Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Spent Christmas Day slumped on the sofa over at Shane’s. Neither one of us had any family nearby to retreat to, but we did invite over one common relative – Mad Uncle Christmas TV.

You remember Mad Uncle Christmas TV. He was that enthusiastic, slightly boring at times, confused old man who would come over each December 25th, and spend the season spewing several wildly inconsistent and contradictory Christmas stories with his own uniquely skewiff view of the real world. The best thing about Mad Uncle Christmas TV though, was how he would repeatedly forget the story that he’d been telling for the past half hour or so, and start all over again with a completely new set of characters. Sometimes the old fool would even flip back and forth between two completely different tales for a while, or repeat one that you remembered from last year. Really - he'd act them all out and everything.

Anyway, Mad Uncle Christmas TV came over, and spent the day regaling us with a brobingdinagian salmagundi of stories for Festivus.

His first tale was clearly ripped-off from Gulliver’s Travels, and featured Ted Danson. Granted, Mad Uncle Christmas TV started this one half way through, but perhaps he was just trying to be arty. Promisingly, this adventure turned out to be so inspired and full of imagination, that I felt as though I was watching something by Douglas Adams. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Next up, Uncle went outside for a smoke while the Queen barged in and told us exactly what she thought of the year gone by. She didn’t stay long though, as she had to race back to the UK to express exactly the same views to everyone back in Britain 13 hours later. Really, I don’t know why she doesn’t just film her opinions once and then broadcast them on the telly. Sadly, she didn’t tell us the day’s lottery numbers.

Somewhere along the line I wound up telling Shane that back in England, Mad Uncle Christmas TV’s favourite festive story has always been The Wizard Of Oz, however Shane then floored me with his demand for an explanation as to why. Erm… because it’s a Christmas story, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Yes, it... oh…

Returning inside from the sunny back garden, Mad Uncle Christmas TV began the story of The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas. There was nothing unexpected here, except the encouraging presence of dinosaurs and hominids together.

Then, jumping significantly forward in the narrative, we got a modern retelling of Little House On The Prairie.

Ahhhhhh… my overiding childhood memory of this series of stories is of sitting down in a French lesson to watch a video of some jingly little frog language programme, only for the teacher to instead get interested in Little House, and that was that for the whole of the lesson. It had been the Christmas episode then too, and I remember being impressed that a kids’ show was treating its audience like adults. While the kids in the series all slept on Christmas night, their parents were all sitting around discussing ways in which they had kept the legend of Santa alive. Compared to what other shows were doing, this was believability that I respected.

Today, I was pleased to see that this new series of Little House stories was aiming for the same level.

Perhaps he’d drunk too much sherry, but Uncle’s next shaggy dog performance was entitled Jurassic Park. I first saw this movie in March 2004 on one of my many flights home to the UK, when I’d had significant problems with the premise. My main problem was the notion that this guy’s island of dinosaurs had remained a secret, despite its dependence upon the outside world. For example, in one scene, the guy shows a fully storyboarded, animated, edited and developed movie of what he’s been up to in hiding all these years, which had surely been animated, edited and developed off-shore. Today however Shane kept interrupting Uncle with his own ‘director’s commentary’ of its scientific madness. Once more however Spielberg proved his fine powers of direction – injecting enthrallingly believable characters into fairly plastic events.

I never heard the end of Uncle’s final story this year. It was definitely a good one, but halfway through his entrancing tale of hardship in prison (which he called The Shawshank Redemption) he fell suddenly asleep, no doubt overcome by the day’s mince pies, and Shane’s hearty cooking. Good job too – it was time for me to head home.

Home – which for the second year running was as far away from it as possible.

This was also the second year running that I had intended to help out with Auckland City Mission’s free meal for the homeless, but failed.

And also the second year running that I hadn’t made it to a church service.

Somehow, this just hadn’t been what Christmas means to me.

But then, if it’s not about your friends, what is it for?

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