If I could give one piece of Christmas cheer for the coming holiday it would be to watch The World At War, Jeremy Isaacs' documentary on World War Two, narrated by Laurence Olivier. Especially if you are Generation Y. One day in late December all 26 episodes will be on, end to end. There is probably a boxed set too, whatever that is. I have the lot in my magical Sky doo-dah but will watch anyway; there is something special about knowing others are reflecting in the midst of revelry and excess. It will take 22 hours and 32 minutes of your life and for most of that time you can be in your new dressing gown, eating mince pies.
I was a teenager when The World At War was first shown in the 1970s and have seen it every year since. Watch it to know your history: Over the festive period you might see a faded framed photo in a hall, listen to an old song that sends gran into the kitchen, hear a sketchy story about a young man you never got to know because he never got to be old. Those twenty-odd hours will tell you how we got to where we are today; who got us here; what they went through. It can be sobering viewing, but watch it principally for your own happiness.
Social media and much of the faux gilt and glamour we see around it; our daft, flashy and exhilarating shopping malls; and the inane, insistent, glittery Christmas television marketing can leave us believing we are less attractive, less interesting, less fortunate, less well-off, less... just less: that there is a party on elsewhere and we are not invited. Dunkirk, Stalingrad, Auschwitz and The Blitz will help you feel this less.
Much Christmas advertising makes me want to heave; maybe it's the dour Celt in me. I am no curmudgeon but for sure am comfortable with introspection, perspective and moderation. It's a good time to do all three. In the best Christmas tune ever Shane McGowan growls, "I could have been someone..." "Well so could anyone!" is the late Kirsty McColl's sarcastic reply, then "You took my dreams from me, when I first found you..." It's that lament from Fairytale Of New York that sticks in my mind. Imagine someone taking your dreams. Can that happen? The World At War and Kirsty McColl's shocking death show that sometimes dreams can be properly thieved from us. Bereaved families in Glasgow wish they could have Saturday 30th November back so their loved ones might make other plans and you can bet Syria's children dream mostly of their next dinner.
Most of us, despite tough times, are in a better place than we think. My Dad has dementia. He will consume more of my precious holiday than in the past and there are a few other proper, big ticket personal challenges kicking about, devouring Sky Sports Sofa Surfing Space. But we all have those, yes? They are part of the deal for getting time on this magnificent spinning sphere. Olivier's commentary on the journey into tyranny, through the darkest times and towards Churchill's "sunlit uplands" can, for a while, discomfort us, perhaps dampen our festive spirits. Good. But watch the lot and make it a catalyst for all you have and all you can do, rather than what you don't and can't. That's a belter of a Christmas message.
It requires effort and conscious thought: live in the present, give a little and be thankful for your lot. "Happy Christmas your arse I pray god it's our last", is a typically pugilistic line from Fairytale Of New York, delivered by the splendid but sadly long dead Kirsty.
What if it really was?
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Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.