WRITING UPDATE: I actually forgot my write-every-day pledge yesterday. And I do mean 'forgot'. I was meeting a friend and totally forgot that I'd have to write before I left because I'd be home late. I may get my pledge tattooed on myself somewhere. Inside my eyelids, perhaps.
Okay, you thought I was sappy yesterday? Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy post.
The other thing that my family do at Christmas is visit our extended family. This follows a familiar pattern - show up. Talk. Eat food. Talk more. Drink tea. Talk more. Leave.
A fairly standard extended-family Christmas experience, then.
Most of the talking involves telling stories. Like most families, these vary little from year to year. We all know the fake Rolex story, and the coal man story, and the rolled-up chewing-gun wrapper story, and the Kimberly biscuits story. They're all good, but we've heard them all before.
Somehow, though, it doesn't matter. There is something different about listening to them at Christmas. The twinkly lights, the fire, the piles of wrapping paper in the corner. The room grows oppressively warm as the day wears on and Some Like It Hot plays in the background with the sound low, and everyone pauses for the good lines and trots out conflicting points of view regarding what Tony Curtis did or didn't think about Marilyn Monroe. And they tell stories.
And every year in the car on the way home, I look out the window and think 'This is going to be the year. When I get home, I'll dig out a notebook and I'll write all these stories down, before they're lost.'
I never do, of course.
And this probably won't be the year, as quite a few of the family are away at Christmas and I may not see them all. But there's always next year. And there's the fact that between us, my mother and I probably know the stories by heart so if our DVD player breaks on Christmas Day, we can always amuse ourselves by transcribing them all.
That's the other reason I find Christmas inspiring. I get to spend part of it with people who revere stories. Yes, we revere them to a fault sometimes. Yes, otherwise fit, healthy, sober people have dozed off during them. Yes, if some Martians landed they would wonder why the hell we spend time doing this voluntarily. But the strange alchemy of Christmas family yarns has always done something to my imagination that I can't explain, and that annual car journey home is probably the most creative period of my entire year.