Friday, 23 December 2011

Two good words

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I am afraid I am going to admit something shockingly sappy. My favourite thing about this time of year is that you get to say Happy Christmas to people. It’s such a simple salutation, but it is oddly pleasing. How often, after all, may you say Happy anything to near strangers?

Last night, a rather amazing thing happened. I have a televisual device called BT vision. It has its limitations, but it suits me. One of the most important things is that you can record stuff on it. My device had broken, and I was getting in a panic that I would not be able to record Kauto Star attempting to win his fifth King George on Boxing Day, which is the highlight of my year.

Of course, I had left it absurdly late to ring. I was convinced that the poor person on the other end of the telephone would be defeated, and there would be muttering about an engineer being able to call some time towards the end of January. I was braced for disaster.

BT has a bad reputation for its telephone helpline. There are many horror stories on the internet. Also, they have their call centres in India, and often the line is rather bad, and I end up yelling at some poor Indian person, simply to be heard over the crackle, and worry that they will think I am one of those awful unreconstructed Britons who believe in shouting at Johnny Foreigner.

Anyway, at about six, I finally got around to ringing. I got a very determined young fellow. ‘I reassure you that I shall get my tools and do my utmost best to solve this problem,’ he said, sternly. I loved him at once.

I explained that I had gone to the help page on the website and followed the instructions to reset the system, to no avail. The gentleman was amazed. ‘No one does that,’ he said. ‘They normally just ring us up. I must say that I am very impressed, and thank you for going to the help page first.’

I blushed. ‘Well, you know,’ I mumbled. ‘One doesn’t like to bother people for nothing.’

We ran through a number of things. I kept having to put the telephone down and go into the next room, whilst the polite fellow waited patiently on the end of the telephone. I was still convinced that he would be able to do nothing. Then, suddenly, the thing worked. My Kauto dream could come true.

‘I don’t believe it,’ I said. ‘You are a genius. Thank you so much for your determination and patience.’ (It had taken forty minutes.)

‘I am delighted to be of assistance,’ said the gentleman.

I asked, because I am always interested, where exactly he was. New Delhi, it turned out.

‘And may I ask your name?’ I said.

‘Shiv,’ he said.

‘Well, thank you very much, Shiv,’ I said. I thought Shiv was a delightful name, very chic and elegant. It’s exactly the sort of name I would like to give to a character in a novel.

Then, and this is the point of this rather rambly story, I wanted to say Happy Christmas. I was filled with festive spirit. But I thought that Shiv might be a Hindu; possibly even named after Lord Shiva. Would it be a terrible cultural faux pas? Would I be like a woman in a Bateman cartoon?

Then the gentleman saved me. ‘Happy Christmas,’ he said.

‘Oh,’ I said in relief. ‘And Happy Christmas to you too.’

The irony, I think now, is that quite possibly that was an exchange between a Hindu and an atheist (although I should not make too many assumptions; in New Delhi you may find Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Jains and Jews). But that is the thing I love about Christmas. It is such a welcoming festival. It does not matter if you do not believe in the literal truth of the virgin birth. You may celebrate the spirit of the season, a spirit of joy and new life and family and love and kindness. You can embrace the lovely, ecumenical ideal of peace on earth, and goodwill to all men, and women too.

It’s the thing I like about the Church of England too, as they welcome people into church who only come once a year, and may not follow strict religious practices, and the vicars smile to themselves as everyone loudly sings We Three Kings of Orient Are.

This morning, I went to the village to do more errands. The sun was shining, and the air was balmy and cool. Everyone was smiling. I took the special fridge cake to the lovely newsagent, who was wearing her excellent festive cowboy hat, trimmed with fur. ‘Happy Christmas,’ I said.

‘Happy Christmas,’ I said to the people in my favourite shop in Deeside, The Black-faced Sheep, where you may find the finest coffee in Scotland.

‘Happy Christmas,’ I said to the kind lady in the chemist.

‘Happy Christmas,’ I said to the gentleman from the Rotary Club who was packing bags in the Co-op in return for a small donation to good causes.

‘Happy Christmas,’ I said to Lewis at the checkout, who looks as if he should be playing bass in Coldplay.

Friends came round to drop off presents, including one from my small nine-year-old friend B. ‘Happy Christmas, Happy Christmas,’ I said.

I have not been feeling awfully Christmassy this week. I have had moments of great missing: for my dear departed dad, for my beloved dead Duchess. I have been rather cross and disorganised. But today, suddenly I got the spirit of the season, and that felt like a bit of a present, in itself.

I listened to a funny programme on the wireless, Jon Holmes and Miranda Hart being very jolly and comical and Christmassy as all get out. Then The Younger Niece arrived, and we walked up to see Virginia the Pig. ‘Oh,’ said The Niece, as we fed her nuts, ‘what a very lovely pig she is.’

Now someone is singing Silent Night. It is giving me chills. I feel happy, and lucky.

I know that Christmas is not always easy, for a myriad of reasons. But I hope that wherever you are, and whatever you are facing, you may find joy.


And now, the pictures of the day.

Up the avenue The Niece and I went:

23 Dec 1 23-12-2011 15-09-20

To see Virginia the Pig:

23 Dec 2 23-12-2011 15-14-31

23 Dec 3 23-12-2011 15-14-42

23 Dec 4 23-12-2011 15-14-47

And back down the avenue we went:

23 Dec 5 23-12-2011 15-18-17

23 Dec 5 23-12-2011 15-19-06


23 Dec 6 23-12-2011 15-18-44

To see the sheep:

23 Dec 6 23-12-2011 15-21-37

23 Dec 7 23-12-2011 15-23-14

23 Dec 8 23-12-2011 15-23-27

Oh, said The Niece, look at the light:

23 Dec 9 23-12-2011 15-23-43

Then I made The Pigeon pose in the afternoon sun:

23 Dec 10 23-12-2011 15-28-54

Look at her shining amber eyes:

23 Dec 12 23-12-2011 15-29-06

And the hill, gracious and slightly misty:

23 Dec 14 23-12-2011 15-29-47

Oh, and I meant to say: today is the funeral of Vaclav Havel, so I am thinking of that Velvet Revolution again. I am rather pleased and impressed that the Prime Minister made the effort to go himself, rather than sending a representative. Politics is so complicated now, and conditions so fraught and often unknowable; it is very rare that a political operative may do something to which one can give unequivocal approval. So it is rather nice, in the spirit of Christmas, to be able to say: Yes, Prime Minister.


  1. Oh my lovely to read this as my brother actually works for BT and his job is to direct BT Vision - so your experience will be of great interest to him (and might earn him a nice bonus if things are actually working properly in India?!!) Who knew?! I agree that 'Happy Christmas' is remarkably pleasing to say. Loved the pictures as ever - your avenue has featured today on my blog but swathed in snow...perfection.
    So happy christmas Tania - your writing has made me happy all year long.
    Lou x

  2. Lucille - and a very Happy Christmas to you. :)

    Lou - what am amazing coincidence. I wish I had asked Shiv his surname, so your brother could give him an Employee of the Week award. He really was so kind and charming. (Also: tell the Brother that I love the new BT Vision design; very clean and pleasing.) And thank YOU for being such a lovely Reader, and for saying such a kind thing. At the risk of sounding sentimental, the thought that words I write might bring happiness brings me complete joy. Hurrah for the lovely blogosphere. x

  3. So pleased that Shiv was able to put things right for you. Oh what a wonderful part of the world you live in. Just delightful. Happy Christmas.

  4. What a wonderful story of the young man in India.

    If only we could get the King George at all in the US! I have searched the racing channels (who apparently are making their Monday schedule a secret), trying to find a broadcast of the race, but it's doubtful as they are kind of dim on steeplechasing. Have found all sorts of UK sites, but none yet which will be showing it online. Heart's with Kauto Star . . .

    Happy Christmas!


  5. Happy Christmas, Tania and Pigeon - Em xx

  6. I like the way folks over there say "Happy Christmas" instead of the "Merry Christmas" we say over here. I first noticed that while reading the Harry Potter stories.

    Happy Christmas!

  7. A very Happy Christmas to you ,Tania, to the Pigeon, and to all the lovely family you will be surrounded by.

    And a special wish for plenty of good rabbits scents and festive fun of the sticky type to the dear shiny Pigeon!!!

    And thank you for enhancing each of my days through your writing.

    Cristina :)

  8. I also love that at this time of year, regardless of religious belief -- or not, everyone seems to get a bit softer, kinder.

    You can take the girl out of can't (apparently) take America out of the So, I still say Merry Christmas (and a Happy New Year).
    Have a very Merry Christmas, Tania!

    Looking forward to seeing you and Pigeon (& the lovely hill) in the new year.


  9. Susan Heather - I do feel very lucky to live here. Happy Christmas.

    Bird - oh, I do hope you find a channel with it on. The maddening thing about Channel Four,which shows it here, is they do not put it on their website, unlike the dear old Beeb. Anyway, fingers crossed, and Happy Christmas.

    Em - thank you. Happy Christmas to you too.

    Marcheline - it is so interesting. Although I notice that a bit of Merry Christmas is creeping in here. A merry AND happy Christmas to you.

    Pat - Thank you so much. Happy Christmas from all of us. (Me, Pidge and dear old hill.)

    Cristina - what a lovely thing to say. Thank you and Happy Christmas.

  10. Well, now - I didn't mean to deprive you of The Merry...

    Merry Christmas TOO! 8-)

    P.S. Yuletide Greetings!

    P.P.S. Happy Winter Solstice (a bit late)!!

    P.P.P.S. Happy New Year!!!

  11. I'm back from a 'very full' Inverarity Kirk nativity service -the Church of Scotland is welcoming too:) Happy Christmas

  12. A very happy Christmas to you (and to everybody who is reading comments, too)! In the US, at least where I am, we are having a bit of awkwardness over that right now. Most of us, in deference to religious plurality, say "Happy Holidays," because you never know who will take umbrage; but now people take umbrage when you do not wish them a Merry Christmas, and so now those words have political overtones: if you pointedly wish it to somebody, there is a strong possibility that you think Michele Bachmann is a good idea, but if you wish Happy Holidays then there is a dark suspicion that you are an Obama voter-- even unto holiday greetings we are divided, but here at my mother's house in Seattle all the neighbors are out on the sidewalks admiring the luminarias we all have been setting out since 1978, catching up with people we haven't seen for years, and generally feeling very warm and holiday-ish, so it's nice to know we still function as microcosms. At any rate: Merry Christmas, a delightful holiday season, and much warmth and delight to you and yours!


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