I was getting my coffee this morning as I witnessed a pre-Christmas urban nativity play take place on the street: a family of four stuffing their car with everything they could possibly have mobilised from their apartment, including a couple of pets and possibly some rodents they found hiding in the kitchen cupboards and just packed along because hey, it’s Christmas.
At the time of writing, the family is sitting in their Tetris-packed Fiat and force-listening to Wham and cola anthems on a loop because the radio must be on because it’s the only way to get reliable, real-time information about traffic congestion. Inspired by this family and knowing that most of you are reading this while queuing at an airport/waiting for a train to arrive (if you’re in France, sorry to say but it ain’t gonna arrive), I am sharing my tried and tested Christmas traveling experiences.
Avoid public transport
This should be so obvious, yet we never learn. I thought I was really fucking clever last year as I refused to expose myself to the elements of holiday season airport insanity and did my Christmas tour by train. Well, when do railway companies close business for rail works? Yeah. That was me shivering at Glasgow central station at 5am on Boxing Day, panicking how I was supposed to get to London on time (ever) where a friend would start pouring the eggnogs at 3pm as previously agreed.
Also, people bring shitloads of stuff with them. Every place is rammed to the rim of people’s stuff and it spills all over the place, and you’re not safe even in the first class. Forget about reading. Forget about dreamily looking at misty highlands from the window. No, you will be squeezed between screaming kids, adults, their pets and every single thing they possess because after Christmas they have decided to continue living in a tent.
Questions to ask yourself when planning your Christmas travels next time:
1. What is the likeliest time of the year for rail workers and others to go on strike for maximum impact?
2. What is the likeliest time of the year some lunatic will toy with his/her drone over the busiest airports on the continent thus messing up holiday travel for thousands of people?
Avoid people you would normally avoid
Yes, this includes family and relatives. Christmas takes place at the time of the year when everybody is at their most exhausted. It’s the darkest time of the year. November and December are the busiest months at work, wherever you work or even if you don’t. Everybody is exhausted.
You want to Netflix and chill. Your parents have sepia-toned fantasies of Christmases from the fifties. Spending several nights under the same roof will have consequences, one of the more obvious ones being that you will be more exhausted after the holidays.
You’d be cool with any food as long as people around you would just chill. Ha. Not so fast. Since last Christmas your mum has been growing the chicken which will be killed and whose liver will be extracted post-mortem to be used for a Slavic liver pâté she claims is somehow an old family recipe (it’s not), will require seven thousand different stages of preparations and observing the fucking thing getting ready in its bain-marie overnight. This, dear reader, is the level of chill we are talking about.
I personally find Easters much more relaxed and cheerful as far as family gatherings go.
On keeping up appearances
Every women’s magazine sells us the fantasy of us a) living our best life, b) having maximum time for self-care and c) looking our very best at Christmas. All of this is absolute bullshit.
You are staying at other people’s home. You’re lucky if you have a bed, let alone a bloody boudoir for your convenience to scrub and mask when the fancy takes you. No. You will be staring at an oven, smelling of bacon, watching a pâté get ready for the next three to four days.
I, again, thought I was much clever last year as I went to have a blow-dry before embarking on a Glasgow-bound train thinking my hair would be one less thing to worry about as I would have to negotiate the inexplicably complicated British water piping system.
Me thinking I would look like a snack in Christmas photos – Scottish weather 0-1.
Don’t fall for Christmas sweaters and/or knits of any kind. Ugly, funny ha-ha Christmas sweaters have fortunately been branded a stupid disposable waste- tradition that is so passé it’s hardly worth mentioning, but I am extending this to cover any red, mohair-y, fluffy, turtlenecked Christmas knitwear. Your normal clothes are absolutely fine.
This year, to save me from tears, I’m spending Christmas not hauling ass from my apartment except for eating out with those precious few friends who have similarly gotten tired of the annual holiday mayhem.
Just as Mary, baby-Jesus and the Betlehem Inn intended.
Also this will all be over in a week.