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Ho Ho Bloody Ho

Purple baubles on dark background

Another year passes. Another year marked by wars and hatred and lies and stupidity.

In short, another year of shittiness. And here in the UK we seem intent on becoming the masters of all things shitty. There have been occasions this past year when I’ve felt a little ashamed to be British. As I’ve said before, this isn’t the place, and I’m not the person, to embark on political rants, but Rwanda. Sigh.

As we left 2022 behind, I wished for a kinder 2023. Might as well have wished to become an international bestseller with multiple movie deals. (Yeah, yeah, all right, I wish for that every year.)

It seems it is too much to expect people to try to get along with others despite them having different coloured skin, or worshipping a different god—or even the same god but in a different way… sigh—or having a different sexual orientation, or any of the myriad other ways we humans can differ from one another.

To shamelessly pinch a line from The Simpsons, Jesus must be turning in his grave.

Talking of graves, let’s spare a thought for those who have gone to theirs.

We said goodbye to more greats this year, including the gorgeous Raquel Welch (I’ll never forget seeing her in a fur bikini in the film One Million Years B.C.), Alan Arkin (who will always, to me, be Yossarian), and Cormac McCarthy (who wrote one of the bleakest yet utterly compelling post-apocalyptic novels I’ve read, The Road), to name but a few.

And Shane MacGowan has gone to join Kirsty MacColl at the smoke-wreathed piano in the sky, where I imagine them belting out my favourite Christmas tune ‘Fairytale of New York’.

But enough doom and gloom. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a grumpy old man, though finding stuff to be positive about in today’s world is not easy. Trying to be upbeat these days feels a bit like peeing into the wind, only without the damp trousers.

I’ll include a snap below of me smiling into the lens, Milo by my side, with our digital Santa hats on. And I’m going to keep telling myself that humanity is ultimately good and raise a glass to a kinder 2024.

Two frothing glasses of beer clinking together

And yet…

I can’t help but feel this is forced optimism in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I’m the turkey cheerfully wishing that next Christmas everyone will have turned vegetarian.

So, bollocks to it. Ebenezer Scrooge it is, then. Altogether now, in our best Bah Humbug voices:

Ho ho bloody ho.

Sam Kates and his dog Milo wearing Santa hats

Merry flipping Christmas

Headshot of author wearing a Santa hat

This time last year I was in a mild state of despondency. Covid was rife, our government was in a bit of a mess, social media was often a cesspit of hatred and misinformation, my book sales weren’t great, and advertising was growing increasingly expensive and ineffective.

I wish I could say all or some of those things have improved. But, nah.

We’re learning to live with it, but covid is still very much with us. We’ve had not one but two changes of prime minister, and I’m not convinced the current incumbent is much of an upgrade on his predecessors. Social media is as rancid as it ever was. My sales still aren’t much to write home about, and I remain extremely wary of the cost and effectiveness of advertising.

But so much more shittiness (you’ll have to excuse my French—it’s difficult to talk about the current state of this world without resorting to the occasional swear word) has happened in this past year.

The new year had barely begun when, without warning, I lost one of my oldest friends. His funeral in London on a mild day in late January was, as you might imagine, a desperately sad affair.

Also in early January, we watched our televisions disbelievingly as what looked like an attempted coup unfolded across the pond when rioters stormed the US Capitol, apparently with the blessing of or, at least, lack of condemnation from the outgoing president.

The following month and Russia invaded Ukraine, bringing World War III significantly nearer to becoming a reality. Massive hikes to energy prices followed and a consequent cost-of-living crisis.

Inflation has been rampant and interest rates keep increasing to try to counter it. Some believe Brexit has also played a significant role in the current mess we’re in, not to mention a bizarre mini-budget from the previous PM and her Chancellor that sent the financial markets into a blind panic.

Summer temperatures soared in the UK as new records were set and we all wilted like last week’s lettuce.

Then, in September, Queen Elizabeth II died. She was the only monarch I’d ever known and, though I’m by no means a royalist, it was a time of deep sorrow—it felt as though we’d lost a constant presence in our lives that we’d not even been aware of until it had gone.

It was also a surreal time as people queued for days to view her coffin lying in state in the Palace of Westminster and a television channel was devoted to seeing those paying their respects filing past. I sometimes turned over to watch it for a while.

Currently there are strikes everywhere you look, from rail workers to nurses. Last year, the government urged us to clap for the NHS staff who worked so selflessly during the pandemic; now the same government would have us believe they’re being selfish for expecting to be paid a living wage. Sigh. This isn’t the place, and I’m not the person, to go off on political rants. Still, sigh.

That was 2022. A year of loss, insurrection, war, economic turmoil, weather extremes, political and royal upheaval.

There’s undoubtedly a recession looming. We can only hope Armageddon isn’t.

Shit happens, as the saying goes, though it’s a little mild to describe what’s happened this past twelve months. Dumbfuckery of the highest order is more accurate. Little wonder my sense of despondency has, if anything, deepened.

When I was seventeen, I appeared in the school play. It contained a line I still quote, usually accompanied by an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders, whenever dumbfuckery is occurring. It’s especially apt now:

Hey ho, such is life.

Have yourself the merriest flipping Christmas (or whatever) and here’s to a kinder 2023. Perhaps if enough of us say it often enough, more kindness will happen. No, I’m not going to hold my breath either.

Image of cute dog in reindeer suit

 

With a Ho! and a Ho! and, perchance, a Ho!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s here again. No, not another strain of covid, but that time of year when, in theory at least, we feel a sense of peace and goodwill to our fellow man*. As 2021 draws to a close, I suspect with almost as much a sense of relief as we welcomed the end of 2020, so I find myself in a state of mild despondency.

I can’t put my finger on the precise reason why. It’s not only the ongoing ding-dong battle with a virus that seems to mutate almost as often as members of our government are caught out breaching their own rules. It’s not only the spite, bile and mistruths I see flung about on social media as though common rules of decency no longer apply in this world. (I’ve been finding social media such a poisonous, divisive, lie-laden, attention-seeking, drama-driven cesspit that I rarely post on Facebook and Twitter these days.) It’s not only the spiralling costs of effective advertising and my dwindling book sales—I feel almost as invisible now as I did when I first started out.

No, it’s none of those things in isolation. Yet it’s all of them, and more. They’re all getting together (ignoring the rules against gatherings in the best governmental traditions) and contributing to a general feeling of melancholy.

It’ll pass, even if I’m not hopeful that the causes are going to alleviate any time soon. Despite the occasional grumpy-old-man demeanour, I’m generally an upbeat, optimistic person.

Have yourself the merriest Christmas** and here’s to a kinder 2022.

Nadolig Llawen!

 

* meaning, of course, man, woman and those who identify otherwise.
** meaning, of course, other holidays too.

Merry Christmas!

 

Or happy-whatever-holiday-you-prefer. 2020 is drawing to a close. Do I hear you say ‘Hallelujah’?

The photo above is a few years old now. I really ought to update the image with the older, more crinkly version of me, but it doesn’t seem important enough to go to the effort. That’s the thing about this horrendous year – it has made us examine our priorities. Inevitably, I believe, there will be a reshuffling of those priorities, a reordering of the things we cherish most.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to go all philisophical on you. The purpose of this post is simply to raise a rhetorical glass of a favourite tipple to family and friends, and fellow writers and readers.

I wish you all the very best for a peaceful holiday and a better year ahead.

Iechyd da! Cheers!

Stay safe. I’ll be back on 8th January. Till then…

Merry Christmas

Well, it’s here again, the time of year when we all drink and eat too much and, in theory at least, make merry.

My regular blog posts have taken a bit of a rest while I wrestle with producing my own audiobooks. I’ve finished one – the audio verion of my festive collection of dark short stories, Ghosts of Christmas Past. Despite uploading the audio tracks to Audible on 11th December and, as far as I can make out (well, I’ve definitely not been notified to the contrary), satisfying their quality standards, the audiobook hasn’t gone live in time for Christmas. Never mind – my main concern was to make sure I could produce audio to Audible’s standards; if I’ve done that, I’ll be happy since I know I can press forward with my other books.

Anyway, I might as well show you the cover. Here it is:

The fifth annual Sam Kates office party took place on 13th December. Much eating and drinking took place (ahem, perhaps a little too much of the latter), but sadly I forgot to take a single photo. Fun was had and hangovers ensued.

And now it’s Christmas Eve, the turkey is in the oven and the Bailey’s is open. All that remains is for me to wish you the merriest of Christmases or holiday of your choice. May all your days be merry and bright.

Nadolig Llawen!

Ho ho ho!

A Very Merry Christmas

It’s that time of year when we wish peace and goodwill to others. When our cups of joy overflow, often in direct proportion to the flow of alcohol. When we give each other presents and spend precious time with our loved ones. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we treated each other as well throughout the year as we do in late December?

Despite the rampant commercialism and the pressures of shopping (I’m a bloke; I hate shopping), it’s my favourite time of year. Imagine winter without Christmas. What a bleak few months they would be.

It’s dreary here in Wales as I write this. The sky has been grey and drizzly for days. The ground is permanently wet—whenever we step in from outside, we bring in mud. Yet we don’t allow it to dampen our festive spirits. My daughters—both now in their twenties—and my wife still grow excited as the big day draws near. So do I. In fact, I’m probably the biggest kid of us all.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you a peaceful and happy time. As we say in Wales, Iechyd da!—Good health!