Unsafe Space

Merry Xmas (term is over)

All I want for Christmas is central heating, a meal that doesn’t involve toast and a house that doesn’t rain inside.

You may remember a few weeks ago, I focused my column on the excitement of Christmas and what a delightful time of year it is and other naïve, but admirably optimistic thoughts. I dismissed any disagreement as Scrooge-like and warbled that nothing could possibly dampen my Christmas spirit. My spirit has since been crushed. Crushed into tiny, minuscule particles of misery and despair.

Alas, I had never experienced the run up to Christmas living in Cathays. Aside from the evaporation of daylight, the sky being describable as nothing else but fifty shades of grey and the weather reminiscent of a scene from Noah’s Ark, there is a sense of misery that lingers the streets that I have seldom felt. The litter of bin bags strewn across the pavements and unrelenting aroma of weed and rotting food bins leaves a lot to be desired.

I wish, for the people who reside in Cathays permanently, as much as for the students who are not able to go home for Christmas, that the local council would try harder to initiate some Christmas spirit (I am in the process of writing them a letter). A sprinkle of fairy lights and a dusting of Christmas bunting would do an abundance of wonders.

Christmas as a student this year has been a little sad, and everybody I communicate with seems as dejected as myself. November assignment deadlines mean Christmas cheer has been put behind Stalin’s Russia, celebrity politics, Beyoncé and feminism in my subconscious mind. I have neither the finances nor energy to do any Christmas shopping and am slipping further and further into hibernation every day.

I mean, at least last year I tried. My flatmates and I spent a good few hours hanging 79p murky red and green baubles on a miserable-looking, foldable Christmas tree that we bought from Tesco, and cut out pitiful snowflakes onto printer paper and stuck them onto the Taly windows with blue tack.

We also attempted to do a Christmas dinner for less than a fiver each. Although financially feasible, the dehydrated chicken (nobody was willing to stretch their budget for a Turkey), the insipid boiled potatoes, and the reheated frozen vegetables just didn’t quite hit the spot. We followed this with a few drinks and attempted some games, which came to an abrupt and awkward end when someone was accused of being a pathological liar when playing ‘never have I ever’ and I went to bed appreciating how well my mother can cook and how glad I am that ‘never have I ever’ is not, and never will be, an appropriate family Christmas game.

As I write this and stare at the bleak scenes from the Bute library window, it occurs to me that despite living in a house that threatens to collapse every time it rains, and despite having about £1.50 to do the entirety of my Christmas shopping, I am incredibly, incredibly fortunate. I consider the grumbles and whinges from myself and my friends in recent weeks, and subsequently realise how ridiculous we are.

When it’s so dark and grey and miserable outside, and deadlines cloud the already-gloomy skies, and your whole house is arguing about the cost of heating, it’s so easy to forget how blessed we all are.

I have a warm, cosy, food-filled home to return to, full of people who love me and who are excited to see me. I have family and friends that don’t mind receiving drawings and pasta-bracelets as gifts and a job that is flexible enough to let me come and go as I need. The Arctic conditions in my uni house remind me how warm my family home is, and it’s important to remind myself that £1.50 for unnecessary gifts, is a lot more than £1.50 to eat, drink and survive, as is the case for so many in Cardiff. I guess exam worries should serve to do nothing more than remind me I have a university education to be thankful for and a luxury that so many are not fortunate enough to have.

So when you’re sat at the Christmas dinner table rolling your eyes at your dad’s shit jokes, or arguing with your brother about how drunk it is appropriate to let Nan get on the sherry, or mentally cursing during a conversation with your Great Aunt about why you’re still single, don’t forget how privileged you are. Not everybody can go home to their family for Christmas, and some people don’t even have a home for the Christmas season.

Appreciate those leftover sandwiches, and your pets wearing Santa hats, and new fluffy socks and Christmas specials on TV, and steaming mulled wine and that wet stuff that everybody always thinks is snow but never actually sticks on the ground, and that feeling you get when ‘Fairytale Of New York’ kicks in and you’re trying to remember the insults in the right order.

Eat as much as you can, embrace the central heating, have a million baths and hang out with your friends and family as much as they can possibly bear. But don’t forget to be gratified, be humble, be eternally grateful for what you’ve got and have yourself a very, merry Christmas.

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