I am writing this before Liverpool play Manchester United this afternoon. This is deliberate on my part. I cannot bear to be ‘public’ if Liverpool loses its fifth game in succession – especially if it involves the long-lamented Michael Owen playing any part in a United win. Call me feeble if you wish, but when it comes to anything bad happening to Liverpool and anything good happening to Manchester United (Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, etc.) I am actually pretty … er … feeble.
When I was asked last week about Liverpool’s loss at home to Lyon in the Champions League, I boldly argued that this was simply yet another example of Scouse generosity – giving space for the little clubs to have their moments of glory after Liverpool had dominated European football for three decades. Of course, this would have to end before too long because generosity has its limits; but Liverpool’s critics should change the way they think about the current run of form and recognise instead the glorious generosity of a morally superior club … and be grateful.
I didn’t even convince myself. And now I’m worried about this afternoon’s game and the future of Rafa Benitez as Liverpool’s manager. When the club’s owners articulate publicly their support for the manager’s position, you can’t help feeling the severance package is already being worked out behind closed doors.
So, let me make a leap from one challenge to perceptions (of Liverpool’s ‘failure’ or ‘generosity’) to another.
Some time ago I was asked to write a book about Christmas – re-telling the story and reclaiming it for what it should be. Well, the result has now been published and has the following to commend it:
- It is short: only 75 pages.
- It is written in accessible language and should be easy to read and follow.
- It is written for people who might not be part of any church and, therefore, is written in language that isn’t ‘churchy’.
- It is a celebration of Christmas – even the dodgy accretions of a consumerist culture – that re-tells the story in different ways and tries to place it in the real lives we live in Britain during a financial recession.
- It has a nice cover.
People’s perceptions of Christmas can be weird – hence the bizarre staging of school nativity plays that include all sorts of characters who do not appear in the original story: lobsters, kangaroos, etc. God gets confused with Santa Claus, the ‘stable’ with Santa’s grotto, the shepherds and wise men with Santa’s elves… and so on. I was once told that the main character in the Christmas story was Cinderella.
So, we need to offer people a different ‘take’ on the over-familiar story that people think they know, but have forgotten. And the story needs to be told in a way that ordinary people can grasp – or be grasped by. And if churchy Christians hate the way I have written it (as some did my last book – which was also not written for them), then I have probably succeeded.
After all, we need to recognise that angels are not fairies, Santa is not Jesus, shepherds were dodgy, Magi were not kosher, Jesus grew up (and probably did cry) and carols sometimes give the wrong impression.