Time to reinvent Christmas

Isn’t it time to reinvent Christmas? Isn’t it time to banish this shallow commercial campaign that takes over our lives for about two months every year? Isn’t it time to replace it with something meaningful and genuinely caring?

Why do we let it happen? Why do we subject ourselves to this pressure, the very opposite of heartfelt generosity?

I’ve never been very good at it, I must confess. I’ve never been good at taking orders to be spontaneous. It just freezes me up and then I go out shopping and this terrible paralysis takes over and all I’m thinking is Jesus, save me! Which, I suppose, is a result for the religious proprietors of Christmas, however fleeting my feelings of fervour might be.

It’s not the present-giving that I detest. Far from it. I love giving presents and I do it all the time, but I do it at random moments of my own choosing throughout the year. What I dislike intensely is having to follow somebody else’s timetable. I do not like being ordered around, which is why I was never a great fit for structured organisations, but I especially dislike being ordered around by the corporate marketeers who have turned Christmas into the annoying spendfest it is today.

Oddly enough, and despite the paranoid bleatings of certain religious types, I have no objection at all to the religious element of the festival. What harm does it do? To each his own, and besides, the season has meaning for pagans and atheists too, so why not celebrate mid-winter together in peace?  Who could object to that?

I’m all in favour of Christmas as long as the Ionanists don’t mind us celebrating Saturnalia too, though naturally we’d draw the line at the sort of depravity Pope Paul II engaged in, forcing Jews to race naked through the streets of Rome.

I don’t like that sort of thing, but I also don’t like the mindless trudging from one shop to the next in search of some material object that the recipient might or might not want. I don’t like the pressure. I don’t like the fact that many poor people simply cannot afford it and end up in debt to money-lenders. I don’t like the fact that childrens’ expectations have been artificially raised by relentless pushing of the Santa Claus trope, resulting in unbearable pressure on parents to match those demands.

When I was growing up, I can’t say we were barefoot and destitute, but we hadn’t been sold the blasphemous concept of Santa Claus an an alternative God who was in many ways more powerful and accessible than the standard deity. After all, even today the fervent believer only hopes his prayers will persuade the all-powerful one to pick him out of the crowd, like a US president pointing at a voter for the cameras. He can’t be certain. Even today, the fervent believer can’t be sure that, when he prays, his god will spare this one and kill that one instead, but his children are certain — quite sure — that their deity, the fat red god of the chimney, can and will deliver every time, no matter what they ask for. And he does it by magic.

These are the expectations we have given our children of Christmas and ironically, their expectations of the big fat red god are far greater than their expectations of the big bearded cloud-living god.

KrampusAll this and  Heaven too.

When we were kids, our hopes were modest enough, but it seems to me that parents now, and especially those of limited means, are making superhuman efforts to ensure that their children aren’t disappointed, but of course, that’s an entire discussion in itself. Should children be given such expectations? Should we place ourselves in thrall to a recently-invented construct like Santa Claus? Perhaps, taking a leaf from the book of our mainland European friends in Bavaria, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, we need something to leaven the expectations of our young ones. They have this character, Krampus, who accompanies Saint Nicholas on his rounds. None of your namby-pamby liberalism there, let me tell you.

I think it’s time we looked at ourselves and brought a bit of Krampus into Christmas.

Nothing like a little sourness to set off the sweet.


Christmas Songs

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
Better not pout,
I’m telling you why:

He’s making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who’s naughty and nice.

He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!

Oh, you better watch out!
You better not cry.
Better not pout,
I’m telling you why


Sounds like an average day in the life of the Dublin Archdiocese.


New Business Idea For Bock

You probably remember all my wonderful money-making ideas over the years.

There was Whack-a-Mary, which is going to be just HUGE this Christmas.  Then there was the New-York-Tourist idea that made me so fabulously wealthy.   And of course, who could forget the Consecrator, on which I built the fortune that allowed me to create a vast undersea cavern with henchmen on golf-karts.

But my latest idea is the biggest winner ever.

I’ve come up with the only business plan anyone ever heard of where you can’t lose your money.

What do you think of that?

No matter how much you screw up, and no matter what maniac you give your money to, it’s a winner every time.   In the entire history of bidness, you have never heard of such a cast-iron plunger, until now!!

What the jumpin’ jiminy, Bock? I hear you saying.  Can it really be true?

Sure can, my boy.  Step right up, and enter Doctor Bock’s Magic Snake-Oil Tent.

And what, you might ask, with good reason, is this astounding discovery?  Should we not all take up this line of work?

Of course we should, neighbour, and I’m going to tell you right now what to become, instead of a hobo on the street panhandling for dimes.  Roll up.  Roll up.

What, Bock?  What can it be?

Don’t you know, small person?  Don’t you know?

Sure don’t, Bock.  Is it a locomotive driver?

Nope.  All you’ll ever become is a tired old man on that footplate.

Well, is it a lawyer, Bock?

Nope.  Not a lawyer.   Even lawyers can lose.

A doctor.  That’s it, Bock, ain’t it?  A surge-eye-on.

Not a sawbones, boy.  They can sue ya.

What then, Bock?  What’s this great line of work that can’t lose a dime?  Tell us, Bock.  Please?

Oh all right then.  Just as soon as I get me a suit with pockets, and shiny braces, I’m off to Frankfurt, Germany, and I’m a-gonna buy myself some bonds in them Irish banks.  It doesn’t make a difference bigger than a pile of gopher-shit what I buy, because the Irish government is gonna make sure I don’t lose one red cent.

Landsakes and lawdamercy, Bock, you mean you gonna become a —

That’s right, Momma.  I’m gonna be a Bondholder.


Avoid the Christmas Song

During my eighteen month stint with The Vile Princes, I learned a shitload about mainstream songwriting. We were fronted by a daft apeth called Clarence Zephyr – (his real name were Norman Underwood). Clarence had spurned family’s drive-in optician business to follow the rocky road of rock. Daft bugger, were Clarence. He once claimed that he had invented crotchless y-fronts. Daft, daft lad Clarence.

The thing about Clarence was that he couldn’t half write a catchy tune. His lyrics were awful but he knew what his audience wanted. I joined the band when their original guitar player, Ziggy Insulin, died after bingeing on sherbet. They were already well established after the success of their self titled debut album. You will all probably remember their runaway hit, Tinkling the Pink. Bloody awful bass playin on it but the public loved it. It had that infectious chorus —

Like the way you wink,
When I’m tinkling the pink.
When you’re at the sink,
I’m tinkling the pink.

I could never bloody understand when those chicks come out protesting the song because they thought it were sexist.

We just finished touring the 2nd album, Up To The Hilt, and some bird wanted to interview us about the tour and new album.  Clarence had a few ales in and he made that famous comment, “we’re bigger than Santa”. Pro-Christmas bloody extremists had a bloody field day. They were burning albums and issuing death threats. Clarence got right depressed over the whole thing and I thought he was going to break up the band. Even for a rock God like meself, I could tell when I was on to a good earner and I didn’t want to lose this one.

I went to his house and t’door was ajar. I went in and saw him bloody sprawled over the snooker table, surrounded by Babycham bottles – pissin’ lightweight. I got him sobered up a little and he started crying. ‘Grow a pair, ye thick git,’ says I to him. He kept saying he was ruined. ‘Nonsense’, said I. ‘all thee needs to do is write a pissin Christmas song and they’ll all love you again’.

He seemed to brighten up at the idea and two weeks later, he called the band together to play us his Christmas song. Bloody cracker it were too. So we started to rehearse and get the song tight so we could record it. The bass player needed to be chinned a few times, but we got the bloody thing down. We were in the studio recording within a week and it was mixed, engineered and finished a week after that. Clarence was like a new man. He called for all of those pro-Christmas activists to attend a private session to listen to his song.

We set up a small pub in Sheffield called The Fork and Duck. Those feminist chicks that hated him turned up too, with their bloody dungarees and mohair jumpers. The press were, of course, also invited.

It didn’t descend into fiasco straight away. In fact, it started quite brightly. We began to believe that Clarence still had a career ahead of him. It started out with some gentle sleigh bells and the chicks’ scowls seemed to soften. Clarence sat at the piano and began his intro and the scowls turned to looks of genuine warmth. When he started singing at almost a whisper, he had them in the palm of his hand.

The leaves upon the trees are stiff and still.

There’s snow upon the roof and the air is chilled.
The children wait for their bicycles,
All wrapped up from the icicles
And it’s cold, oh baby it’s co oh oh oh old…

I swear, those chicks in the front row had tears welling in their eyes at this point. Clarence had wanted to put the chorus straight in after the first verse but I told him to do the first on piano and then the band would come in for the second verse and then we’d hit the big chorus. So he rose from his piano stool, mike in hand and approached the front of the stage. The band kicked in and his voice soared, the chicks swooned and Clarence for a brief moment was loved again.

The lights upon the tree are glowing
The snow upon the drive is growing.
The little dogs seek the warmth of the fire,
And I cannot hide my desire
And it’s cold, oh baby it’s co oh oh oh old…

Those scowls had gradually softened and turned t’beaming smiles of glee but there was nothing gradual about the change from beaming smiles to fookin rage. Frankly, it surprises me to this day how Clarence actually got to the end of the chorus, what with the glasses that were being thrown at him and the barrage of camera flashes.

Baby, let me put it in you this Christmas.
My love wand is cold.
Baby, let put it in you this Christmas
In you this Christmas.
Let me fill your bu uns with my Christmas cream..

Well, I quickly made my exit from the venue and from the band. Clarence was finished. The Vile Princes were finished. Clarence later went on Dragon’s Den with his crotchless y-fronts idea and was sectioned shortly afterwards. Haven’t seen the guy since.

Christmas songs are all a load of ol rope but, if you need to write one to salvage your career. Please please be careful.


Check out all posts by Johnny here

Bock's People

Christmas Day

There’s far too much disrespect going around, and I won’t stand for any more of it.

Christmas is one of the most significant festivals of Christianity, along with Easter, St Patrick’s Day, the FA Cup Final and the Eurovision Song Contest.

This day, the 25th December, is the 2009th anniversary of the day that Santa Claus died on the cross to save us from our sins and it only seems right to suspend our disbelief for a few hours.  Come on!  It’s not like you’re being asked to believe things forever.

So without more ado, let’s all raise a glass to the mythical  hero in red who gave it all to drag our sorry asses out of a hole in the ground.

Well done, Santa, and down with  the excessively- sensible Germans for crucifying him in the first place.

Hurray! and Boo!


Christmass message 2008

Physical World

I’m Betting on a White Christmas

Paddy Power are being snowed under with bets on a white Christmas.

The Irish betting chain have dropped their odds from 5/1 to 9/4 as meteorologists at Metcheck (they’re looking out the window) predict that the present cold snap could result in a snowfall on Christmas Day.

However, it requires more than a solitary snowflake on your window sill on Christmas morn for bets to be settled.

The bookies are using official weather station data from Dublin Airport.  If 1mm of snow falls between 00.00 and 23.59 on December 25 then you claim enough  money to be in a permanent state of rat-facedness all the way up to New Year’s eve and beyond.

Paddy the Grinch is not dreaming of a white Christmas and could lose up to $100,000 if snows on the 25th.  Our hearts will be broken.

They dropped fifty grand on the day in question in 2004 when Ireland woke up under a blanket of the white stuff – devastating news.

Power’s are also offering odds on which words the Pope will say in English first in his Christmas Urbi et Orbi address from the Vatican next Friday.

God is at 3/1, Holy 4/1 and Saviour 5-1 – the French soccer team are cheating bastards is out at 1000/1 for some reason.

You can also have a flutter on who will sponsor Tiger Woods next. Psssssst, the smart money is on Viagra.

You can also bet on which sponsor will drop him next. Gillette, who also sponsor hand of frog cheat Thierry Henry, are at 9-4 and falling as the RTE1 weather man says so splendidly when referring to weather conditions in Belmullet.


Good King Wenceslas and Other Christmas Songs

They’ve started again,  Christmas songs in the supermarkets, as if any of us was feeling good will towards our fellow man.  As if, in fact, our hearts were not consumed by a hollow murderous rage  towards the political and financial boys’ clubs that have bankrupted us and that now plan to drain us of all our money for the next ten generations so that they can continue  to enjoy their unearned wealth.

Today, as I blundered around a shop in search of something edible and cheap, my ear happened upon a saccharine drone in the background, a re-blanded over-muzakked spewing of Good King Wenceslas, and I thought to myself, why are we celebrating this bastard? This fucker Wenceslas is exactly the same as Fingers Fingleton and that jerk Fitzpatrick, and Cowen and Yehudi Lenihan.

So what if he saw a poor man in the snow and felt sorry for the pathetic  starving bastard?  Well he might, the smug, self-satisfied prick, when all his wealth and money and castles and concubines and all the rest of the shooting gallery were acquired on the misery and sweat of these same poor peasants.  So what if he dragged his manservant off on a jaunt in the snow to feed this freezing peasant gath’ring winter fu-u-el.  The peasant’s kids were probably dying of hypothermia and plague while Wenceslas’s pampered lazy brats were rolling around in front of a giant fireplace burning half a forest and sucking on chocolate fat-fuckers.

And anyway, what about all the other frozen peasants living right against the forest fence? Do you think Wenceslas went around to every one of their reeking hovels with food and fuel on the Feast of Stephen?  He did in his bollocks.  Come on, he told his page-boy.  Let’s get the fuck out of here.  I’m fuckin frozen.  After salving his uncomfortable conscience with a few rashers and a bag of twigs, he fucked off back to his palace for a feast and a romp with the concubines, the hypocritical bastard.

A bit like those Irish billionaires who pay no tax here but salve their consciences by ego-massaging philanthropic gestures and patronising lectures to the rest of us compliant taxpayers.

Right, Bono?  Right JP?


Previous Christmas grumpiness from Bock:

Preparing for Christmas

Christmas Songs in the Supermarket

The Christmas Crib

Bar Staff

All a huge misunderstanding

Christmas Toys

Christmas gift ideas


Runaway Floating Electric Steel Christmas Tree Hits Bridge Shock!

Here’s what happens when you put a floating Christmas tree in the river and decide to make it twice as tacky as last year, but forget that there’s an all-time record flood on the way.

Your giant floating Christmas tree breaks its cables and scoots off downriver, before crashing into a bridge so that you have to call the cops who all stand around with their hands in their pockets looking at the fucking thing, while they wait for a crane to arrive.


Welcome to Limerick 2009.

The poor old tree is looking  bit sad now, but then again, it never looked too good anyway, did it?

Update Saturday 21st Nov.  1400.

christmas tree 002

Sunday 22nd.  1300.

Heavy (and expensive) lifting equipment arrives



Our lives

Quality Time

My children gave me a nice present for Christmas, which I meant to tell you about.

They’re taking me to London next week, for a day.  We’re leaving early in the morning and coming home late.  They promise not to bitch or moan or shuffle their feet and spend the day texting their friends, even if I want to go and visit the Science Museum or the V&A or the National Gallery.  Which I will.  Two of the three anyway.

We might go to the London Eye or some other cheesy tourist attraction, and we’ll probably go for a couple of pints, maybe a nice meal somewhere, who knows?

Isn’t that good?  A day’s quality time in London with my children, who are not really children any more but who will always be children in my eyes.

Don’t run across the road, I’ll still be telling them years from now.  Put that down, it’ll go into someone’s eye!  Don’t speak with your mouth full.  Look at the dirt of that face.  Put on a jacket.  You’ll get pneumonia.

But Dad, we’re sixty-five. 

All the more reason to wrap up well at your age!

It’s been a while since I wandered around London with friends, just visiting the museums and galleries.  I’m looking forward to doing it with my children, who are also my friends.


Saint Stephen’s Day

When I was a child, Saint Stephen’s Day was a time for the elder generations to reflect and take stock.  A time for renewing old bonds, setting aside old enmities and reaching out to those they had lost touch with.

A time to visit people who hated the living sight of them, wish them season’s greetings and annoy the shit out of them by drinking their whiskey and eating all their food.  How well I remember my father dragging me up the street towards the door of some hated relative, with a cheery Christmas song on his lips.  Hold out your hand and look poor, he used to snarl.  Keep holding it out until they give you enough.

In those days, the barefoot Wran Boys would come running though our street in the morning, with their blackened faces and their cheery urchin grins, knocking on doors and singing

The wran, the wran, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze,
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
This is the day we follow the wran

And my father would open the window and lean out to them and he’d say It’s a fucking wren, ye ignorant little fuckers, now fuck off home to your thieving bastard no-good fathers and let us alone!

And then he might throw a poker or maybe a broken kettle at them, and sometimes it would hit one of the smaller ones and with any luck it might even draw blood.

How we used to laugh.

Of course, St Stephen’s Day was also the day when we surveyed the wreckage of our Christmas presents to see if there was anything we hadn’t broken, but usually there was nothing left. And then we’d have to call around to the neighbours’ children and break all their toys instead, but that was fine.  I think we loved St Stephen’s Day even more than we loved Christmas Day.

One of my favourite toys was the Meccano set.  You can’t get them any more, I believe, but they were very good.  You could build anything with them, all from nuts and bolts and flanges and brackets and trunnions and sprockets.  We knew they were very good because it was printed on the box: Made in England.  That was much better than Made in Japan, and we were too poor to have anything Made in America.

You could make anything you wanted with the Meccano set. You could build a guillotine or a gallows, or a rack.  You could build an Iron Maiden with spikes in its eyes, and you could put your sister’s Barbie into it for being a heretic.

It was great.

I think my very favourite toy, though, was probably the kit you could build an aeroplane from, or a ship, or a tank, by sticking together the little pieces of polystyrene.  And then you could paint them with their swastikas or their roundels or their stars’n’stripes or whatever they were supposed to have.  The little bombers and fighters and transports, so realistic after you’d painted them in all their camouflage colours.  I used to break off the propellor blades to make it look like they were really flying.  And then you could take them upstairs, and set fire to them and throw them at dogs in the street, or if you were lucky, a passing priest, and if you were really lucky it might even set fire to his hat.  Sometime my father would catch me setting fire to a passing priest and he’d laugh himself sick.  And then he’d give me a small whiskey and tell me I was a very bad boy and not to do that again next year.

Oh how we laughed in the old times.  They don’t celebrate St Stepen’s Day properly any more.  These days it’s all commercialised.