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  • Elliot Harper

The Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas: Christmas


“Now I have a machine gun. HO HO HO”

- John McClane




Christmas.



Christmas is here. Not only is it here, but it’s been here since Thanksgiving. As soon as that bank holiday ended the ‘Festive Holiday’ period began in earnest. For you guys back in the U.K, Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November. Everyone gets that and the following day off. Friday is a day we all know very well now, Black Friday! The day everyone goes crazy for cheap shit they didn’t know they wanted. Black Friday is really Black Friday week. The deals are on from the week before, ending on the mysteriously titled Cyber Monday. I feel like that day should be something more exciting than a sale. Maybe a robotic revolution. Something to really get the blood flowing.


Anyway, I’ve gone off in the wrong direction. Back to Christmas! So, it begins to get fully in the swing of it right after Thanksgiving. Lights are attached to the roof, inflatable snowmen are positioned in the front garden, the tree goes up, Santa please stop here signs are left in the window, the wreath is hung on the door… Look, you get it, it’s Christmas okay!

I’ve always been a bit negative towards this time of year. I usually like to take the hipster attitude that Christmas is destructive. That it's artificial, tacky, fake. Just a way for us to blow a load of cash on things we know deep down that we don’t need. Capitalism on acid. I start out that way, but by the time we get to Christmas Eve and Day I’ve got a cheesy Christmas jumper (sweater) on, eaten my fair share of Christmas cake and I’ve already worked through my list of Christmas movies.


Which movies? You know which ones! Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Elf, Home Alone 1 & 2, Gremlins, Batman Returns, Rare Exports, Krampus… You get the idea! Those are the real Christmas classics. Forget the mushy ones that make you cry! Give me action, give me horror, give me comedy! By the time we hit New Year I’ve watched the lot. Much to Nay’s annoyance. She doesn’t understand the concept of watching a movie so many times that you know it word for word. Well, actually, that’s not true! She knows Moulin Rouge by heart!


Anyway, Die Hard is the one I really look forward to watching. The over the top and nonsensical adventure of John McClane in Nakatomi Tower. He’s just there to try and piece things back together with his wife when Hans (bubby) Gruber shows up to wreck the party, pal. Hans (bubby) wants to do some good old fashion thievery, but how could he have known McClane was going to be there, barefoot and ready to kill? Or that SGT. Powell would show up and do the right thing? It was a tough break for the guy when you think about it. I’m sure Hans (bubby) thought it was going to be an easy job. In and out, but that’s just the way it is sometimes. I’ve only just watched this movie, so I apologise if I’m obsessing, but I do love that film!




Back to Christmas in Houston. Like I’ve said everyone goes all out, same as Halloween. The houses are decked out with holly and whatever else. There are a few areas in the city that could be considered to be posh — places where the rich and famous live. I’m talking about multi-million-dollar homes. Don’t get me wrong, money doesn’t really exist so we shouldn’t fetishise it, but these buildings really are spectacular. One such area is River Oaks. If you drive down River Oaks Boulevard, you’ll see what I mean. These buildings are palatial. Huge, walled-off mansions. Incredible gardens, fantastic architecture, the whole thing! Think Home Alone but the houses are bigger and there isn’t that dodgy guy with the spade living next door or small children setting traps. They are probably filled to the brim with fat-cats and people hungry for power, but I’m generalising. I’m sure a few of them are nice people.


What I’m trying to say is these houses are beautiful, and now that Christmas has come, they’ve paid someone to come and decorate them. And they are incredible. And I do mean incredible! They look amazing. I don’t know if they are trying to one up each other or not, but they’ve done a fantastic job. This is where I find myself right now. I’m sat in the passenger’s seat, and Nay is driving. We’ve come out for dinner, but we decided that we should drive down River Oaks Boulevard and have a look at the Christmas decorations on the way. It seemed like a great idea at the time. We jumped in the car and sped down to River Oaks, but we made one fatal error. We didn’t think about the traffic. It’s rush hour, and we are now stuck.




I tap my side of the door in irritation, as soon as we hit the traffic we ground to a halt. This isn’t an unusual situation, but this is bad even by Houston standards. The road is packed solid with cars, and for some reason, we don’t seem to be moving. It makes me think there’s been a crash, but in both directions? Now that does seem odd. I guess everyone had the same idea. Come and see the lights. It wouldn’t be a bad place to be stuck, but we’ve got trapped right next to a house with a high fence with little or no decorations. These guys must be scared of something because they’ve gone full Purge on us. So, not only are we stuck in traffic, but we don’t even have a festive view. Tensions are running high.

I tap my finger again. I become really annoying in these kinds of situations, but to make matters worse, we are both hungry. Or should I say Hangry? Is that still a thing? That would be more accurate if it is. I continue tapping until I feel rather than see a glare from Nay. I stop and play innocent. Spotify is on in the car. It's set to a Christmas playlist. That may have been a bad choice in hindsight, but we’d committed to the theme. We can’t very well back out of it now, can we? The tracks are coming thick and fast, All I want for Christmas is You, Last Christmas, Santa Baby… The holiday hits just keep on coming when the big one arrives:


Oh, the weather outside is frightful,

But the fire is so delightful,

And since we’ve no place to go,

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”


We’ve all heard this Christmas classic a million times before but this one I particularly love because of its connection to Die Hard. It’s only fleeting but SGT. Powell is singing it when he’s finally welcomed to the party, pal. His version is slightly different:


Oh, the weather outside is frightful,

Dum, dee Dum, delightful..”


You might be thinking, so what? That’s not a big difference. It really isn’t, but the thing is, I’ve been singing that little snippet of the song solidly ever since I watched Die Hard the other day. And it’s fair to say that it’s been annoying Naomi aka Nay – which of course is my intention! As soon as it comes over the speakers both are heads snap around. We haven’t moved in fifteen minutes are both are stomachs are growling, but this brings a smile to my face.


Nay looks from the radio to me. “No way! Don’t start this again!” The tone is playful, so I know I’m not in serious trouble. I act innocent. “I have no idea what you are talking about!” She laughs before replying. “Don’t give me that! You know exactly what I mean!” I smirk but say nothing as the song plays in the background. It doesn’t take long before it’s finished, but it’s now ingrained in my head and just needs to be let out.


Suddenly, the traffic begins to move. We both breathe a sigh of relief, but it quickly turns to exasperation. We only moved a few metres and not even enough to break away from the Purge mansion. We both slump in our seats and continue to glare out the window at the back of a pickup truck. It has a bumper sticker that makes me smile, though. It’s red with white letters and reads “Make Orwell Fiction Again.” My hat goes off to the driver, if only it would happen.


A few minutes pass along in silence while a few other lesser-known Christmas songs play. I let it go on for a little longer, but I can’t help myself. I whistle the first few bars of Let it Snow. I know I’m being cruel, but sometimes you just have to entertain yourself. As soon as it leaves me lips, Nay admonishes me. “Don’t you dare!” I smile and jab her lightly in the rib but with a show of mock innocence on my face. We fall back into silence. I let it carry on for a while. Biding my time. We are still stuck in traffic so a few people get understandably irritated and beep their horns as though that will make any difference. This really is taking forever.




More time passes with only Christmas songs to keep us vaguely amused. There’s a gap in the music, its longer than the others. I take my chance. Its been dying to get out. “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, Dum, Dee Dum delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” I add on the rest just because why the hell not!? It has the desired effect. I receive a light thumb on my left arm. “I knew it! I knew you couldn’t help yourself! Bloody Die Hard!” I see another opportunity. “Welcome to the party, pal!” Not bad if I do say so myself and it draws a laugh out of Nay. “I’m your entertainment, remember!?” She laughs and retorts. “You’re a nob, more like!” Which is true, so I laugh as well.


I’m about to launch into my second rendition of those few lines when suddenly the traffic begins to move. We hold our collective breath as we edge forward a few metres, knowing that we might not be saved just yet. We pass those few metres and keep going, faster and faster, until the traffic is breaking up and we are free! We both let out a cheer and a few ‘it’s about fucking times’ now that we know we are going to eat. In my excitement, I take in a lung full of air, and I’m about to launch into the song once again, but Nay beats me to the punch. “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, Dum, Dee Dum delightful…” I join in right here. “And since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” We both laugh as we speed away from ­­­­River Oaks Boulevard, too hungry to stop and stare at the houses.


Happy Christmas everyone!


That was a tale of a Yorkshireman in Texas.


A bloke with a ginger beard who writes.


Elliot

 

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