Christmas presents may be a little lacking in inspiration this year, not that I am renowned for the thoughtfulness and originality of my gift-giving. One year, that will live long in infamy, David got a leaf bag which I bought an offer at Bosworth’s and forgot to take off the sticker advertising the heavily discounted price. This year it will be hampers, made up not of delicious delicacies from Fortnum and Mason’s, but tins of soup, jars of Marmite, and packets of prunes. The reason for this largesse is that we went into a frenzy of stockpiling when Brexit was scheduled for 31st October. These non-perishables are sitting unused on a shelf in the garage, and we are entering December and we haven’t gone anywhere.
But it has given me a chance to reflect on why we felt panicky. The last three years have made everyone feel anxious, I suppose, and that tension has to go somewhere, like lightning in a storm. And the coverage of Brexit has been so melodramatic, we’ve all got worked up. I remember a visit to Disneyworld twenty years ago as a hurricane blew in from the Atlantic. There’s no need to panic, said a man wearing a Mickey Mouse badge, but fill your baths with cold water and stock up on potato chips.
It was mayhem in the resort shop and we went back to our room and battened down the hatches.
By the time the hurricane struck it wasn’t a hurricane at all, it had blown itself out long before it got to Florida and all we got was a day of rain and no queues even for the most popular rides.
Things are rarely as bad, or as good, as we think they will be. What we anticipate is not what arrives, and that is perhaps never more clearly demonstrated than at Christmas. As BC became AD everyone was looking for the coming of a king, a warrior, an angel leading an army, to put the world to rights; but what came was a baby, lying a manger, miles from anywhere important, unnoticed except by some shepherds and three astrologers.
A baby bringing joy and peace, for you and all you care for, and for all you don’t much care for.