Journalist Rob Crossan discusses the festive dilemma of work versus partner
Words by Rob Crossan
What’s your favourite festive moment? Is it the sybaritic indulgence of a glass of badly mixed Buck’s Fizz, sipped in bed at 8am on Christmas morning?
Perhaps it’s the fabled Boxing Day ‘fridge leftover feast,’ where it’s possible to open the door and pick at things with your fingers at 20 minute intervals from waking to bedtime.
Or maybe it’s just the contentment of sprawling on the sofa with the central heating on full, while watching younger relatives attempt to feign genuine delight at being given clothes instead of money on Christmas morning (hint – if your child shows promise at this fiendishly difficult act then immediately sign them up for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art).
For me, much as all these moments aren’t without value, the thing I really like doesn’t come in wrapping paper, isn’t edible and rarely goes well with gin. It’s work. I love it, even on Christmas day – despite the calamitous impact this has had on my relationships.
A few years ago I was contracted by BBC London to get up at 5am on both Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, to do newspaper reviews on their breakfast radio show.
The toll this commitment took on the relationship with my then partner was, somewhat predictably, fatal. My thirst for some inconveniently timed freelance radio posturing meant I couldn’t engage in the boozy parties which she, quite reasonably, wanted us to attend together as a couple.
I had a festive dilemma of work versus partner – and I chose work. It broke the entire partnership and I was dumped as a consequence before it was time to take the decorations down.
‘It’s like you feel the world is going to stop spinning on its axis if you stop working’, I remember Sam shouting at me. And genuinely, I really could understand why she was so upset.
I really do believe that I’m not a workaholic.
Put it down to some kind of subconscious Protestant work ethic – though I’m not remotely religious – if you wish.Or perhaps it’s a more Catholic-type guilt complex of simply feeling uncomfortable with the diabetes inducing immoderation of the modern day British festive diet.
Either way, I’ve known since the age of 16 that spending an entire day, even Christmas Day, without doing at least an hour or so of work is absolutely beyond me.
I do have a solitary ally when it comes to this stance of enjoying some Yuletide toil. My mate Sophie is a nurse who absolutely always makes sure she gets the December 25th day shift. Firstly because she claims it’s always surprisingly quiet on the day in question – apart from the odd infant inpatient who has managed to swallow a vital element of one of their xmas presents. But also because, just like me, she simply doesn’t enjoy the prospect of 18 continuous hours of competitive chocolate consumption to a Wham! Soundtrack.
As the breadwinner in her marriage, it’s long been a bone of contention for her husband who ends up, most years, taking himself off to the pub for a solitary turkey dinner. I feel a little bad for him (as I would for anyone who puts themselves through the torture of eating turkey meat that’s been drying out under a heat lamp for four hours), though I always take Sophie’s side. Not just because she’s spending the Big Day helping others. But because she’s so vocal about Christmas not necessarily having to be a time where we dedicate ourselves to the sofa and the box set for the best part of 72 hours.
So come this Christmas I’ll be spending the day with my current girlfriend (yes, I’m no longer single). Though I’ve already had to issue a gentle advance warning. At some point during the festivities, perhaps while the turkey’s in the oven, 0r maybe half way through Ratatouille, I’ll vanish upstairs for a while, possibly to put in some time on my book, jot down some ideas or maybe write an article like this one.
Because if it’s okay for Santa, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Huw Edwards to put in a shift over Christmas, then I’m not going to feel too guilty for combining gifts, gravy and goose fat potatoes with a little side dish of graft.