Amy tweeted recently:
Salvation Army Brass band. So wonderfully Christmassy. So weird in warm early morning sunshine. Can’t quite process this yet.
— Amy (@Cat_knits) December 2, 2013
and in a wibbly wobbly timey wimey whoosh I was 7 or 8 again, standing in the Town Centre in my home town, playing 3rd Cornet, cringing any time anyone from School walked past. And they did. At least once. Because that’s where everyone did their Christmas shopping, and it’s hard to be inconspicuous when you’re playing Christmas Carols for 4 hours the four Saturdays leading up to Christmas.
So for me too, Christmas sounds like the Salvation Army band.
It sounds like Carols (common and obscure), Collecting tins and catcalls. It sounds like people asking for their favourite Carol to be played. It sounds like the watery bubbling of brass instruments full of spit, needing to be emptied. It sounds like the scraping of chairs and music stands on fake marble floor tiles. It sounds like the hustle and bustle of Christmas Shopping going on all around us. It sounds like Hallelujahs and Angels singing.
It sounds like years of getting the shit kicked out of me at school because I kept standing there, Saturday after Saturday in December, making myself obviously other.
It sounds like the clang of barbed wire gates and stern instructions on what and what not to do as we arrived at a local Prison to bring them the Christmas message.
It sounds like the beep of machines as we toured the local hospital on Christmas morning. Playing Carols and distributing presents to those unfortunate enough to be spending their Christmas there.
It sounds like the distant wail of a relative who just lost a beloved grandparent who let go of their hold on this world after hearing their favourite Carol played one last time.
It sounds like obligations and charity and putting others before yourself and frankly, it’s a bit difficult to go home and get stuck in to Turkey and Trimmings and the Queen and Quality Street when all you can think about is the people whose relative just died, or who are spending the day in hospital, or alone.
Since taking off my bonnet and hanging up my Cornet I’ve spent more Christmases with other families than my own, for various reasons, and so am a bit adrift when it comes to traditions and apathetic when it comes to Christmas at all but also conscious that there’s a tiny human in the picture now and so for the last couple of years I’ve been attempting to get myself past my Christmas aversion, and untangle myself from the web of sonic associations and it started with a Spotify playlist.
So here it is.
Have a listen, add some tracks if the spirit moves you, but most of all, tell me…
What does Christmas sound like to you?