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Ones and zeroes: Christmas goes digital

I’m not saying I’m old, but I can remember when digital detox was a thing. One year later, and we are being told to embrace everything online and expect a “Digital Christmas”. The prospect does not bring tidings of great comfort, or joy. If you thought a gorgeous summer of stillness waiting for infection to strike was odd, consider the delights that an online holiday season will bring.

Combining the office party and 2020’s video conferencing platform of choice is like giving sea snakes wings. Both result in the perfect vehicle for terror, and the stuff of true nightmares.

One is the creature of my younger self’s imagination; a beast that would bring death on land, sea and air. The other will suck the life out of a late December evening more effectively than any set of poisoned fangs. And it awaits many of us.

Ghastly palor? Check. Enforced fun? Check. Some idiot who still can’t rearrange their zoom window after seven months online? Check. Such is the despair I see in this seasonal black hole — a mildly intoxicated evening spent riding the mute button — that I can’t even continue to list the things that will make it so miserable. Let’s just move on.

Those age-old conversations about how Santa manages to deliver the goodies to any dwelling without a chimney suddenly got a whole lot more difficult.

“Will he be allowed to deliver presents this year?”, an innocent child will no doubt ask. “Does Santa understand the fast-changing, tiered, local lockdown rules?” some smartarse eleven-year-old quasi-believer will demand behind a smirk.

In the immediate absence of either Jacinda Ardern or Chris Whitty, take my advice and refer them to their Mother.

In much the same way that Santa wears red out of contractual obligation to The Coca Cola Corporation, could it be that this year we will decorate our homes with the dull brown of Amazon packaging?

Such will be our reliance on Jeff’s Bazaar this year that everyone will be awash with the horrible brown packaging favoured by the world’s largest superpower I mean online retailer.

In the future sociologists will be able to pin down 2020 as the year when brown began to be adopted as the colour of Christmas, bringing the jolly red Coca Cola Age to a flat and tepid end. Christmas has lost its fizz; dull brown somehow seems more fitting.

The TV had better be good this year. I bet it won’t. Every year newspaper columns bemoan the state of Christmas TV, but nothing less than the nation’s sanity is riding on the quality of the telly this year, so a lot is at stake. And, in a year without blockbuster movies, it’s going to be down to TV shows alone to save the day.

But unless there are plans to literally resurrect Morecombe and Wise, I fear for that TV schedule. And I fear for the TV executive facing an angry board of directors after yet another year of reruns and grey skied seasonal soaps.

They should just run all the Bond, Bridget Jones and Paddington movies back to back for two days, stopping only for the Queen. She can expect a greater audience this year as keen viewers tune in to learn how horribilis an annus can be during a global pandemic. Spoiler alert: vastus.

With the news that supermarkets in Wales are closing off aisles of non-essential items in response to draconian rules imposed by the authorities, we may have to reconsider what constitutes the basis of Christmas dinner.

Will we be allowed Brussels sprouts? Most people leave them at the side of the plate, even when they are cooked for less than three hours and accompanied by chestnuts or crispy pancetta. Non-essential, then. Next!

Are potatoes roasted in goose fat essential? Is a goose, even? Is, in fact, anything beyond a supermarket turkey crown necessary? Perhaps not, in the eyes of the authorities. Procuring any of these might involve a trip to a town centre butcher where social distancing is less easy than an anonymous hypermarket off a ring road.

And woe betide you if you can't find a turkey baster, or a roasting pan small enough for the reduced number of people around the table. These are usually found in the homeware aisle and so will now be sealed off — as seemingly everything is nowadays — behind metres of warning tape, like the site of some nuclear spill. You would have been able to find these items in a high street kitchen shop, but no doubt it will have been forced to close. Non-essential, you see.

Christmas crackers? Definitely non-essential. No-one needs a paper hat to look ridiculous on zoom. Plus which, there’s only one joke going around this year, and it’s on us.

Ho, ho, ho.

Written by

A pick and mix of words; now online, better packaged and more expensive, like everything post-COVID. The sour cherries are best. The opinions are my own.

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