In this festive Low Life column from the 19 December 1981 edition of The Spectator, Jeffrey Bernard talks us through some Christmases past.
I’ve tried ignoring Christmas but the bastard won’t go away. It’s never been a good time of year for me what with being ignored by Father Christmas — yes, I’m going to have a right old moan today — and three years ago being left completely alone in a freezing cottage. Season of goodwill? You must be joking. But at least I’ve had an office party this year in Kentish Town. Last night I poured a vodka into my electric typewriter and it nearly blew up. There aren’t any decorations here and in this day and age I reckon a man could get kicked in the balls if he was found loafing under the mistletoe. Which reminds me, I’m somewhat choked at not having been invited for a drink by the Guardian Women’s Page writers. I have been invited to take a drink with Cosmopolitan and Punch though, and Norman Balon went berserk in the Coach & Horses yesterday and bought me two drinks. Could this be some sort of trap?
Anyway, I think I may have cracked it this year. The Spectator is sending me to the Park Lane Hilton from where I shall be reporting to you on what it’s like to spend Christmas in a hotel. This could lead to suicide, I fear, if the self-pity and sentiment set in and I really don’t want to be found dead wearing a paper hat. One looks quite silly enough as it is. Incidentally, why isn’t there a Mother Christmas, or is Father Christmas a nasty woman in drag? There was a monster Father Christmas in Harrods years ago, when I was a kid, who actually had the nerve to grope me in a fairy-lit grotto.
But by far the worst thing about Christmas, apart from the suicidal tendencies, is the business of one’s pubs being invaded by these disgusting part-time drinkers who order snowballs, cherry brandy, cointreau and the like and who then deposit them on the pavement outside. You can’t get into your favourite restaurants for the mass of advertising people holding their annual get-togethers and the sight of these people affecting bonhomie for the one and only time in the year is quite sickening. Since they eat free on expenses all through the year anyway they could afford to give their Christmas office lunch money to Oxfam, Help the Aged or even to Help Keep Jeff Bernard Out of the Nick.
Now if Father Christmas wasn’t an old poof or a kinky bitch I’d sit right down and write him a letter. Dear Sir, it would start too. These people like a little sycophancy as do all idols, gods, features editors, publicans, bank managers and anybody else in the nursing business. For one thing I’d ask for a charwoman to drop in twice a week — sorry, charman. Secondly I’d like a return ticket to India for the rest of the MCC tour plus a one-way ticket out of Kentish Town to anywhere. Then I’d like an introduction to one of those extraordinary Irish women who’ve been brought up to tolerate the most appalling behaviour and even come back for more.
If you should be mad enough — sorry rich enough — to think that it’s better to give than to receive, then I suppose we must consider the wonderful people who’ve put up with a lot this past year. I’d very much like to take all the female staff on this journal out to lunch. They are those I have often called ‘informed sources’ in this column. I’d like to buy Richard Ingrams a colour telly and then make him watch it and I’d like to get Norman Balon a dictionary of slang so as to enrich his abuse of me. I’d love to give Michael Joseph the book they commissioned me to write in 1897 and I’d like to give Ken Livingstone November’s rent. As it is, I’m afraid that all I’ll be giving this year is a hard time to the barman in the Hilton. I shall also bung my milkman who amazingly deludes himself that I’m a toff and a gentleman. The poor fool probably thinks I’m Father Christmas too.