21 December 2005

Dear Germans

Part One in an intermittent, irregular series

Dear Germans,

I know it is winter, and it is cold and either snowing or raining (or sometimes, oddly, both) and dark by shortly after 4pm.

I am also aware that you, like me, find yourselves in the grim, icy, grip of Weihnachtsstress: that you haven't bought all your Christmas presents yet; that your mothers-in-law are coming to celebrate Christmas at your place; that you find you have less disposable income to blow on gifts this year; that the baking and cooking for Christmas Day remain to be done; and that all the tall, straight, plush-looking Christmas trees are already gone and it's going to have to be a scraggy, crooked, anaemic-looking tree for you and yours again this year.

It has also not escaped my notice that you've not had a particularly good year in general; that uncertainty and existential angst plague you; that you ended up with a government which noone really wished for and are unsure of how it's all going to pan out; that you, like me, couldn't get tickets for the World Cup next year, even though you're hosting it; that the weather seemed to go crazy all over the world, all year long; that unemployment is uncomfortably high; that the news that the moustache is out still has not reached Germany, some twenty years on.

Germans, my friends, I know all that and believe me, I feel your pain. I understand and I empathise. And yet, I'm still going to have to trouble you with a request. It's only a little one, mind you, but a request all the same: in the course of the next few days, in the final lead-up to Christmas, is there any chance that one of you could crack a smile? Someone? Anyone?

I'd be ever so grateful.

Yours, with best wishes for a merry Christmas and (as they don't say in English, but ought to) a good slide into the new year,