Recently the Lovely Wife and I were in Coventry – a surprisingly charming city – and had a few hours to kill, so we thought we would do a little window shopping.
In Coventry city centre there is one shop building that dominates the area known as Broadgate, opposite the statue of Lady Godiva.
It is a giant Primark, at least three floors of cheap clothing (so really Lady Godiva has no excuse for her nakedness) and it was heaving, it being a Saturday near to Christmas.
I had a particular mission in mind. It was to peruse the selection of Christmas jumpers available and to see just how awful they could really be.
Last year I noticed that there was a bit of a silly Christmas jumper thing going on but refrained from buying one. But I mentioned it to the Lovely Wife and she offered to knit me one for this year. Then she made the mistake of asking me to choose the subject matter (other than having some form of Christmas feeling to it, obviously).
Of course, it had to be a penguin theme. But it had to be a proper penguin, not one of these wide eyed, round birds wearing red hats that bear no resemblance to the bird in question. Undaunted, the Lovely Wife tracked down some 1970s patterns including one of an Emperor penguin and chick.
Well, I was sold straight away on that.
You see, an Emperor penguin is a man’s penguin. Male Emperors are the hard men of the bird world. No other creature is quite hardcore enough to face the Antarctic winter with the rest of the lads, while carefully babysitting their little offspring, while all the girls go off to warmer climes and stuff their faces for the entire winter.
If I’m going to have a penguin on my chest it is going to be this fine example of parenthood.
The process of creation of this bespoke Christmas jumper was a painful one – including a hiatus where an unpicking of the work to date almost resulted in abandonment of the project completely – but in the end the jumper was complete and glorious, and in time for Christmas.
Although it does, on reflection, have a lot of white in the design which considering my enthusiastic eating style does mean extra care. But I’m very proud of it and of the creativity and graft of the Lovely Wife.
So I knew this when we went into Primark and there was no chance that even the £12 price tag was going to tempt a garish Rudolf onto my chest any more than I was going to buy a Rudolf onsie (I already have one from last year anyway).
But we were not disappointed with, ahem, quality. A lot of the specimens in the messy piles of jumpers available were quite dreadful. It was interesting to note too that the taste and cost go hand in hand in this genre; the less tacky and more reasonable ones (including the subgenre that you might describe as merely festive, with snowflakes and the like rather than characters off a cheap advent calendar) were almost double the price (horror).
However, I am not going to be too hard on the Christmas jumper. There is one thing that we need to be thankful for.
It is only for Christmas.
Come the New Year they will go in the charity shops and/or boxes in the loft and the bad dress sense will return to normal, ahem, style (i.e. boys with half slung trousers that can therefore hardly walk, girls who think tights can be worn without the aid of a skirt or shorts etc. Feel free to add your own “What are you thinking?” example).
But I am very fond of my penguins.
If the weather gets very icy and cold, I might just use it to take a little bit of Christmas into the barren wasteland that is January to eke out the season just a little bit.
But for now, have a lovely Christmas, one and all.