How the Viper Stole Christmas

It’s you again. Oh my, my, my! If I’d known you were coming, I’d have put some clothes on to type this. You’re here now, though. Let’s press on.

I am, in truth, fully clothed. I’m even wearing a second-hand sweater that my mother dug out of her stores. Apparently it belonged to my father. It’s sleeveless, v-necked and navy. I’m wearing it over my shirt with the plaid, you know, one of the Charles Tyrwhitt ones. You seem a little agitated. Was my description too sensual? I’m sorry, it’s not deliberate, I’m just very, very beautiful.

I’m going to tell you a little about my weekend, you lucky little sausage. I’m also going to tell you a little about my struggles with being happy and my Jekyll/Hyde nature. All that in one post and you don’t have to pay! Bargain!

On Friday night I went to visit my most regular friend. I mean ‘regular’ in the sense that I see him the most often out of my two friends. I didn’t mean ‘regular’ in the bowel sense. I don’t ask those kinds of questions.

Those of you who’ve read my blog might have heard of this friend. He’s the one with the beautiful old house, the bachelor lifestyle and the glorious garden. He’s also something of a dandy. This works for me as he regularly has wardrobe purges. If any of the cast offs fit me, I get to refresh my threads, you dig? This Friday was particularly fecund as he was disposing of a large box of shoes. I take an eleven or twelve, depending on the fit. You know what they say about men with big feet… big shoes. He takes a ten or eleven, so there was much tense trying of footwear on Friday night. “I think I can stretch these,” I remarked more than once as I squeezed into a tight but beautiful offering. Perhaps I’ll do a ‘shoe haul’ post in the near future. Imagine that! I can almost hear you shivering with excitement.

I’m not going to lie, we got hammered. After the shoes, we needed a drink. We consumed red wine. We consumed gins and tonics (different types of gin and different types of tonic… I was going to do a ‘taste test’ post, but I was too hammered to take notes, soz). Pipes were smoked. Conversation was had. Episodes of The Crown were watched (Isn’t this good? Oh, it’s very good! Isn’t she good? She IS good! He’s bloody good too! He is, he IS good! Isn’t telly good sometimes?). The conversation was as witty as the shoes were splendid. We should have a Podcast.

You can imagine the next morning. I felt like I’d been hollowed out and filled with nauseous evil. This hangover was content to remind me what a fool, a bastard and a fool again I had been. The past-me had basically kicked the shit out of the future-me. Saturday was, essentially, a write off. I only barely recovered in time for “Strictly” with the family in the evening. Why can’t I drink in moderation?! I don’t drink much during the week, but when I get together with my friend, I seem to think I’m twenty-four and in possession of a good wage, not forty and skint. Maybe it’s because he pays for the booze, who can say?

Sunday took me and my good lady to the Christmas Market at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. Chatsworth is one of the things that I almost unfailingly enjoy. I’ve loved it since I was a boy. I even honeymooned there, at the Hunting Tower (back in the days when I had money). Chatsworth at Christmas is doubly lovely. The house is always decorated with some appropriate festive theme.

I love Christmas. I love country houses. I hate myself.

This is when I have to explain the problem in my psyche between the Viper and the Hero. I have two distinct personalities, both of them utter wankers. The Viper is witty, sarcastic, cruel, heartless, cynical, misanthropic, misogynisitic and vain. My Viperish side helps me to make snide remarks and be sexily detached from emotions. My Viperish side also undercuts the very ideas of fun, joy and love. He’s an arse. The Hero side is loving, joyful, fun, sentimental, gentle, generous and tender. My Hero side also reminds me how often I have failed to live up to his exacting standards of morality and success. In his own way, he’s an arse as well. Between the two sides there is an utter imbalance, giving me a pretty discordant character. The two sides hate each other, but seeing as they’re both me, I basically hate myself. I can hate myself from two separate perspectives while being one person. It’s a hoot.

The Hero side loves Christmas. He even believes in God, the twerp. The Viperish side sees Christmas as commercial, shallow and built on lies, particularly the lies we tell to children to make the world seem less mundane and less achingly bleak. The Viper is not only an atheist, he’d like to track down any gods that might dare to exist and kick their windows in. Fortunately for the Hero, there’s usually enough fun, pretty stuff and good cheer at Christmas for him to take the wheel of my psychological galleon (that’s a weird image, but I’m sticking with it). If the Viper could steal Christmas, he would. He has managed it on occasions. I won’t even talk about the Christmas that Mrs Viper and I were separated. Ugh.

I thought it might be fun to give you some highlights of Chatsworth with pictures and commentary from my conflicting personalities. By ‘fun’ I mean a combination of humorous and harrowing that keeps you readers flocking back for more. Let’s go, thrill seekers!

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Hero: Here’s a picture of a beautiful stall full of baubles in the Victorian style! Just look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? A tree covered in these would remind one of the roots of the modern British Christmas in the Victorian era. That might conjure up images of the Germanic tradition of the sacred tree, leading on to thoughts of Yule and the wonderful combination of pagan and Christian that we find in Christmas celebrations! How magical.

Viperish: Eight quid each. Fucking insane. Think how much cheap wine you could buy. Ten of those bastards would cost eighty quid! Are you mental?! Victorian Christmas was particularly good for all those kids who starved to death in major cities. Hooray for the Victorians, eh? You sentimental twat. Stick your baubles AND your tree. Hypocrite.

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Hero: The theme of the house this year was ‘The Nutcracker’! My six year old loves ballet and the Nutcracker story. She came to the house last week dressed as Clara, it was adorable. If you get a chance to go, you should. Music from the ballet plays throughout the house and each of the rooms is themed to part of the story. The rooms are full of wonderful art all year round, but at Christmas there are the decorations too. It’s delightful.

Viperish: It’s expensive. Don’t forget that. Money, money, money. If you didn’t have the “Friends Card” that the wife pays for, you couldn’t afford to get in, you useless sod. The Nutcracker, for fuck’s sake. Ballet? You don’t even like ballet! You’ve never been to one. The kid can do ballet, but you haven’t got round to riding a bike or swimming yet. Really giving those life skills, eh? When will you stop making your kids live in a fantasy world?

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Hero: Isn’t this fun?! There were toys in this part of the house, made by the Toymaker from the story. This chap’s very jolly! There was a man dressed as the Toymaker, speaking with a German accent (or was it Austrian?). All very amusing.

Viperish: Look at that hand. The slim hand of a serial poisoner. You’re tugging some soldier’s undercarriage. Weirdo.

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Hero: A real Ballet dancer! This room is the Painted Hall. The ceiling is exquisite. When I brought my daughter, she posed with the dancer. It was lovely. I won’t show the pictures, I don’t want to personalize the blog too much, but you can imagine the cuteness.

Viperish: The way you’re standing in this picture makes it look like you’re exposing yourself to the ballerina. She doesn’t look happy about it. Also, get a hair cut.

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Hero: This was in the Dining Room. It’s the Land of Sweets! There was even a model train chuff chuffing around. I like the sound of a Treacle Lake! This is like stepping into a child’s dream.

Viperish: I’m sure many of the world’s poor or starving or homeless children will be dreaming of the Land of Sweets. Instead of helping them, people with money to waste are visiting stately homes and throwing their cash away on crap gifts. How bloody magical. You’re forty years old, man, do something of value with your time! Keats was long dead by your age!

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Hero: Saw this GIANT bottle of beer in Chatsworth farm shop. Decided not to splash out, but was very tempted! There were so many delectable things to eat and drink.

Viperish: Shame you couldn’t afford more than a couple of packs of biscuits, eh? And the wife had to pay. There’s nothing like paying three times the price for food , is there? Luxury. Go to Aldi, you daft bastard. Buy a dozen bottles of the cheapest bitter and you can get smashed from the price of that single bottle of over-priced rubbish. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, you just need to get legless and numb the pain.

That’s all for now, dear readers. I’ve given you a glimpse of my Chatsworth experience and a delicious feeling of what it’s like to be stuck in my turbulent mind. For those that are wondering, I let Viper do most of the driving. Viper has many flaws, but there’s a toughness to him that helps me through the day. Hero mostly peeps over his shoulder and reminds him to be just a little nicer. Even though this post is full of crap gags and exaggeration, it really does give a sense of living with my conflicting perspectives. I wish the two of them would keep the noise down, I can’t think straight with all that arguing.

Here’s wishing you a peaceful run up to the run up to the run up to Christmas. Word to the wise: don’t name the voices in your head, you go mad.

Love,

Viperish Discordant Hero.

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