It’s a Family Affair
In a sitcom Christmas special, in an effort to shake things up a bit the writers often bring in a hitherto unseen character; someone’s dad, grandma, or Uncle Knobhead who shows up usually played by a respected theatre actor and steals the show. So it goes at Christmas, when suddenly the old faces you’ve nodded to all year are accompanied by a stranger in an amusing jumper, and there’s nothing better to introduce a bit of the random factor into your local. That bloke who wears pointy boots and thinks he looks like Ryan Gosling is joined by a white haired man in a flat cap who tells you of the time ‘Ryan’ pissed himself on a log flume. The man who never speaks and is either called Dave or Dan is partnered by a vivacious lady with baubles on her ears and three inch red nails, who knows everyone by name but still calls them all love. They’re on their way to Spoons to meet up with their friends who they know from northern soul nights and they thought they’d pop in – is your mum alright love, she’s been poorly hasn’t she? How’s your Melanie, is she still at Iceland?
No Such Thing As Too Many Deccies
Cellophane snowflake garlands in red, green, and gold, which can be folded flat and thin as a napkin but which elongate to over 12 feet long are the best friend of the publican. Their low cost and insignificant storage requirements mean that they can be bought in bulk and bedeck the entire ceiling of the pub, leaving no-one in any doubt what time of year it is. Whether you choose a five foot Wilko special or whether the brewery sends a ten foot tall ready decorated behemoth, a tree stands proudly by the fruit machine and the bar staff have a sweep of how many baubles will be nicked on Mad Friday. No element of the pub is untouched by the Christmas season – there are santa hats on the pumps, tinsel around the dart board, and the ever present mascot in the form of a lion/bear/bull/lamb/queen is sporting a festive hat. A fibre optic reindeer bobs his head to peck at the carpet where the hat stand usually goes, and in the corner Father Christmas himself twists from side to side while his little motor buzzes away in your ear.
The Customers Colour Co-ordinate
When you a see a pub in a Christmas film, the extras playing ‘drunks’ are all wearing a set palette of festive black, red, green, and gold, so as not to distract you from the stars. They are background decoration, meant to blend in, and they end up looking like the beautiful wallpaper of the pub. Gone are the football shirts, the gangs of lads in button down Ben Shermans and ‘smart’ jeans, and those who’ve just come in from work with a high vis jacket hanging off their bar stool. Everyone is in knitwear. Some are in their best clothes, their ‘Christmas’ clothes. They’re going on elsewhere and so arrive with perfect hair and sparkly dresses which lead to old wags commenting “Ey up, she’s got legs!” Some have Christmas jumpers and tshirts that they’ve been ‘forced’ to wear, or ironically sported Santa hats bought in bulk for a get together. The pub looks like it’s had a wardrobe supervisor come in and dress people. “Get rid of that Old Guys Rule tshirt Lee, just for the next week or so let’s get you in M&S”.
It’s About Giving
There’s a box on the bar covered in wrapping paper with a gap that’s too large to be a letterbox. The hole, the barmaid says, is large so people can reach in and take out the Christmas cards, shuffle them to see if there’s one addressed to them, and put them back. They can deposit their own in and see them collected without having to personally wait for the recipient to arrive. Alan seems a bit sheepish sitting on his own with a giftbag sporting a happy reindeer. “Secret Santa” he deadpans while he waits for the rest of the quiz team to show up. “Here y’are love, stick that in the tip jar” says Alf as he hands over a shiny new fiver. That will be his one tip of the year and he basks in the gratitude as it’s placed into the glass on the back bar, the only note in a pile of pound coins. There are Christmas cards pinned up behind the bar too; ‘from Jim’, ‘LOVE FROM KEITH AND MARGE’, ‘To all at the Stag, best wishes Jean (Cartwright) and family’.
Open All Hours
A sign goes up, “Open 12-3pm Christmas Day”, and though no-one comments, some customers breathe a sigh of relief that the day won’t stretch out before them empty as they sit alone at home. “Open 12-12 Christmas Eve” and Tracey might have to nip out to the big Home Bargains for half an hour if she’s forgotten something so can Ste nip behind the bar and help Kath out? Only if it gets busy, it might not. “Open 12-2am New Year’s Eve” and people start to make plans. “Shall we just come in here? Save going into town won’t it? Are you doing any food Carol? We could bring some bits in couldn’t we? I can’t be arsed going proper out, can you? We’ll just come in here then shall we? There’s not tickets or anything is there Carol? Names down? Alright, put us four down and I’ll ask our Eileen, she might come up if she’s not going the cricket club”.