There’s a Christmas poem of mine, written in the 1980s, that ends with the line ‘And the whole business is unbelievably dreadful, if you’re single’. When I read Bridget Jones’s Diary I was interested to find that the central character felt the same, and even more interested to see that Helen Fielding had included my poem. The first thing I did was to check the acknowledgements to make sure that her publishers had asked permission from my publishers. They had. Having established that, I was delighted. I wrote to Helen and got a nice reply. When I heard that there was going to be a film I had high hopes that it might do for me what Four Weddings and a Funeral had done for Auden by including his poem ‘Funeral Blues’. Sadly, my poem didn’t make it into the film.
In those days people used to tell me that Christmas could be pretty dreadful if you were married, too, and I’ve discovered there is some truth in that. In most families women still take on the bulk of the seasonal work — writing cards, choosing presents, planning the food and so on. I have observed that adults who say they love Christmas are predominantly male.
However, since I’ve been with a partner, my attitude has mellowed: the message of love and light usually shines through the grumpiness at some point. The best thing, now that we live in Ely, is the cathedral carol service. When we lived in Winchester I went to the carol service every year and often found myself sitting where I couldn’t see anything. The architecture in Ely is more helpful: there are far more places that allow people to see what’s going on and to have a view of the spectacularly beautiful Christmas tree. Every year I think it’s the best one I’ve ever seen.
This article is an extract from Wendy Cope’s Poet’s Notebook, available in The Spectator Christmas issue