you’re going to need to train yourself up if catastrophe is to be avoided. Let’s take each in turn.

  1. Drinking

You should start, even at this early stage, to increase your tolerance for alcohol. It’s possibly the single most important part of this entire endeavour. How much you add here depends on your normal consumption levels. As a rough guide, increase your normal daily/weekly intake by at least 20%. If for some strange reason you normally drink no alcohol at all have three glasses of wine, two pints of the lager of your choice and a drambuie. You choose when, but employers always find it hilarious when workers turn up drunk on a Monday.

  1. Eating

Anyone who goes on a diet in December is an idiot, obviously, but many people try to cut down on the calories in November in anticipation. This is a rookie mistake. What you need to do is go for the slow build. As with the drinking, this too depends on how greedy you are normally. The only way to find this out in any precise way is to do one of those food diary things for the first two-thirds of the year but I don’t recommend that personally, it’s the surest route to depression I’ve ever come across. Instead, just buy every ‘two-for-one’ deal your local supermarket is offering, apart from on fruit and veg. The trick here is to actually eat them all within the week rather than throwing them in the bin when they go out of date.

  1. Watching Crap Telly

You know it’s going to happen, there’s no point pretending otherwise. Rather than wait until the day itself and risk your brain melting out of your nasal passages, it’s best to take the ‘vaccine’ approach and expose yourself to controlled bursts of the virus so that a natural immunity is created. For this first week I’d suggest taking it slowly. Watch the first ten minutes of The Jeremy Kyle Show on the Tuesday, that’s more than enough for now.

  1. Arguing For No Reason

This one is the real downfall for many, albeit it’s generally caused by all or some of the above. Again, tolerance is the issue here. Depending on your circumstances you’ll know who you’re most likely to have a barney with. If you’re part of a couple, it’s them (and probably one or both of their parents). If you have kids it’s them and them (and probably one or both of your and their parents). If you’re single it’s whichever member of your family tends to point out that fact most often. If you don’t fall into any of those categories, it’s just that twat you’re related to or are forced to spend time with who annoys the hell out of you.
This one has to be handled delicately, but there are things you can do even in week one to pave the path. At this stage it’s all about passive aggression. If, for example, you’re likely to have a major blow-out with your partner on the big day, soften them up now by telling them they’re looking a bit tired these days. That way you’re making them begin to doubt themselves while sounding concerned. If it’s a parent or sibling, I’d suggest that don’t worry about it, I’m fine. You just get on with your stuff is a good route to travel at this early juncture. Remember, you’re just laying foundations at this stage. Kids are trickier, especially the younger ones. There are a couple of options here; it’s up to you to decide which works best for your brood. You could attempt the Santa only comes to good children thing, but to be honest that never works - they’ve got the attention span of a republican president, kids, they’re not the brightest. Far better is to start preparing them for disappointment early on. ‘Did you hear, Buzz Lightyear died! Woody’s terribly upset.’ Stuff like that.


Week Two:

Now you’ve established the prime concerns it’s simply a case of building on them. It gets easier from this point. Week two is all about edging yourself closer to the monster you’re going to become, so it’s not such a surprise on the day itself when you realise you’ve transformed into a complete dick.

1.  Drinking

This week, as well as adding to your overall consumption, I’d suggest you pick an evening or afternoon when it will be highly inappropriate for you to be anything less than sober, and get drunk. Nothing too serious at this stage, it’s still early days. A parent teacher night or a foster carer risk assessment meeting would be fine.

2.  Eating

Fairly straightforward this week. As you do your weekly shopping simply check the nutritional information on each item you pick up and discard anything with a saturated fat level of less than 30%.

3.  Watching Crap Telly

One episode on the day of your choice of the following: The Jeremy Kyle Show; Trisha; Hollyoaks and anything that starts with The World’s Weirdest/Fattest/
Youngest/Oldest/Most Pathetic … on channel five.

4.  Arguing For No Reason

Partner - Tell them you had a really intense dream where you were gay or straight, whichever is the opposite of what they think you are.
Parents - Point out all of the scientific studies that have come to light in recent years that prove they basically abused you as a child by feeding you whatever they fed you (there’s data out there that’ll prove anything).
Siblings/Cousins/Friends - Be moody for no reason, and tell them to piss off when they ask what’s wrong.
Kids - Inform them, solemnly, that Facebook has had a big argument with Myspace and they’ve both gone offline for a month to think about things. Then unplug the wifi till they go to bed.


Week Three:

It’s time to get serious. Next week is going to be a dress rehearsal so this is your last chance to iron out any kinks in your approach.

1.  Drinking

You’re going to want to add a shot of whisky (or the spirit of your choice) to your morning coffee every day this week. Suggest pub lunches to your colleagues when you can, and drink precisely 2.85 more drinks that you would normally. As much as is possible, eat food cooked in wine every night for dinner. After dinner, drink that crap you brought back from Greece last year. The green stuff.


2.  Eating

As mentioned above, you’re looking at rich dinners this week (see how the categories are starting to merge?). Whether you go for beef and beer, steak and red wine, chicken and white wine, sausages and Buckfast or beans and vodka (surprisingly good), you’re going to want to have chips with it, and none of this oven chip nonsense. They’re the result of a bloody battle between the producers of deep fat fryers and oven salesmen. It was a hellish melee and there were casualties on both sides. What neither side want you to know is that it’s perfectly possible to pour some oil into the oven tray and get the best of both worlds.
Have anything you like for breakfast and lunch this week, as long as you fry it in clarified butter.


3.  Watching Crap Telly

This is going to be difficult, I won’t deny it. Quick but painful is the only way forward here. Repeat what you did in week two but add, and I apologise for this now, anything with the word Celebrity in the title. I know, I’m sorry. It’s for the greater good.


4.  Arguing For No Reason

Partner - Work this into conversation at some point: ‘I can’t believe where I could have been if I hadn’t met you’. Then elaborate in whatever way best fits your delusions about yourself.
Parents - Say this: ‘I know you told me before, but are you sure I’m not adopted?’
Siblings/Cousins/Friends - Just keep being moody. They won’t care much, to be fair.
Kids - ‘Santa’s just another way of saying Satan, if you look at it closely.’



Week Four:

This is where it all comes together. This is when you get to test out whether your preparations have worked. The day itself is going to be a Perfect Storm of the four areas we’ve been practising and it’s time for a full on rehearsal. Brace yourself (Saturday is best for this):


Get up at 6.30 in the morning, for no reason. Make everyone else in the household do the same. This will immediately foster an atmosphere of malice and resentment that will come in handy later. If you have kids, secretly break their favourite toys and remove any and all batteries from the house.
Begin drinking before lunchtime, and encourage all those of legal age in the household to do the same. If they refuse for some reason, simply add brandy to every cup of tea or coffee they have throughout the day.
Tell all children that they are not allowed to go out and meet friends or partake in any social activities, as you think you should have a ‘special’ family day. Then do absolutely nothing to make the day special in any way.
For dinner, order a ridiculously large Indian take away meal and try to time its arrival with the X Factor starting on telly. Make sure the whole family is watching and eating, and drinking. Ensure you have control of the remote, and change channel every time Simon Cowell is about to completely destroy the hopes and dreams of a na├»ve, talentless innocent. The arguing will take care of itself from this point on, but if you feel the anger levels insufficient, spill curry sauce on everyone’s clothes. And on the sofa, carpet and any other soft furnishings available. I recommend Chasni sauce for this one, as whatever that red stuff they put in it is, it never comes out.
If all goes to plan, the entire family will be in massive huffs by 8pm. You and your partner will be flinging ridiculous, entirely irrelevant insults at one another and contemplating separation, any children under nine will be crying, while older kids will have long since stormed to their rooms, only to remember that they still have no access to the internet and so can’t announce on their status bars that their parents are ‘totally unfair’. Ideally, you will have removed the sim cards from their mobile phones too, to ensure they can’t use them for communication with the outside world.

As you go to sleep on the sofa/in the bath, you should feel a deep satisfaction at your efforts over the past month. Congratulations, you’re ready for Christmas. Happy holidays.