I love Christmas but it will never be as good as it was in the Eighties.Now, I wrap presents on Christmas Eve while watching old festive episodes of Top of the Pops from my childhood years: Simon Bates in a Santa hat introducing George Cole and Dennis Waterman singing their novelty classic What Are We Gonna Get ’Er Indoors? – that’s the sort of stuff I miss. We all fell about laughing at that song back in 1983 but, on reflection, the entire thing was a hideous anthem of misogyny. Oh well, different times I suppose.
It was easier to focus on the simple pleasures of Christmas back when the only gadget under the tree, if you were lucky, was a Mr Frosty ice crunchy maker. Without a billion TV channels, smartphones, games consoles and Alexas to wrap up in a relentless typhoon of stimulation, we had to sit together, quietly getting pissed and enjoying our favourite TV shows in an absorbed state of unison.
Yes, my earliest experiences of getting properly pissed were on Christmas Day, when the house would be filled with bottles of Baileys, Stone’s Ginger Wine and Martini Extra Dry. All of the adults (my mum and three older brothers, who were already hard-drinking teenagers by the time I turned seven) were too inebriated to monitor what I was up to. So I would punctuate playing with my new Star Wars figures with regular gulps of Martini and lemonade, wincing as I washed it down.
By the time Den served Ange her divorce papers on Christmas Day 1986, I was so drunk I was seeing two Rolys. I’m not showing off about any of this, by the way. Childhood drinking set me on a course that would eventually lead me, some 30 years later, to the Priory, desperately seeking assistance to give the horrible stuff up.
This will be my fifth consecutive dry Christmas. Generally, sober Christmas is a million times better than drunk Christmas. It’s nice waking up and opening presents without a hangover. It’s nice carving the turkey without a shaky hand. And it’s nice pouring champagne for other people without blurred vision. In fact, I think the only thing sobriety detracts from at Christmas is watching telly. Sitting through an episode of EastEnders without three or four drinks inside you is pretty much impossible. There was a time when my brothers and I would return from our Christmas morning pub session just in time for The Queen’s Speech and work ourselves into an inebriated frenzy of patriotism as she read out banal claptrap from her autocue.