Posted by Tania Kindersley.
A lovely fellow I know called Henry, once, aged about five, turned around to his father at this time of year and said: 'Daddy, you are really not a very Christmassy boy.' Like all those comic things that children say, it went into the family lexicon, and, regardless of what season it was, any excessively grumpy or curmudgeonly person was observed with a raised eyebrow, and a solemn: 'he's not a very Christmassy boy.' It was particularly satisfying when applied to stern politicians or other people of great importance.
All of which is a good old throat-cleary way of saying that I am not Christmassy at all. My schtick is that I love this time of year. I'm not so keen on the actual day itself, because of all the pressure to be jolly (and I really do hate those bloody paper hats) but I love the season. I like the decorating and bringing in of trees and choosing of presents and the sense of holiday in the air. I like watching sentimental Christmas films. I have dutifully decked the halls; I have even defied the credit crunch and ordered some wonderfully cheap champagne. And this morning, in true festive spirit, the weather gods sent snow: there is a very real possibility that by the end of the day we might have a winter wonderland.
And yet, I am clumpy and grumpy. I'd love to go all Pollyanna on your ass and talk about the blessings of the season, but instead I just feel mildly cross. There is nothing for me to be cross about. I have a new book deal and all my fingers and toes. The perspective police are bashing down the door and reading me the riot act about how I am not living in the Congo. I know they are damn well right. But I am still mired in anomie.
Personally, I blame the bankers. I know; you weren't necessarily expecting that. I'm not sure I was necessarily expecting that. I know that blaming the bankers has become a national sport, so much so that there is actually a backlash against it, people coming slithering out of the woodwork saying oh come on, those old financial chaps aren't really so bad at all, they are just trying to get value for their shareholders. It may seem excessively solipsistic to blame bankers for my own slight grumpiness. But one of the things I have been doing since I got home is catching up on all the political programmes and podcasts that I missed while I was in the south. Normally, it's my little secret geekish pleasure, but this time I indulged too much in one go, and now I am suffering the hangover.
When I hear about the big banks awarding themselves record bonuses, and going straight back to all their terrifying habits, and not lending to small businesses despite having billions of government money, I despair. In America, the banking lobby is spending millions and millions of dollars to fight any attempt at regulation while ordinary people are losing their homes and their jobs and their pensions. Over here, serious people come onto The Daily Politics with Andrew Neil and explain that if pay is capped or bonuses taxed then the financial titans will just pick up and go to Lichtenstein. Reform would just drive away all the talent, apparently. Oh, oh, oh, I yell in frustration, it was that exact same talent which drove the entire capitalist system off the cliff in the first place. It's not only bad policy, but it's an egregious abuse of the English language. Talent, schmalent.
The people who know about these things are talking about a double dip recession, and a jobless recovery, and how nothing much has really changed. They mutter darkly that all it would take is China to stop lending or another Dubai and everything goes crash all over again. The politicians appear oddly toothless; no two economists can agree; the special interests flex their muscles in defiance of logic or social obligation. And I sit here and try my hardest to be jolly, but in the face of all that crazed stupidity I feel as if I am pushing a very heavy rock uphill in a headwind. I know that I should concentrate very hard on thinking beautiful thoughts, but I am starting to think that the only answer may be strong liquor.