“I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
So wrote Charles Dickens, the man responsible for A Christmas Carol, which celebrates its 175th birthday this year
Now, some of Mr D’s writing can be a bit hard to understand – he never used one word when 50 would do – but that quote is as clear as a bell.
And all these decades later it still resonates.
I was thinking about Dickens and his old miser Scrooge this week as I battled crowds, rain and queues in pursuit of my last bit of seasonal shopping.
On the face of it there was a singular lack of kindness or charity or forgiveness to be found in the city centre five days before Christmas.
Fellow shoppers barged past. Over-excited kids screamed blue murder while tired mums juggled rolls of wrap with bags and pushchairs.
Rough sleepers endured the wet to sit on bits of cardboard and watch as the rest of the busy world scurried by.
Meanwhile, the news agenda was dreadful, dominated by squabbling politicians and grounded planes.
But then came a series of minor Christmas miracles.
I met a shop assistant who went so far out of her way to help I could have kissed her. Then came the woman behind me in the queue in Marksies who made me laugh so hard I lost my place in the line and didn’t mind.
Carollers were collecting loose change by the fistful and a group of the kids forgot it was cold and wet and they were bored as they gathered around the Nativity scene in Church Street, faces alight with wonder at a collection of plastic figures.
It was Christmas and the spirit of the season was abroad after all.
It took a bit of finding but Mr Dickens would have been proud.
I touched a nerve this week when I mentioned on Twitter that I couldn’t open my wardrobe for fear of a precariously balanced stash of gifts tumbling out.
Lots of readers got in touch to sympathise, many saying what a nightmare it was to keep prying little eyes at bay at this time of year.
I couldn’t agree more.
Except my kids are 21 and 18.
First published in Liverpool Echo, 22 December 2018.