“That’s the great thing about Christmas. I comes around very year so you get another shot,’ Paul Kelly writes in his recent autobiography.
Kelly wrote what to me is one of the great Christmas songs…one of the great lump-in-the-throat songs about anything, in fact.
I’ve seen him stop a hall dead with a live performance of ‘How to Make Gravy’. It’s a real wrencher of a number.
Kelly’s recent autobiography tells the tale of how he was invited to take part in a Christmas compilation and plumped for ‘Christmas Must Be Tonight’ by the Band, but it turned out some other singer had dubbed that, so he told the person compiling the album he’d have a crack at writing his own.
This was the result.
“There’s something about ‘White Christmas’that rings down the ages – a longing for home, for childhood, warm safety and the sway things used to be…Irving intensifies the feeling of Christmas by writing about not being there.‘There’s clue,’ I thought.”
Kelly relates how he invited the compiler – a bloke called Lindsay – to come around and listen to the song, only warning him that the tune didn’t have a chorus, and it was also set in prison.
‘The next day he sat in my small back shed while I played it to him, my head down, partly from nerves but also to read the freshly scratched lyrics in my notebook on the floor. When I looked up at the end he was holding his hanky.“It’s supposed to be a comedy”, I said.“I know”, he replied, wiping his eyes.’
Christmas, in my experience, intensifies and brings to the surface feelings that are already there. If you’re away from home – or, emotionally, away from where you want to be – it can be a lurching time, on the inside.
So for everyone who isn’t where they want to be in whatever way, this year: here’s to you, and here’s to next year.
And for those of us who are, give thanks.