I love Christmas and I love television. It’s a potent combination, particularly when I add a nest of Maltesers, a paddling pool of cream liqueur lapping quietly within reaching distance, and enough up-market cheese straws to build a very middle-class shantytown.
Two whole weeks of viewing stretching way into the distance. Ah, bliss. I watch television for a living as RT’s TV editor, well in advance of everyone else, which you might think means I spend Christmas doing something improving, like translating Proust into Uzbek or painting watercolours of yak-herders in Mongolia.
But no, right across Christmas I watch telly, for hours and hours, days and days. And I will watch anything. I mean it. I have a weakness for deadly American made-for-TV Christmas films about presentable widowed dads looking for love during “the Holidays”. There’s always a cute, button-nosed kid in there somewhere who will ask, “Daddee, do you miss Mawmee?” It’s all so heart-warming, it burns a hole in my Christmas jumper.
Channel 5 has loads of them, encompassing every variation of the theme – A Boyfriend for Christmas, A Country Christmas Story, The Christmas Switch – but you can bet they all feature small towns, snow that you know is man-made because they are filmed in the 100 ̊ heat of a Los Angeles summer, and fake emotions. I can’t resist.
Honestly, by the time it gets to Christmas Day, my hands have to be forced into mittens for our Afternoon Walk as I beg, “No, no, don’t make me go outside. I must watch this made-for-TV movie about an orphaned girl who finds a mom in time for Christmas!”
And surely I’ll have had more than enough chilly Northern fresh air without even leaving the house, having watched BBC4’s Slow TV film, All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride on Christmas Eve. Two hours of crunching snow and tinkling reindeer bells. No narration. No music. A proper winter wonderland. I’ll wear a woolly hat and put a blanket across my knees while watching as I shout, “Is that a moose?”
By New Year’s Day, a Swat team will be called to get me off the sofa as I plead, “No, no, I must watch a cartoon about a toy train that gets lost in the snow!” But not before the New Year’s Day Concert Live from Vienna on BBC2. I’m not even terribly keen on classical music, but it’s a family tradition stretching back to childhood.
Besides there’s something about the sweeping grandeur of a Strauss waltz… accompanied by a bacon sandwich to soak up the very unwise early-morning decision to dig out those liqueurs of dubious provenance because all the wine boxes are empty.
And by the end of two weeks I will have become a savage, biting the heads off chocolate bears without even removing the gold paper, as men with jackhammers try to free my ossified body from the sofa. Then it’s back to work. To watch TV. Merry Christmas!