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The Old Contemptibles

If you were in Birmingham city centre yesterday afternoon you might have some sympathy with Dave Woodhall. But probably not.

Here it comes. As predictable as mince pies, office parties and double fare taxis, it’s the annual ‘Christmas is crap’ piece.

Have a Sunday like mine and you’ll start agreeing with me.

The day had already started badly with the news that the train into town was going to be a bus, and the one I was told left Acocks Green at 12.29 was going to Solihull, where I had to get off and catch what became the 13.10 from Acocks Green. I could have stayed in front of the fire another 40 minutes.

When I finally got off the bus after the scenic tour of south-east Birmingham I thought the city centre was mercifully quiet. Thant’s because everyone in the Midlands with any money left was already in the shops.

One of the reasons I hate Christmas so much is the conspiracy unleashed on me by my dear wife and wonderful mother, both of whom share the same birthday. December 24th.

When I was happily single I could get away with forgetting my mum’s birthday in the Christmas rush. Now I’m ganged up on by the Overlooked Birthdays Association. I also have a Goddaughter born on December 28th. Clinton’s love me.

So after standing for hours while Shaz’n’Trace decided who was going to be served next then shelling out a small fortune for some bits of card and sentimental nonsense I was fit to be tied. And no, I don’t want it gift-wrapped. I can do it myself perfectly well, thank you and your £1 extra very much.

And Hotel Chocolat don’t give freebies away when they’re busy. And you even had to queue to get onto the Bullring escalators.

It was as I walked down New Street that I decided I hate everyone in the world. All of you, every last one.

Especially the ones who insist on patronising that great Teutonic rip-off the Christmas market. If you want to buy German, go to Aldi. Their crisps are nice, so is their chocolate. So are Lidl’s, for that matter.

But whatever you do, get out of my way when I’m trying to go home and it’s bastard well freezing.

The schnitzel stand puts too much paprika on their chips, and the ones I had were lukewarm at best. I also got conned into paying £1.50 for a bag of scratchings (I’m eating healthily at the moment, as you can tell). “Home cooked” they woman said as she sold them out of old fashioned paper bags.

What she didn’t say was that inside the traditional wrapping was a bog-standard plastic bag of the sort you can get for fifty pee at Asda. And I doubt if anyone lives on an industrial estate in Wolverhampton.

I thought I might as well kill some time until the bus/train turned up by popping into the Old C’s. This used to be a veritable Birmingham institution, which sold fine Bass and paid homage to the original Old Contemptibles by having toilets done out like the trenches at Ypres.

Now it’s been gentrified, they have food recommendations for the beer and a pint of something decidedly average costs three quid. That’s a pint of the three they had on sale, from eight handpulls.

Yes, I had a fine old time on Sunday afternoon, although thawing out later I realised I don’t really hate everyone in the world. Just the ones who contributed, in any small way, to my Christmas Nightmare.

But I know I’ll love it when the big day comes round, the presents are opened and I don’t have to do anything except eat and drink. I always do.



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