Well, here we are at last. It’s Christmas day, the 25th of December 2015 and all is calm, all is bright. However, my thoughts this morning are with those people in North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria battling against the floods that have just about ruined their Christmas. I say, just about because whenever I’ve seen a news item from the flooded areas, the local residents have all been incredibly cheerful about their problems which suggests that they may be gathered today in a big dry barn somewhere drinking sherry and eating mince pies whilst the nearby regiment of soldiers sent to help out, serenade them with Christmas carols. Should that not be the case and I’m almost certain that it won’t be, I really hope that their luck changes and brings them a speedy return to normality. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the people of North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria for their stoicism and cheerfulness in the face of an unsurmountable problem. Mother nature eh, what is she like?
I’m also thinking about the thousands of homeless people who will be able to enjoy a Christmas dinner today thanks to the kindness and generosity of ordinary people everywhere who simply happen to care about those less fortunate than themselves. This year has seen a large increase in the numbers of rough sleepers a term authorities like to use as it suggests an element of choice. Having worked with the homeless I can honestly say that in twenty years I never came across anyone who chose to become homeless. I know of many who choose to sleep rough rather than take shelter in a hostel where they are likely to be robbed of what little they have or inadvertently lay on a discarded “dirty” needle. However, despite what the authorities say, the reason why so many people are in need of housing is because social housing is not being provided by The State. There is no reason why it could not be provided as there is sufficient land available to build upon, thousands of empty properties around the country and enough builders willing to get involved. A house building revolution, albeit social housing rather than the much preferred Tory option of selective private developments, would transform this country. However, it will take a much bigger man or woman than David Cameron to recognise this simple fact.
Talking of the Prime Minister, I was surprised to read his comments about Britain being a Christian country this week. I can only think that he was getting into the Christmas spirit and didn’t want “his people” to forget what the festivities are really about. There are those who believe that the only thing to celebrate at this time of year is the fact that retailers are filling their stores with even more crap than usual which they are happy to discount heavily so that even the most repugnant objects become strangely attractive once you know that you are getting a bargain. I’m not against shopping or searching for bargains, I’m just wary of those people who appear to know the price of everything but not the value of anything. Karl Marx once said that Religion was the opium of the masses but I believe that consumerism has replaced religion in this respect. Cameron may wish to peddle his ideas about why being a Christian country makes Britain such a welcoming place to be but there is very little evidence of it this year. I am a Christian, I was baptised into the Catholic church, taught the Christian doctrines and have lived my life according to those principles ever since. However, I don’t recognise Cameron’s Christian Britain. I don’t believe that we are openly tolerant of those who may be different, nor, do we make them welcome in our country. And I’m not simply referring to “foreigners”, there are just as many indigenous victims of intolerance in Cameron’s so-called Christian Britain.
Sorry for going a bit political there but unlike The Queen, I am allowed freedom of speech [ up to a point ]. I am also composing this Christmas message as I write it so you will have to bear with me and see where it goes. However, a Christmas message whether it comes from The Queen of England or the barmaid at the Queen Vic should always include a reflective passage, something relevant to recent events and conclude with a message of hope. You get all of this in the many Christmas Pantomimes which are taking place all over the country, apart from today of course and I suspect many of you will be taking your children along to see one at some point. I don’t really have a favourite panto although, I do like the ones which include a lot of gratuitous thigh slapping on behalf of the principle boy [girl]. However, one thing that I do regret about British pantomime is the trend towards introducing television celebrities into the format as they appear to detract rather than add to the storytelling. You could say the same thing about the Christian church when we have an ex-banker ordained as the Archbishop of Canterbury however, we need to be tolerant, don’t we? We need to forgive them their trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us, don’t we? Do we eckers like! We need to celebrate our Christmas like human beings not like the money grabbing, food gobbling, alcohol swilling, uncaring, stuff thy neighbour gobshites that we’ve become. So on Monday, instead of dashing off to buy more crap in the sales why not stop and give a thought for those much worse off than yourselves. Dropping a few quid in someone’s collection box may well be the best investment you make in 2016.
Merry Christmas everyone.