Monday, 25 December 2017

Season's greetings. From somewhere else

Merry Christmas to you all! Christians, non-believers, believers of any faith or none – enjoy the Christmas break!

This is the time of year when I remember the wonderful experience my wife and I had in the predominantly ‘Indian’ part of Luton, the town where we live: one 24 December, we saw a queue that seemed to be made up of both Muslims and Hindus outside a (halal) butcher and Danielle, who talks to anyone, asked what the they were waiting for.

“Turkeys,” they replied, “naturally. People all around us are celebrating. Why wouldn’t you expect us to celebrate too?”

That’s the spirit in which I wish you a merry Christmas.

We’ve certainly been having a great time. For the first time, as far as I can remember – and I’ve had 64 Christmases – we went somewhere we could enjoy it on a beach. And that’s precisely what we did today, wandering along a glorious strip of golden sand as the Atlantic beat the shore next to us – and our feet: we didn’t swim but we certainly walked through the surf. What’s more, on the way back we were treated to sunset too, a most satisfactory way to wrap up Christmas Day.

A fine way to end Christmas Day
This was on Cofete Beach, on Fuerteventura in the Canaries. The name itself was part of the pleasure: it reminded us of one least harmful of Donald Trump's blunders, his tweet which read precisely Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” 

Alternatively, it sounds like a waiter offering a choice of hot drinks: Coffee? Tea?

Either way, the name's fun and the place is better.

Now I know that my friends from the Antipodes – or friends who spent time down there – have all had the experience of Christmas on a beach. But to us it was new and delightful.

We had the meal, as befits a Catholic country, yesterday: the tendency is to celebrate Christmas Eve rather than the day itself. We didn’t have turkey but that wasn’t as new to us as the setting: we haven’t had that particularly dull meat for a great many years. Instead, we drove to restaurant (selected from Trip Advisor, of course) in the heart of Fuerteventura's main nature reserve.

There, surrounded by desert scrubland, bathed in sunlight and warmth, we had a leisurely meal of local specialties, cooked in olive oil and flavoured delicately with herbs. I hate to sound so unpatriotic, but we really didn’t miss the turkey at all.

Substitute for turkey. And much to be preferred
But it isn’t just the sun, the sea and the flavours that make me pleased to be here. I’m also glad to get away from the depressing atmosphere of Brexit Britain for a few days. In particular, and I feel embarrassed to use such a clichéd, indeed Dickensian, term in connection with Christmas, but it’s wonderful to be away from the humbug of its being a Christian festival in a Christian country.

Britain is far from a Christian country in religious practice, with barely one in twenty of the population regularly attending a church service. Nor, and this is far more important, is it a Christian country in its values: just in the last week we’ve read of a young man dying of cold in a Birmingham street and the children of the poor having a far higher likelihood of being hospitalised for conditions which shouldn’t require hospitalisation at all, such as asthma.

Children of the poor. Those who we should be protecting above all others. Children!

Most recently, there’s been the news that landlords are beginning to evict people on benefits, as a result of the introduction of the new system of Universal credit, which is leading to many failing to keep up their rent payments. Homelessness will rise. As though there weren’t far more than enough already.

Until we address those issues, until in fact we wean ourselves from belief in austerity, I don’t see how Britain can claim to uphold anything resembling Christian values. Christmas is just an excuse for binge drinking, binge eating and binge spending. Its Christian content has long since been lost and a secular celebration seemed more appropriate, or at least more honest.

So it’s good to be away from that pretence without foundation. Though sun, lovely beaches and delicious food help too. We’ve enjoyed our Christmas.

And it’s in that spirit too that I wish you as much fun this season as we’ve been enjoying.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful David!

David Beeson said...

Many thanks - have a great break and a successful 2018