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Be 11 Today

December 25, 2011

Thoughts and emotions are always confused for me this time of year.

I sit here like Scrooge, doing the books. Only I am not counting money – I am trying to reconcile the balances of my life. Trying to tally the columns of generosity, kindness and creativity with those of self-absorption, bitchiness and cruelty. I find myself in deficit again, but hopeful that next year I might break even.

There are bleak aspects – my beard has more grey in it, my family thousands of miles away, I am worryingly single and 40, my father no longer here, my mother forgets things more and more. There is cause to be grateful too –  I am healthy, strong and sane. The collection of people who populate my life has improved dramatically this year – both by re-acquainting with old friends, spending more time with family and coming across some new, fabulously exciting, truly inspiring people (you know who you are).

There is always the desire to make this Christmas perfect – or, to be honest, to replicate one that has already been perfect. And there are some wonderful contenders:

I am six. My parents have brought back toys from abroad. There is a doll that speaks and walks. She is beautiful. There is a brand new Meccano set. In a few days I will make a drawbridge that lifts and drops by motor. There are “Chiquita” bananas – a delicacy in Greece back then.

I am 19 and in Paris with my friend Natasha. We are shoplifting Champagne from “Ed l’Epicier”. The youthful energy that surrounds us is nothing short of elemental. Lust and Love hand in hand, we dance the night away to Mylene Farmer. Drunken, debaucherous, divine, we bum cigarettes from stunned bystanders and laugh.

I am 33 and decorating a very designer white Christmas tree with black baubles. The flat is perfect, Steve perfect, salary perfect, hair perfect. We are doing pork with truffle oil this year – turkey seems too common. Presents consist of sinfully expensive electronics.

No. It has to be this one: 

I am 11. Travelling with my family around Italy – Rome for Christmas, Venice for New Year. Staying at beautiful boutique hotels, back when a dessert trolley was just about the most magical thing I had ever seen. Looking at lavish shop windows with their mechanical displays of nativity scenes. Eating ice-cream outside the Collosseum in the middle of winter. Laughing with abandon every time an Italian offered us wishes of “Auguri! Auguri!”, which in Greek means “Cucumber! Cucumber!”

So, what was different then? We argued as much, our financial worries were more significant, the presents less extravagant, the choice of movies on TV more limited. The only difference was that I was looking at the world through the eyes of an 11-year-old.

So here is my promise and my advice. Be 11 today. Shed your cynicism, neglect your worries, tear open your presents without trying to save the paper and play with the box as much as its contents, eat without counting the calories and, most of all, give those you love a big hug (whether with your arms if they’re near or with your heart if they’re far) and let them know you love them. Even if you’re on your own, treat yourself to a nice meal and enjoy the festive telly and the quiet and your own splendid company.

And the next day, and the day after that, do exactly the same. And, if you’re lucky and really good at this game, your Christmases might merge into the life you all deserve.

A New Year stretches ahead – scary, glittering, beautiful, political, ulcer-inducing, wrinkle-inducing, exciting, creative, messy, glorious. Share it with me?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. December 25, 2011 12:03 pm

    Thank you for this, you’re quite right, today is the time to be young again 🙂

  2. Angeliki permalink
    December 25, 2011 12:29 pm

    Xronia polla Alex, have a lovely Christmas

  3. December 25, 2011 1:16 pm

    A beautiful thoughtful post. Have a very Merry Christmas and stay 11 – 11 is good!

    Amma :o]

  4. December 25, 2011 2:13 pm

    Merry Christmas, I have enjoyed your writing this year and have read regularly and grown my understanding of the world as it is rather than as some would wish it to seem. (from the Blog To Whom to we owe this money exactly and on thank you).
    God Jul from this little band of Vikings.

  5. Mirik permalink
    December 25, 2011 2:40 pm


  6. Peter permalink
    December 25, 2011 2:47 pm

    Yup, you are dead right. Thanks, have really enjoyed your writing and the tweets over the last few months.

  7. December 25, 2011 3:00 pm

    Love you Alex and all you do – a positive force for good. I recommend Studyblog and @sturdyAlex widely. I love this post too, as I do all your posts…real resonance… ( although we may disagree, at times, on the music front 😉

    Looking forward to sharing 2012 with you, along with all the lovely people I have met personally and virtually via twitter and blogs in 2011, all speaking out to improve the world we live in, often faced with prejudice and bullying to quieten thoughts and messages.

    We live in exciting times Alex, as we are awake,alive and aware ( or fighting to make others so); not merely sleep walking through life. Bring on 2012!

    Wishing you and yours a fab Christmas 2011. Your post was shared with all here, from those just 13 year through to ,errm, post 40..ish!

    You make a difference x

  8. Rob MCD permalink
    December 25, 2011 6:28 pm

    Merry Christmas Alex. Keep making people smile.

  9. December 25, 2011 8:36 pm

    Auguri , Alex.
    Stessa faccia stessa razza.
    Have you seen Mediterraneo?

  10. December 25, 2011 8:51 pm

    Thanks Alex. Beautifully written as always, and of course, absolutely true. I hope you had a lovely time and enjoyed being 11 again.


  11. December 25, 2011 10:07 pm

    I hope you are having a great Christmas. You do so much for us. Clever, funny and talented man.x
    40 is nothing, 26 years later I still conduct a childish Christmas.

  12. Agnes winifred permalink
    December 25, 2011 11:08 pm

    Happy Christmas my dear – I am getting younger all the time

  13. Nadia Machaira permalink
    December 25, 2011 11:33 pm

    Hronia Polla kai Kali Hronia Aleko mou.
    Pao ayrio to proi Mykono kai elpizo na do tous dikous sou.
    Diavazo panta to blog sou kai omologo oti ohi mono einai endiaferon, alla eho spania dei kapion pou heirizetai toso kala tin glossa.
    Polla filia
    Nadia Machaira

    • December 25, 2011 11:39 pm

      Nadia mou! Se efxaristo para poly. Poso tha katseis Mykono? Tha gyrisoun stis 20 Ianouariou – tha eisai akoma ekei. Kserw oti i Mama tha xairotan para poly na se dei. Polla, polla filakia kai efxes.

  14. Stevyn Colgan permalink
    December 26, 2011 12:29 am

    I’ve never go past 11. Second childhood? I’m 50 and still living my first. Happy Christmas mate x

  15. December 26, 2011 10:18 am

    Thank you and Merry Christmas. x

  16. December 26, 2011 10:33 am

    Here’s to 2012 and loved ones everywhere. Thank you for your inspiring blog.

  17. December 26, 2011 5:09 pm

    Brilliant. Nostalgic. Thoughtful. Insightful. Thank you. X

  18. Gazza permalink
    December 29, 2011 1:32 pm

    Just read this. Very well put. May it have been as you were 11 then and are now. and The same for everybody else.

  19. russ permalink
    December 31, 2011 3:12 pm

    Happy new year – thank very much for the really great blog. Keep up the wonderful work!

  20. January 2, 2012 8:22 am

    A belated comment and wishes for a Happy New Year. Lovely piece of writing. it’s always good to see and realise there are many other people out there, like you, me and others who are thinking, writing, putting down their thoughts and making other people think too, expressing themselves. it gives me hope. Be 11!!


  1. Be 11 Today « sturdyblog | WorldWright's …

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