Sunday, 17 December 2006

"Christmas Neighbours" published December 17

A strange feeling overcame me during the onset of Christmas this year. The need to have the neighbours over for cocktails. I had the invite worked out in my head which went something along the cheery lines of “we’ve been here for five years and thought it was about time we got together for a drink or two!’” I’d design the invite on my computer with those clip-art party hats, and champagne bottles and put it in my neighbours’ letterboxes and one Saturday evening they’d all come over for nibbles and drinks and we’d talk about what kind of year it’s been, the local schools, cluck over the new baby at number 14 and all the kids would race around the lawn and eat all the chips and onion dip.
Then I told my husband of my plans and he gave me a look. A look that said he would go along with it, but only because he thought it wise to do so until the real Wendyl returned from whatever planet she was currently visiting.
I soon came crashing down to earth and realised that my cocktail party was something my parents did every Christmas. In the 60s when people actually drank cocktails and downed a good couple of martinis before dinner. In the 60s when the concept of neighbourhoods meant people of like age, interests and incomes lived together and became friends for life, borrowing cups of sugar and bits of string to repair the clothesline. In the 60s when all the men got together to concrete someone’s drive, and all the women got together to organise a gala day or spray the tomatoes. In the 60s when kids rode like wild things on their chopper bikes up and down the road with no helmets, no adult supervision and we survived.
For some reason I had been overcome by a moment of tragic nostalgia which inspired me to imitate the adult world I knew as a child. I’ve yet to commit myself to full psychoanalysis on the matter but I feel it may be a worrying trend.
Recently I’ve started straying off the usual wine list in restaurants. Instead of scanning down the chardonnays and the sauvignon blancs I’ve been having a long, lingering look at Gew├╝rztraminer and Muller-thurgau. My wine guides tell me these are perfectly good wine styles and I will not be disappointed. But as I dare myself to order one, I get a blinding flash of those algae green dimpled bottles of Wohnseidler Muller-thurgau which my parents consumed in great quantities. Not to mention the sickly sweet Gew├╝rztraminer and the Mateus Rose.
I’ve also been thinking about making that chicken casserole where you throw in a can of apricots and a packet of onion soup. Recently I bought ice cream slices with the pink biscuits and demonstrated to my startled children not only how to make an ice-cream sandwich with Milo sprinkles but how to eat it by squeezing the biscuits together slowly….you get the picture. Then there’s the coleslaw and that pizza where you tip a can of spaghetti onto scone dough, sprinkle on a bit of grated cheese and only half cook it so that everything is luke warm and mushy.
Then it came to me. My recent nostalgic leanings can be blamed on the militarisation of Christmas. In Auckland celebrating Christmas seems to have become all about what you can stick on your house and how brightly it flashes of a night. Forget drinks with the neighbours and the season of goodwill, it’s all out war as hectares of multi-coloured weapons of mass illumination furiously blink at each other through the night in their attempts to be the most Christmassy house on the street. It’s no longer enough to actually have the wherewithal to own a house in pricey old Auckland, but you now must be the most sparkly house for the month of December.
There’s no point trying to go against the glow at this stage. Instead of idle chit chat and stealing new babies for a cuddle at some social get together I will take myself to the Warehouse and buy the latest mechanical musical Santa and a reindeer for the roof. I’ll stay indoors wearing my illuminated Christmas tree ear-rings and throw tinsel about the place munching morosely on fruit cake.
Maybe next year we’ll all be over it, I’ll revert to my retro plans and everyone will fall on my egg nog in relief.

No comments: