Dear Santa: a word about your performance
I think I've been good this year, or at least I've tried very hard to be good. Or at least I haven't been actively bad, not even when that naughty reader told me to shut up and see a psychiatrist. Nope. I've remained decent. So I'm sorry to complain, but it's the second consecutive Christmas my wish list went overlooked. OK, not all of it. But the bit that mattered most.
I know you get a lot of mail, so below is an excerpt from my last letter to help jog your memory:
Santa, here's what I want for Christmas:
1. A pair of really good headphones. I need them to cancel nasty chatter online and invitations to networking events. My selective hearing isn't up to scratch.
2. Something I can put inside my schnauzers to stop them barking at other dogs.
3. Socks that maintain a basic level of sex appeal.
4. Lots of Prosecco. I'll need it by 11am on Christmas morning, latest.
5. To go home.
That's all. If you can't manage the rest, the last one will do.
I am writing this from Shanghai (China). For the record, "home" – as it has been for 36 years – is Manchester (England). You see my point.
I know you're busy tending to the endless wants of children, but I think the whole Christmas project needs seriously rethinking. For the fortunate majority, being a kid is fun without the festivities. Whereas being a grown-up is rarely fun at all. Except when we're drunk (hence item four on my list). It's adults who suffer. We're the ones cooking and cleaning, working and worrying. And nothing about parenthood looks easy. So if you do exist, you ought to consider your audience and cater to an older demographic. Because it's not kids keeping you in business, it's us. Besides, if you don't care what we want for Christmas, why bother asking?
Admittedly, I have more stuff than I know what to do with. There's little I need save a better sense of direction, which is tricky to find and harder to wrap. But this year, there was something. And I hoped you'd go the extra mile to put something meaningful under a grown-ups tree. Wishful thinking.
Santa, I need to go home.
Not forever, god no! Just for a bit. I need to fall asleep on my mom, knowing everything's OK because she's there. I need to watch my dad take more time making cheese on toast than Michelangelo took painting the Sistine Chapel. I need to laugh with my auntie and dance with my best mate. I need to go home. I need to go home. I need to go home.
I'd hate to be mistaken for a brat. As Shanghai's columnist, I'm writing to you with our international community in mind. It's been three years since Shane and I were in England, and so much has happened since then. There's been anniversaries and birthdays, career changes and job losses. But we've had it relatively easy during COVID-19. Not everyone can say that. Natalie couldn't attend her brother's wedding, while Dean and Sarah missed having family at theirs. Abbey's son has never met his maternal grandparents, and Neil is yet to hold his newborn daughter. Jen didn't get to say goodbye to her father before he died. As for Mark, he's seriously homesick. I know what they needed for Christmas. The same thing they asked for – and didn't get – last year. Some people have flown home, but it isn't possible for everyone. There are huge costs, lengthy quarantines, and work responsibilities to consider. Like I said, being an adult is tough.
I don't envy your position. I accept pulling off the world's greatest trick is a big ask, let alone during a pandemic. But if we can't do more for each other at Christmas, when can we? There's talk of travel restrictions lifting early next year. Though the virus – along with masks, social distancing and vaccines – will be part of our lives for some time yet. So deal with it. Because while pyjamas are great gifts and you can never have enough shower gel, we mustn't go another year without the things – and people – we really need.
I do hope you have a nice Christmas. But if you fail to show up in 2022, I'm not sure I can believe in you anymore. Until then, if you want any shot at redemption, DON'T forget the Prosecco.
Yours faithfully (for now),