Gin & The First Pantomime

I think a part of me was broken as a child. The part of me that should laugh at fart jokes or whoopee cushions or someone burping Happy Birthday. WHERE DID THAT BIT GO? Maybe I lost it on the beach while I was singing dead crabs to their eternal rest, aged 7. I was quite a serious child, I suppose – not that I felt it. I still don’t laugh at any of those things. Someone could burst in right now and effulgently perform an ABBA medley at me in armpit squelches and I would raise a cold eyebrow and quietly leave.

What a dreary cow.

Maybe it was when my father took me, aged 8, to see an obscure opera called Un Re In Ascolto that my sense of fun was essentially squashed. As the 20p red plastic binoculars fused to my eyeball sockets, something sparked in my cranium and I became forevermore unable to appreciate things that weren’t old men operatically lamenting the end of their days. I became blank to the funny boo-boos of the bum-bum. The playground belchings, the joke-shop dog turds left on teacher’s chair. They were dead to me. I tutted and yearned for a bit of higher-end sarcasm or at least a bit of predictable well-staged farce. When someone wrapped up an Oscar Wilde book of quotations for me at Christmas, aged 12, I was like “Boom – FINALLY”.

What a stinky little child. If I had not been resolutely obsessed with grubbing around with bugs in alleyways risking rabid deaths dancing with the corpses of lost cats I would worry that I was a snob.

Other things I still don’t get: Carry On films, popcorn, and panto.

Ah. Panto.

I went to my first ever last week. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I knew I wanted to love it because some lovely and very funny friends were in it. But I don’t mind admitting here, in public, that I didn’t really ‘get it’. What is it?

I watched the vaguely recognisable narrative of Aladdin unfold – a princess, a poor boy, a genie, a flying carpet, other motley devices – and sat there with a happy tumbler of gin, waiting to be deluged by my own laughter. It was nearly Christmas and I wanted to hoot til festive glitter spurted from my throat. I waited for a whole new thing to open its arms to me and make me feel good, like that time I discovered that Advent calendars had chocolate inside and you weren’t supposed to just admire the perforations in the unbroken cardboard.

But I didn’t get it. Stock characters in big costumes and cartoon make-up make me a bit tense. And I don’t like calling out things like “Oh look, there he is” and “yes, I promise you it most definitely is – the incontrovertible proof is right behind you” over and over again or whatever it is you are required to do at panto. I don’t even like clapping if I’m honest. It makes my palms itch.

Fun is subjective I suppose.

But then so is everything. Humour, charity donations, sandwiches. And Christmas.
All our ideal Christmasses will all differ slightly. All of us trying to create or recreate a Christmas we once or never had but hope for. I will hate the paper hat on my head, I will love the carols and wish I was in a choir. I will find time to watch It’s A Wonderful Life for the thousandth time. I will probably cry, definitely eat too much, and it’s as sure as eggs are eggs that I will squeeze in about five naps before pudding. And that will make me jolly for my own reasons while everyone in the land ejaculates over Del-boy falling through the bar after the queen’s speech (something else I’ve never seen).

I suppose the art of Christmas – the art of every day I suppose – is finding, stuffed and sleepy as you climb into bed, that you did at least some of the things you wanted to do and would choose no differently if you had the day again.

Choose well, and Happy Christmas, lovely folk! X

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