A year ago the panic had set my insides bubbling like cheese under the grill

BEING at home when everyone else you know is in a pre-Christmas panic and lather at work is an odd experience.

Around this time a year ago I had a meltdown moment. It might not have shown but my insides were bubbling away like cheese under the grill.

Deadlines were piling up and acres of newsprint was waiting to be inked in with something or other. Two TV supplements had to be sorted and filled on a still newish editorial system (God, how I hated that system).

Did we have enough features, enough letters – who was in on what day? Would anyone even read all these pages being pasted over with seasonal fluff and guff? And that’s before we’d even started on the New Year pages, with their endless looking back at things people were probably glad to have forgotten.

It was time to go up a gear. So I cycled to work like Lance Armstrong on a druggy day and arrived before 7.30am. Glancing up at the darkened windows, I saw no one else was around yet. I went to open the bike shed only to find that in my haste I’d grabbed the wrong keys.

My keys have a Homer Simpson fob and these didn’t. Without Homer to hand I couldn’t secure my bike or get into the office. So I had to cycle the three miles home again, by this stage like Lance Armstrong when the drugs had worn off a bit.

Meanwhile my wife was phoning to alert me to the idiocy, but I never heard the mobile. She picked up the keys, assuming our paths would cross at some point. I was almost home when we met. Grabbing the right keys, I cycled back to work not at all like Lance Armstrong, just like me on a weary day, persistent but wobbling a little, swearing under my helmet.

By the time I sat at my desk, no longer early and definitely sweaty, I had covered eight or nine miles – most of them unnecessarily.

So, yes, I understand, honestly I do. I even miss the festive anxiety in a sense. Well it was there for years, a familiar December pulse, a necessary impetus. So today almost everyone I know is in that mad dash while I sit at my laptop doing what needs to be done, and a few things that strictly speaking don’t (how many times a day is average for looking at Facebook?)

I didn’t invite myself to my own office party this year. There didn’t seem to be much point. Well, the cat isn’t one for drinking, her food is frankly disgusting and her table manners aren’t up to much either.

The diminishing band of old colleagues did have a meal out. I saw the photographs (Facebook again) and bumped into a friendly face who gave me the gossip. Soon they’ll be able to hold that party in a phone kiosk, if such things are still available.

Years ago when the newspaper was thriving and employed many people, Christmas Eve was a big event – a good day to work, as after a mad few hours everyone headed into the pub next to the office, filling the place out with noise and chat and clinking glasses. Afterwards I would meet my wife and our three, then all still young, and take them to the Christmas Fair in York, then for a rare visit to McDonalds, where I’d sober up with a coffee.

It’s funny the things you end up missing. Who’d have thought I’d feel nostalgic about being in a pre-Christmas office tizzy? Don’t tell my wife, as she is in full-flight panic mode right now.

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