Blood, sweat and tears at party time
Yuletide revels. We are having our party a day early so folk will turn up. The living room has been stripped of its usual clutter and lined with every stool and seat the house can muster. A table is bedecked with trifles, mince pies, vol-au-vents, samosas. Nearby is a glass palace of bottled booze. People should start arriving around seven o' clock.
Eleven pm. the hubbub subsides as folk start to drift off, the 'Wig Wam Bam' brigade hoping to catch last orders at the local before drifting off to the night club. Those of us not obsessed with mid-life crisis remain. After midnight, everyone has gone apart from that aquaintance of your brother-in-laws who insists on explaining to you in detail how he sells insurance. In the end, reeling in a blur of alcoholic excess, boredom, or both, I crash into bed. Oblivion. But then, just when sleep is sweetest the clock/radio crackles into life. 5.30 am. Time to get up for work!
Downstairs, beneath the haze of stale cigarette smoke its like a disaster area. Near catatonic, my eyes mere puffy slits, I lurch into the kitchen to fill up the kettle. A little later, feeling only slightly better, I am driving through the darkness and mizzle towards Elland, thinking of my wife snug in bed at home.
In Elland, in the run up to Christmas, it's the usual 'morning-after-the-night-before'. I have to clear up after other peoples' parties.... smashed lager bottles, chip papers, cigarette ends, discarded christmas wrappings. With the approach of the festive season the constant, thoughtless mess that befouls our streets takes on a new intensity of vigour, for when the Barbie Dolls start being advertised in the middle of 'World in Action' and we discover that a 'Mega Drive' has nothing to do with council skip wagons its time to break out the brush again. The magic word 'Christmas' brings litter louts out in force!
It was party nite at 'The Bench' last night. It's nothing new, it's a party here all year round. The D.H.S.S. keeps the off licence and the nearby amusement arcade in business. But you can tell it's Xmas by the seasonal variations amid the usual disgusting mess - the discarded party poppers and the smashed fairy lights and branches torn from the nearby town christmas tree. Amid the litter a 2p piece.... is this intended to be some sort of 'Christmas box'?! A token of collective guilt? I somehow doubt it. Hanging from one end of the bench is a used condom and below, a pair of partially charred Y fronts lies crumpled amid a scatter of spent matches. The mind boggles!
Christmas Eve. When the pubs shut Ellands' nocturnal revellers will hit the streets in force, and their usual 'ground rules' will come into operation. Take your glasses out with you. Leave them on the street where they can be kicked over. Then go for a curry, eat half of it and daub the rest all over the precinct cashpoint. Find a litter bin, set it alight, then put out the embers by emptying the contents of your stomach therein. Then you can smash a shop window or two on the way home while singing such sentimental seasonal favourites as 'I saw Three Drunks come lurching in', 'No-ale No-ale' or 'Come Feed your Faceful'.
But I won't be cleaning up after them. I clocked off at half past two, and I am now sprawled out on the settee at home. This sad, sick and uncaring world of ours can do what it likes. It's Christmas. Some other silly bugger who wants the money can sweep the bloody streets. Tonight the kids won't sleep, and it will be one am when we finally get the last of the presents around the tree and crawl wearily into bed. Everything hurts. Outside my door people are losing their jobs and the fabric of our society is crumbling. In Yugoslavia at this time a woman screams hysterically as she is repeatedly raped, In Somalia a skeletal bewildered woman clutches a dead child to her barren breasts. In Iraq a wrecked man softly moans as the jump leads are removed from his genitals. In Mytholmroyd its Christmas and cherubic children in warm beds await a fat old myth with a sack. The new year will see me plodding dark streets as chewing gum pavements slumber beneath forgetful snow. It all seems so unreal- The dark shadows th lighted windows, the powdery mizzle, the detritus of uncaring people. And I am lost like tears in rain.
".... Be patient sir, our revels now are ended. We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep......"