Bah humbug

December 9, 2012

It may come a no great surprise, that I don’t much like Christmas. I’m not religious, I don’t like cold weather, I don’t need any presents and I don’t need an excuse for gluttony.

“Oh, it’s for the children,” I’m often told. Well, sod the children. If they can’t vote, can’t beat me up, and don’t have any money, then, quite frankly, I’m not very interested in their opinion.

So I came to Cambodia, a country with 96.4 percent of the population staunchly Buddhist, with high hopes that I’d be able to avoid the orgy of pointless consumerism. (The Guardian newspaper once gave away some wrapping paper designed by the artist Mark Wallinger that just had the words ‘Jesus Christ’ repeated on it over and over. I found that particularly appropriate for how I feel about Christmas.)

Jesus Wrapping Paper

But no, Et in Arcadia Ego. The stationery shop a few doors down from chez moi started selling plastic Christmas trees a week ago. I can’t imagine who’s going to buy them: we’re in a pretty Khmer neighbourhood, and I’m certainly not in the market. Clearly they think they’ll sell: I think they might be mistaken.

My local beer shop is festooned with tinsel and fake snow. I’ll repeat that: fake snow. No one in this country has ever seen snow. They don’t go to midnight mass, or fetishise buying each other socks and book tokens. They don’t understand about the baby Santa dying for our sins. And, actually, because of that, I think I can forgive them.

One of Phnom Penh’s trendier streets, which is packed with boutiques selling hand-made chocolates and awful dresses, owned by bored European housewives, decided to have a ‘Christmas Fair’ last weekend, and I accidentally ended up walking along the street as it was going on. There were lots of fake Christmas trees and little stalls selling the same old crap as inside the shops. I was offered a glass of gluhwein and some hot roasted chestnuts. It was 82 degrees – I checked when I got home.

But the most surreal thing was two Santas who were wandering through the crowds, feebly ho-ho-hoing. Obviously no one had told them that Santa is a fat git: the two guys in the suits were Khmer, and had typically Cambodian physiques: ie, they were stick thin. Their red suits flapped off them, while their long white beards threatened to drop off with every ‘ho.’ I had to laugh. They may have bought in to the whole Christmas thing, but they still didn’t quite get it, and I love that.

Anyway, I’m going to southern India for the holidays, just to make entirely sure I can ignore the whole monstrous event.

Finally, I’d like to finish with a quote. For some months I have been working with someone whom, I must confess, was something of a trial. Trying to be charitable, let’s just say that I wasn’t convinced that he was the intellectual powerhouse he so loudly told everyone he was. Anyway, our professional relationship has just ended, quite dramatically, much to my satisfaction.

I was considering how to eulogise my relationship with this guy, when I came across a board on Pinterest devoted to odd things found in Asian newspapers. Most of the bizarre things on there have been written by my fat nemesis, including this gem of a quote.

“If you look around at the faces of Cambodians who survived the Khmer Rouge period you can see there’s no nostalgia for communist terror and mass killing.”

Indeed.

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2 Responses to “Bah humbug”

  1. R Scott said

    “Sod the children” you write? In Cambodia? Come on, Rupert, surely the legions of pedophiles who make the place their home or holiday destination of choice need no such encouragement. As for people able to beat you up, you’ve been provoking most of them here on your blog for as long as I’ve been reading it. Are you perhaps too full of youth to have any concern for your own neck? Look, we know its difficult when one has such big shoes to fill, but you really needn’t try so hard, mate. Maybe drop the jaded old FCC Barfly facade and just get down to your craft. Just a thought…

  2. nicola.ellis@homecall.co.uk said

    I won’t send the present then – and I am so sorry to have caused such offence when you spent 4 days with me, partaking of gluttony and with a plastic christmas tree to boot! Happy Christmas love Nicola
    Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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