Look At It This Way - December 5, 2014

Elvis Presley
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“And there came a spaceman and he said, lo, Elvis has left the Inn – and the star is now hovering above the X Factor studio where Three White Toothed Men and Two Wise Women hold vigil.”

By far one of the silliest stories I read this week concerned the near-demise of the traditional school nativity.

I take such stories with a hefty pinch of frankincense because so much is laid at the door of political correctness or the elf and safety lobby or UKIP trying to catch us all napping.

But this was down to an online survey by parenting website Netmums. A particularly irritating pop up advert for Strepsils on one tabloid website – rivalled only by those “what do you think of our website?” surveys which appear three seconds in - tested my patience (click, off, click, off, click, off, CLICK OFF!) until I finally managed to determine 2,000 parents had been quizzed.’

Journalists like terms such as quizzed. You don’t get questioned, you get quizzed. Your specialist subject is Nativity Anno Domini … is it zero or one?

And your next question is: if Herod wanted all potential candidates for Messiah killed off at two years old and under, why do some historians say he died in 4 BC? Wouldn’t it be AD? Or am I suffering attention deficit?

The nativity is confusing enough without ‘contemporary’ versions featuring spacemen, fairies, Frankenstein, aliens, Elvis, Frozen’s Elsa singing “Let it go” (for pity’s I wish they would), snowmen singing “Let it snow” and even a retelling of the story modelled on The Apprentice.

Now there’s a first…Sir Alan, I invested the gold, flogged the myrrh and frankincense down at the Inn, got some insider tips on fracking from the Wise Men, did a deal with one of the shepherds (the one washing his socks because they stank so much) over a pint and sank the prophets, sorry profits, into a nice new sheepskin coat for you. Am I hired?

Other mums in the survey tell of kids turning up for the nativity dressed as sprouts – or pumpkins.

I get a bit sick of sweeping generalisations when it comes to surveys. You know the kind of thing – 50 per cent of women (based on a sample group of 12) say they would rather date a shepherd with stinky socks than discuss cosmology with a Wise Man called Hawking.

But 2,000 is a fair enough figure on which to base such assertions as “only a third of schools stage a full nativity” and “one in eight schools drop the religious references”.

Nativity, for the record, doesn’t have to refer to the birth of Jesus Christ. It quite simply means the occasion, or circumstances of birth, any birth.

Indeed, I could talk of my nativity, having been born at midnight so no one knew whether I was full of woe or had too far to go. I’d argue both apply. Auntie Gladys turned up and declared I was a “plain child.” You were no oil painting yourself, auntie. And the Three Wise Grans (one of them a wannabe) dutifully turned up bearing gifts of second-‘hand’ terry nappies, teething gel and Farley’s Rusks, to which I developed a lifelong addiction.

Unsurprisingly, a cursory glance at the coverage reveals that 99 per cent of headline writers (based on perilously few because they are more endangered than nativities) went for the same heading: “No room at inn for baby Jesus.”

My god, it’s taken them more than two millennia to catch up with that story…

So days after learning Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (from Life of Brian) has toppled Sinatra’s My Way as top funereal song choice, we learn the Messiah, in school nativity terms, really may be a very naughty boy … dressed up as Olaf, the snowman from Frozen.

Or Elvis. It really is time to leave the building. The cold never bothered me anyway.

Play your cards right to help local charity

This is an unashamed plug for a worthy cause…

The only financial association I have with Cards for Good Causes is the £9 I spent on two packs of cards there last weekend.

The only local charity involved appears to be Trinity, as ever. There are local branches of many of the other 34 charities featured. Each charity gets about 70p of every £1 after production and distribution costs are paid.

It is the ultimate pop-up shop and has been long before we called them such. Few pop up shops sell anything of real substance but Kathleen Smith’s pop-up shop sells Christmas cards.

The profits go directly to charities supported by the Cards for Good 
Causes organisation.

She’d probably like me to list the charity number but I’m not risking another “what do you think of our website” pop up advert to check it out.

I would, however, love you to check it out because it’s at new premises, alongside the entrance to Olympia at the Winter Gardens, opposite Victoria Street.

It’s open from about 10am to 3.30pm Monday to Saturday until December 17. And it’s manned entirely by volunteers such as Kath – who’s a bit of a card herself.