It’s going to be a quiet Christmas as we balance the books financially and play it safe health-wise. Let’s nest at home watching our favourite Christmas movies. Mine are Last Christmas, While You Were Sleeping, Carol and Bridget Jones’s Diary. A sprinkle of romance, a dash of snow, a pinch of pure fantasy.
Except that it almost happened to me last week. I was walking home when I saw a stuck car whose wheels were spinning in the slush. I called: “D’you need a push?”
After an embarrassed pause, a voice answered: “Um – if you don’t mind.” It was then that I saw him. He was my type – a 24-year-old Cantonese good boy who obeyed when I said: “Get in! Go that way! Do it again! Look, if you want me to leave, I’ll leave, but we’re making progress so I think we should carry on.” There was grunting and straining (me), churning and whining (the car) and adorably bashful protestations of “I don’t want to use up your time” (him).
The whole thing lasted 10 minutes – an eternity when you’re using your body to move a vehicle. Luckily, I didn’t slip under the car face-up and get run over as it rolled backwards over me. I managed to push it out of its icy trough and shove it up the hill while the guy thanked me profusely.
It was the ultimate meet-cute: the snowy night, the valiant hero and stranded ingenue. In the movie version, I’d invite him in for a hot chocolate. I thought about it. But in reality, alas, there was no way.
Romance in the air?
In a capital city like London, strangers are everywhere and yet it’s so hard to meet people. A new app attempts to rectify that, but it fills me with concern. Genie Connections is for strangers who “had flirty eye contact” on public transport. If you download it and keep your Bluetooth on, “they’ll stay in your app’s history and you can connect safely now or later”, the ad says. This brings up so many red flags. It feels like another inroad for stalking, harassment, surveillance and other unwanted (and already endemic) behaviours. The idea of strangers meeting on a train and ending up at Happily Ever After instead of Morden is another fantasy – and an app like Genie Connections could potentially enable extremely damaging dynamics, all supposedly in the name of romance.
No fairytale for Harry
If we can’t live out our own true love stories, maybe we should follow other people’s. Harry and Meghan’s six-part documentary has topped Netflix’s most-watched lists. It’s billed as a fairytale in which lovers find each other, get together and stay together despite racist and sexist media treatment, suicidal thoughts, death threats and family strife involving a centuries-old institution of staggering fame, privilege and wealth, with lashings of tragedy, misery and scandal.
The real wound comes from Prince Harry, not Meghan. Meghan is a self-controlled, self-made woman who married in, had a bad experience and removed herself with impressive speed. It’s Harry who continues to suffer and smart, seemingly reliving conflicts and traumas from his past. A heady blend of Freudian case study, Greek drama, Old Testament fable of warring brothers and remote fathers, Dynasty omnibus and kitchen sink (or rather Smeg fridge and Aga hob) melodrama, it’s painful, yet addictive to observe, at once lurid and opaque, over-exposed and intensely secretive.
All I can hope for is a respite from the drama and, for the coming period at least, a bit of comfort and peace.