Advent Song for December 20: Stay Another Day

YES I KNOW IT’S A SAD SONG but it makes me happy, because it was Christmas number one in 1994, the year I went away to university, and it reminds me of sitting in my student halls kitchen at Essex watching it on a teeny TV which you had to change channels on by turning a dial and waiting for the snow to mostly disappear (this is how the radio in my bedroom still works). The first year of university, if you are lucky enough to go, is a magical time: you are living independently but with a massive professional support network hidden just out of sight; in my day you had – unthinkably – a student grant (just); you’re only expected to attend about nine hours of lectures and seminars each week (is this still true? I have no idea) and the rest of the time is yours, to stretch your wings, join political societies, drink £1.20 pints of Foster’s at 4pm and fall in and out of love at least half a dozen times.

I address you from my sofa, where I am waiting for a man to finish fixing the dishwasher so that I can open the windows and waft away the strong smell of drains that he has created (via the dishwasher’s workings; not personally) and in some ways my life is more prosaic now than it was then, but it’s also a lot more satisfying and less turbulent, and there are children and dogs involved (not mine, but nearby, which means all the fun and none of the responsibility) and all the people who were important then are still important now, plus there are some really awesome new ones, so really 2019 is better than 1994 I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO and one excellent illustration of that fact is that for the first time this year renewable energy sources have overtaken gas as the UK’s largest power supplier, as the proportion of our energy generated by fossil fuels fell to an all-time low. Good.

Advent songs for December 9 and 10: Santa Can’t Stay Another Day

Honestly, you can’t get the staff. All I needed was one of you to remind me, amid the bustle of a busy December Tuesday, that you were owed a song. However, today you get two, so it all works out in the end, though you may not agree by the time you’ve listened to them both.

Up first, my favourite Christmas number one of all, not counting Always On My Mind which I’m not because it’s not Christmassy, even though it did feature on 2010’s glad all over advent calendar. This also isn’t Christmassy until the bells right at the end, which they admitted later to having added in a bid to nab the number one spot. Canny boys, those East Seventeens. However, the video is the Christmassiest thing since Boney M in furs.

And in case that’s left you feeling unnecessarily cheery, here’s another MASSIVE DOWNER that’s more in keeping with this year’s theme of separation, family breakdown and drunken violence. You’re welcome!

Advent song for December 4: Happy Christmas, David!

You know when you are small and you accept your family for exactly what they are, it never occuring to you that anything could be different? And then one day you realise that they are real people and you are free to like and dislike them? And the joy of discovering that the relations you adore because you grew up with them are actually also really super people? Well, that. This song was picked by my cousin David, who as well as being a blood relation and therefore naturally superior is, as it turns out, one of the nicest, cleverest, funniest people the world has ever made. So that’s good. He is also married to one of the sweetest and most charming people I have ever met (the list comprises her, my dad and my brother-in-law).

Yay David! Happy Christmas to you and Susie. Here is your song which, as it happens, is also in my top five:

Advent song for December 19

The early 1990s were a bit of a wasteland for me as far as the charts were concerned. I can distinctly remember thinking, aged fourteen, none of these songs has a proper tune any more! And then I stopped listening to chart music anyway, and started listening to the bands that played at Reading and Glastonbury, which at that time were acts who barely bothered the charts at all.

And then in October 1994 I went away to university, and in my excitement and anxiety at being away from home for the first time I started listening to the local radio station, because it reminded me of Capital, which reminded me of home. So I started to listen to chart music again, and for the first time in several years I went out and bought a single, and this was it. I can’t tell you what I like about it musically, although it must have appealed at the time, but whenever I listen to it I can still conjure up that feeling of terrifying freedom that accompanied me through my early weeks at university. Also, I like the fluffy hoods and the Christmas bells that kick in at 3:15.

Advent song for December 10

This song came out in my first term at university in 1994, so it holds fond memories for me of my first year living away from home. I heard the single on the radio and immediately went out and bought it (I’d like to say on 7″, but although it would still have been possible to buy the vinyl version, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a record player by then) and played it to death that Christmas.

I remember reading an interview with Tony Mortimer shortly afterwards in which he admitted that the bells at the end were added in a cynical – and successful – attempt to make the record Christmas number one.   I love that they backed that up with a special Christmas version of the video, and don’t they look darling in their fluffy hoods?