I’m never sure how much I like the original of this song. You know when something is bound up with memories, and you’ve no way to tell whether you ever had an objective aesthetic judgement of its merits? So I can’t tell you whether this version is any good, either, but I can tell you that it will make a lot of straight men and gay women (and all variations therein) of my age very happy. YOU’RE WELCOME.
I know you knew that Chris Rea had a Christmas single, but did you know that in fact, he had two? Released almost exactly a year before Driving Home For Christmas, and regarded by ol’ Christmas himself as the superior of the two songs, Joys Of Christmas is very probably the least joyful Christmas song I’ve ever heard, including everything we listened to the year the theme was Sad Christmas.
In the one minute and twenty four seconds of intro before we hear any vocals I wondered whether I’d accidentally pressed the “play a song by Dire Straits” button but no, this is Rearrangements himself sounding just like them, at least until he starts to speak-sing very much in the style that Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson on their much-missed 2 Dope Queens podcast once described as White Nonsense.
This song is weird, but I like it; it’s idiosyncratic and less ‘put bells on and people will buy it’-cynical than most Christmas songs. On the other hand I can absolutely understand why, halfway through it, YouTube suddenly suggests that you listen to Driving Home For Christmas instead.
Coincidentally we are on our way to R’s ancestral home, though we’re on a train and it’s for a birthday, so it’s not an exact match for today’s song. We’re speeding our way through a whirlwind of Caledonia-based family and friends and getting a go at the Christmas markets while we’re at it, and although it’s minus one hundred and twenty degrees outside it’s all very twinkly and lovely. And tonight we’re staying at a hotel on a golf course! Although last night’s hotel gave us free mulled wine and mince pies, so it’ll have to outdo itself in more ways than one to measure up.
This is a ridiculous song but it’s one of my favourites, mainly because I like doing the voice (I’m better at it after a glass of mulled wine).
Today’s good news is a bit unusual because it’s not the kind of thing you get as an “and finally” on the news, but I read it in the small hours of this morning (all these Christmas parties are throwing me off-kilter, sleepwise) courtesy of my friend Jonathan, who shared it on Twitter, and – as I said to him – it’s SUCH an extraordinary relief to find that in the morass of uninformed and bad-faith opinions on the Labour party and antisemitism, there are people who think and feel the same way I do and are able to articulate it (which, despite trying, I haven’t really been). So do me a favour and read this article and don’t let’s speak again until you have. I’ll even let you skip the Chris Rea.
Niamh is my sister-in-law, as of thirty-four days ago. She said:
I love Driving Home for Christmas by Chris Rea. I love to hear it on the days leading up to the main event, when you finish work and all the shopping is done!
For most of us, today is hopefully one of those days. I finish work this afternoon, and I have done all my shopping already, although some of it isn’t coming until tomorrow, EEK.
I expect Niamh finished all her shopping a month ago, because Niamh is incredibly organised, which I think you probably have to be if you’ve got a house and a job and a husband and two teenage sons, who are not only involved in about twenty out-of-school activities each, but are two of the nicest teenage boys you could ever imagine meeting. When I first met them they were 9 and 13 and they were lovely, and now they’re 13 and 17 they are, unbelievably, still lovely, and also very funny and grown-up. I don’t know how she does what she does, but I hope it runs in the family, because if we can one day raise children half as nice as Niamh’s, and if we can do it with as much wit and warmth as she does, we’ll be doing well.
So happy Christmas Niamh, to you and all the family. Christmas has crept up on us a bit this year, but we’ll be back in Dublin soon!