So, after a couple of recession-dictated stay-at-home summer holidays, we’ve now got a climate-induced staycation Christmas. Good news! Now you can vote with your boots, or bike, avoid airport hell, unreliable trains and jammed motorways, stay local, do something different and make merry.
Being stuck on the West Coast Main Line, somewhere between Carlisle and Penrith, for 10 hours last New Year, condemned to counting the parallel lines of stationary traffic on the M6 as an interesting distraction from the religious fundamentalist in the next seat, persuaded me not to travel anywhere this festive season. Blessed are the smug, you may say, as I raise a glass to the miserable queues at Heathrow and St Pancras with a mixture of sympathy, empathy and conceit, sitting by my warm fireside with the added bonus of a winter wonderland right outside the front door.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, lowland Britain is looking forward to a real white Christmas. Snow might clog up the airports and roads but it doesn’t stop you travelling: by boot, or by bike – if you are on two wheels, take care, get some advice on tyres, riding strategies, equipment from experts on blogs like http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2010/dec/22/snow-cycling-weather-toronto
Why spend on an overseas ski trip later in the season when you can enjoy this unexpected winterscape on your doorstep, and not just in Scotland but throughout Britain? Find your boards and skis, hire some snowshoes – there are even some in vogue entrepreneurs who will rent you a sled – or lace up your walking boots, just get out and enjoy.
Visit your local forest or national park – even the Peak District is relatively quiet on Christmas Day – now transformed into wondrous silvery vistas. Then, when you get home, campaign with http://www.38degrees.org.uk and others, to save these national treasures from privatisation – the Coalition’s latest ideological, immoral idiocy.
If you can’t reach the retail mall, stay local and buy from your neighbourhood traders. You’ll be helping your local community and you might find they offer more than you expected. Anyway, the fewer cars sliding about, the more chance of the delivery vans arriving.
But, if your online orders don’t arrive in time, adapt, use your imagination and skills – cook, sew, paint, make – to create authentic and unique presents that will probably be appreciated more by their recipients. And, if you’re totally useless then utilise the kids – teenagers are universally expert at downloading and other computer-related stuff – into producing favourite playlists and videos for absent grandparents and relatives. Ignore the jibes about fogey music and they’ll usually oblige by showing off their IT skills. When your original presents do arrive, they’ll be an extra post-Christmas surprise.
If nobody can get to you and you can’t reach them, sample a unique Christmas Day on your own. Thinks of the positives: no in-laws, no having to thank people you don’t like for presents you don’t want, no having to watch the Queen’s Speech and you can cheer up by comparing your plight in a comfortable, heated house with those at Terminal 5. If you simply can’t cope with spending Christmas Day at home on your own, then don’t. Find yourself a local old people’s home, an acute children’s ward, or homeless shelter and spend some time with people who deserve some quality time and company. Take some of your food stockpile with you, or invite some lonely old person, or deserving but hard-up family to join you at home, make soup with the leftovers, portion into meals, freeze and you’ll have ready meals for the next few months.
Greater mobility, milder winters, more extended families have all resulted in more of us travelling further afield in mid-winter. It’s impossible to say if this makes 21st century Christmases better than those of yesteryear and, in any case, hypothetical debate is no consolation for those who can’t be where, or with whom, they want to be. But you can make the most of this unique December; leave the car in the garage, save on that overseas trip, feed the birds, get out and enjoy this Alpine winter right on your own doorstep.
Remember, there are times, even at Christmas, when your journey is not really necessary.
Have a great festive period, wherever you are.