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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I'm dreaming of a sober Christmas, not like the ones I used to know. Father Christmas won't be getting a glass of sherry if he deigns to drop down my chimney.

I suppose the highlight will be going to see Lord of the Rings rather than counting the empty bottles on Boxing Day.

Still, old hobbits die hard. I will still be attending the party my new neighbour is hosting, even if my glass will not exactly be running over.

I was entranced to hear yesterday that she bought the house because of the Victorian lamppost outside. I couldn't help but think that in Ibiza she would have had other considerations about where to live, like whether there was somewhere to sit outside, even at Christmas, or how far you'd be from the beach, or whether there was any land to keep chickens and wild cats.

Not drinking at Christmas has its compensations, of course. It means you become the unpaid taxi driver for the entire coterie of family and friends. And because your hands don't tremble you get to be put in charge of making all the new toys work by figuring out which way the batteries go. That's if there are still any toys, rather than computer games and DVDs. I think I'd rather have a Legover set.

I have a fond memory of sitting in the Ibiza sunshine drinking a cool beer one Christmas Day morning. In Haughton Green it's more likely to be mulled wine huddled around the gas fire than San Miguel overlooking Sant Antoni Bay.

Talking of Tolkein, I was musing over Emily's authoritative feature about religion last week. I'm the only person I know who has actually read Lord of the Rings and I had a cat called Bilbo Baggins twenty years ago. He had big, furry paws when he was a kitten and you'll see why he got the name when you see the film. He's played by Ian Holm, the marvellous actor I remember seeing as Romeo at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I can't remember who played Juliet, but I do recall she was a good deal taller than him, which means he makes a very little Hobbit.

The point is that there is a deep, Christian message underpinning this theological thriller which also happens to be a fantastic story. The Hobbits are the meekest, most humble race that inhabits Middle Earth and yet they are entrusted with the journey to return the ring from whence it was cast. There's a Judas-type character that keeps being forgiven. There's even a pipe-smoking creature that turns out to be a sort of Messiah. And there's a moral throughout it all to do with good conquering the evil in everyone. Tolkein was at Oxford with C. S. Lewis and they had this idea about promoting the Christian message through fantasy (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). And what a good idea to bring out the three films just before Christmas each year.

As far as I can recall though, there's nothing in them about drinking gin and tonic without the gin on Christmas Eve.

Sinclair Newton