Regardless of our straitened circumstances, fun must be had. Chris Addison explains how, with a bit of ingenuity and a set of crayons, we can make the most of what we have
As we trudge towards the last Christmas before the reintroduction of rationing things are looking tight. In the interest of household economy we must score a biro line through some of the entries on our traditional Yuletide budget and make do.
Those intending to hang stockings at the fireplace may have to use pop socks; Christmas morning champagne ought to make way for the water from the carrots, given a couple of squirts in the Soda Stream. Indeed, this very publication has had to forgo sending out its traditional advent calendar. However, we have decided that the teeth of adversity into which we all stare must be brushed and that we will therefore publish instructions on how you might make your own advent calender. You are, as ever, welcome.
First, find a piece of scrap paper for which you have no future use. Anything containing economic promises by the government from before September ought to suffice. On the reverse draw a Christmas scene. It is important that this should feel in some way traditional and timeless, yet ought to speak down the ages to us. In the office we’ve done some ragged bankers in filthy spats fighting over a bottle of Advocaat in a Chicago soup kitchen in December 1929.
Next, score out and number 24 little doors. Behind these stick another sheet of worthless paper (we’ve used the government’s economic promises since September). All that is needed now is a little picture to go behind each of the doors. Here’s what we’ve done:
1 A pile of breezeblocks sitting under a tarpaulin, weighed down with filthy puddles and the wet leaves that have accreted since the project the blocks were intended for ground to a halt. With a robin on the top.
2 Jesus’ stable with a sign on the outside saying “Site acquired by Tesco”.
3 The boss of a well-known volume builder scrutinising a map of Milton Keynes to see where he can squeeze in an estate’s worth of blood-red, faux-Georgian nightmares with beige carpets and more downlighters than you can shake a mid-nineties copy of Elle Deco at. In a Santa hat.
4 A quantity surveyor surveying a quantity. In a Santa hat.
5 Brad Pitt looking quizzically at a slide rule. In a rakishly worn Santa hat.
6 The Magi following an arc light, squinting.
7 A woman throwing up her hands in delight on Christmas morning, having unwrapped her husband’s gift to her of a brick, the single most expensive thing it is currently possible to buy.
8 A BREEAM inspector standing by a building, tutting at a window.
9 A BREEAM inspector writing down that he tutted at a window.
10 A BREEAM inspector waiting about four-and-a-half years.
11 A BREEAM inspector posting the report saying he tutted at a window.
12 A Christmas tree being felled for use in a sustainable building project.
13 A couple of first-time buyers wearing expressions of tremendous relief. Sharing a Santa hat.
14 An inexplicable advert with something to do with roofing, but which quite conceivably is a series of keywords intended to awaken long-dormant Russian sleeper spies. Not very Christmassy, admittedly, but this advent calendar is under the Building imprimatur and we have certain habits to keep up.
15 Shepherds and their flocks being served with compulsory purchase orders.
16 Rudolf hiring a sleigh from Hewden.
17 Some cladding. In a Santa hat.
18 A three-quarter profile of Margaret Beckett, a woman who bears an extraordinary resemblance to the Mad Hatter – a character famous for running around and not getting a lot done, which seems oddly appropriate for a housing minister.
19 A man from the Health and Safety Executive arresting a child using tiptoes and a chair to put a star on top of a tree.
20 Some carol singers with lanterns singing a damning report from the OFT to the tune of We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
21 A bleak Thames Gateway vista, a single, red bauble half-submerged in its grey mud.
22 Father Christmas unable to leave his house because his way to the front door is blocked by a teetering mountain of reports by structural engineers on the chimneys he is proposing to go down.
23 That picture of Birmingham Bull Ring that accompanies any article concerning contemporary architecture.
24 A yule log designed by Zaha and a man trying to work out where to cut it.
Merry Christmas to all of you and, crucially, a happier New Year.
Chris Addison is a writer and comedian