I’ve had one, perfect, Christmassy moment since the beginning of December: walking down a frosty Broad Street to start my present shopping, and hearing the Salvation Army playing their brass-band version of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’. I’ve no idea why the Salvation Army only employ brass players, nor what they do for the rest of the year, but hearing them in the distance makes all my Christmases past come crashing in my head at once.
Apart from that, I’ve been struggling to remember we’re close to Christmas at all. I have the misfortune of working in an industry that crams all its important deadlines into the last month of the year, and so a week after the end of November I realise how much work I need to fit into a dwindling number of days. After that comes the panic, and the weeping, and soon after, the benumbed despair.
I’m exaggerating, but as my pile of proofreading increases even as the space to do it in disappears, I do feel very like one of those Indiana Jones-style heroes trapped in a corridor with the ceiling slowly descending to the floor and no way out. Like at the end of The Mummy, remember? I even have my own version of those little stinging scarab beetles: in the midst of my travail, an email so ridiculous that the only proper response is outraged diatribe pops into my inbox. Today, for example, I’m desperately checking that the 100+ author names on a journal’s back cover appear correctly, when I get an email from our HR department. Apparently my 2010 performance review is due soon, and I haven’t filled in my performance objectives for 2009 yet. You may think it would occur to Mr Jones that three days before the final print deadlines of the year might not be an especially choice moment to email people about their performance objectives, but then you obviously don’t understand the supreme importance of performance objectives. Please go into the corner and feel ashamed of yourself. That’s better.
Here’s my performance objective, Mr Jones: I aim to keep my hours of unpaid overtime this week under six. No: nine. Let’s not be too ambitious. Now go away.
When I reach this level of crabbiness (Level Shylock) I know I need a holiday. Luckily, I’m about to have one: two weeks in the US being looked after by my lovely mother. If I can get things together enough to turn up at the airport at the correct time and board the plane, I’ll come back a new woman. Or at least dial down the misanthropy to a more acceptable Level Batman.