Much against my normal inclinations, I started to write a Xmas blog and thought it might be entertaining to parody some carols. Right away, though, there was a problem because I chose ‘Away in a manger’ as being instantly recognisable and therefore the one that would make my intention clear. But, rather than engendering merry thoughts and introducing the idea of peace on earth, goodwill to everybody, etc., the thought of a homeless baby being born in lowly surroundings, reduced circumstances, and with little apparent hope of any sort of future was too close to what has become a quite familiar situation in our advanced, ‘civilised’ country. The result was that, after just a few lines, I knew I’d have to change my plan. The lines went as follows:
Another wee stranger, whose mother’s not wed,
Arrives with no prospects, no home and no bed,
No welfare provision, no future, no luck,
Cos some blokes from Eton just don’t give a.…
…well, you get the picture.
And then, another recent item in the news suggested a different angle might work. In the posh Claridge’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair, a waiter carrying a large napkin approached a woman who was breast-feeding her baby and asked her to use it to cover up what was presumably considered to be a gratuitously pornographic display (although before and after photographs reveal that, where one might have expected to see a breast there was just a tiny hairy skull).
One of the spin-offs from this item was that it gave high- and low-brow papers licence to reproduce works of art depicting exactly the same act (sans napkin). In most cases, unlike in Claridge’s, the baby’s head didn’t obscure the offending mammary gland and, more pertinently, the woman concerned was the Madonna and her child. (As an aside, the Jesus depicted in some of them looked way beyond breast-feeding age and, rather than being asked to cover up, the mother and child would certainly have been evicted from the restaurant and possibly even reported to the police.)
At first, I thought that might offer a better chance at the entertaining, satirical parody I had in mind, so I tried another familiar carol, the one about the shepherds, which might be livelier and make more sense if someone came along and said ‘Why are you sitting around in the freezing cold looking at sheep? There’s this woman in that stable down there… Well, come and see for yourselves.’ But that’s a gag that’s at best tasteless and at worst blasphemous and, anyway, finding rhymes for ‘it’s’ was too easy.
On the other hand, it may be Xmas, but we’re still living in the age of Simon Cowell, who’s not only understood the zeitgeist but made a fortune from it. It’s OK to gawp at others, turn them into a spectacle, belittle or objectify them for our own pleasure. Today’s Three Kings of Orient come bearing an unguent which dispels both sympathy and empathy and a contract to star in Carry On Suckling.
So, before cynicism takes a terminal hold, I prefer to remember the variations on carols that my (now very grown-up) children produced when they were little. ‘Ding-dong, Meriel the Fly’ and ‘O come, poorly faceful’ were just funny, but what prescience they showed in:
‘Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the trifle in the skies.’
Happy Christmas and I hope that 2015 starts bringing some sanity back into how we live and how we treat one another.