Monday, 10 December 2012

English phlegm and Christmas lights

Deep into December and coming up swiftly is that great moment of the allegedly Christian nations, when we theoretically feast the arrival of the redeemer, the Prince of Peace.

A moment, it seems superfluous to say, for quiet and introspection, when we ponder the ineffable questions of God and Man and Turkey stuffing. Nowhere might one expect more inclination towards calm and discretion than in England, a nation well-known for its phlegm and self-control.

Well, it turns out that we English keep our phlegm for colds and our self-control for muffling sneezes in trains. Not that most of us are very good at that last bit, either.

When it comes to Christmas, we reveal – what am I saying? display – characteristics that other nations don’t tend to attribute to us. Flamboyance. Overstatement. Joy of living (and I only say that to avoid going all foreign and writing joie de vivre).

I was struck last year by what had to the most extravagantly decorated house in Luton. I never suspected then that I’d be living just a few doors away by this Christmas. But you can imagine that I take every opportunity to wander two minutes up the road to enjoy what, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a stupendous display.

Seasonal sight for sore eyes just up our Luton back street

Not perhaps all that strong on good taste, but you have to admit that it more than makes up for it in exuberance. Enough to warm the heart on the coldest day.

Happy Christmas to any of you who celebrate it. Season’s greeting to everyone else. And however you choose to enjoy December yourself, spare a thought for the phlegmatic English, reticent and reserved, struggling to find a way to let themselves go at this festive time of year.

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