Here in the mousehole, we foresook many of the seasonal televisual offerings and relied instead on classic standbys.

Because of Spouse Mouse’s aversion to The Royle Family and Peep Show, two diametrically opposed slices of English family life, I watched them alone.

I enjoy The Royle Family for the reasons that Spouse Mouse dislikes it — the natural dialogue that the writers are able to script.  (At this point, Spouse Mouse says, ‘You mean someone actually writes that stuff? I’m off to bed.’)  I should be totally bored and unsettled were I to spend Christmas with Jim, Barbara, their children and neighbours in Manchester.  At least this year they sat down to a proper lunch, unlike in 2009, when everything went wrong and descended into a pagan mayhem around the table.  Yet, there must be any number of families in England sitting in casual clothes around the dinner table and serving turkey gravy out of a plastic measuring jug.  Hmm!  The conversation is so empty, yet so meaningful to the insiders there.  It has been said that informal groups of people have their own private ‘code’ of speech and conduct.  Saskia, son Anthony’s girlfriend, isn’t sure whether to be bemused or amused.  Cringe-worthy, fly-on-the-wall telly!

As was Peep Show, which isn’t pornographic at all.  From the Northern, working-class setting of The Royle Family, we move to a southern middle-class Christmas in South London.  In real life, the show’s stars, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, met at Cambridge University and were part of the Cambridge Footlights, which propels many to media stardom.  Mitchell’s character, Mark Corrigan, invites his family to Christmas lunch.  His girlfriend Dobby and flatmate Jez (Webb) are there, too.  Mr Corrigan, pater familias, prefers things his way — from Christmas dinner to his wife’s choice of career.  Mark, meanwhile, fears telling his family about his IT geek girlfriend-fiancée Dobby.  Some telling and amusing moments revolve around the setting of Christmas expectations, from the choice of presents to the ‘order’ of the festivities.  Another great snapshot of modern English family life.

We spent some of our late evenings together watching Christmas movies and interspersing them with a compilation of the best of Mister Ed, yes, the early 1960s American television show featuring the ‘famous’ talking horse and his master-best friend, Wilbur Post, played by Alan Young.   What impressed us was how nicely the middle class dressed in 1962, even to go to the dry cleaner: ‘day dresses’ (as they were called) for the ladies and jacket and tie for men.  As social history of suburbia, it’s a wonderful slice of life.  I particularly noted how nicely neighbour Kay Addison laid her table for a weekday lunch just for her and her husband: pristine tablecloth, water goblets and best china.  Hmm!

Christmas movie viewing in the mousehole consisted of Holiday Inn, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street (Edmund Gwenn) and, for me, a particular ‘new’ favourite, Metropolitan, an independent film from Whit Stillman released in 1990. (Photo courtesy of ReelReviews.) If you want to know how the debutante ‘season’ works — and it’s cheap as chips for the right young men — this is it.  It takes place during December in Manhattan.  It’s got all the best Christmas scenes of New York as well as beautiful clothes and settings: the St Regis, elegant flats, the finest formal clothes.  It explores the dying bourgeoisie through their eyes and conversations at parties that begin after formal dances and end in the wee hours of the morning.  It’s about friendship, loyalty, morality and the future.  It was shown on the BBC here in November.  I’ve seen it four times since then.  If you can get hold of a copy, it would make excellent viewing for church groups of college juniors and seniors.  It’s a clean film which explores the problems and questions that people of that age and situation struggle with.  A modern classic with an intelligent script to match.

Christmas often brings out the best stories: entertaining, true-to-life and memorable.  Well, now with the thaw here in southern England, it’s time to get back into the kitchen and rustle up some post-Christmas treats!