The Ingrid Pitt column: Christmas movies

As a voting member of BAFTA, Ingrid's contribution to next year's awards cuts into the yuletide season...

Well that’s Christmas off to a good start. That is if you are counting Christmas from the 20th December to the 4th January. I was still working on the zeds at 6.30 am on Saturday morning when someone rang the doorbell. I thought it was probably the postman looking for a comforting Christmas bung so just snuggled down in the duvet. Who else would be around at that unheard of hour?

The bell rang again. There’s persistence for you. When it rang for the third time I got worried. My daughter, Steffie, her husband and my granddaughter had gone to Venice for a few days before girding up their loins for the slog of the long holiday.  Perhaps it was something to do with that. I didn’t dare take the thought any further. That gave me the motivation to stagger to the intercom and croak a “yes”. A bright voice said “Parcel service”. I sighed with relief and invited the voice in.

When the lift door opened I was well and truly amazed. Standing there with a big, satisfied grin on her face was one of my oldest friends, Bobbie. I was doubly amazed because she had a reputation of being the last out of bed whenever we were staying together. And this was half past six! And she had driven all the way from Essex!

The explanation was rather mundane. She was on her way to Heathrow to pick up her aunt who had come over from America for Christmas. She had decided that it was time to do her yearly Good Samaritan act and drop off a Christmas hamper for the undeserving.

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I was tempted to go back to bed when she left at nine o’clock but I had invited some friends around for a bit of pre-Christmas cheer at lunch time and wanted to get things sorted out early so that there wouldn’t be the usual panic ten minutes before they were due to arrive. And I nearly succeeded. I had some breakfast. Shuffled the furniture around a bit and then decided it would be OK to take a ten minute kip before getting down to things festive. The ten minute doze turned into two hours zonked out and it was back to the familiar dash to get things ready.

It was well worth it.  Everyone arrived on the dot. I had warned them that it was going to be tea and sympathy. No booze! I was on my usual course of antibiotics and had been strictly forbidden to sup anything alcoholic. I had also been forbidden caffeine but I refuse to believe that there is anything harmful in a humble pot of tea.

We spent the next five or six hours putting the world to rights and slagging off the government and debating whether or not Barack Obama was the wise choice.  I was strongly pro and was surprised to find there were so many who thought Hilary Clinton should have got the top job. Gordon Brown wasn’t even discussed. It is considered bad form to criticise the afflicted.

After every one had gone I surveyed the detritus strewn around the sitting room and decided that it would still be there in the morning so turned on the television. Couldn’t find anything of interest so decided to shove a film in the slot and see what came up.

Probably not the greatest idea I had ever had. It is the time of the year when the BAFTA film awards loom on the horizon. As a voting member of BAFTA, the post comes loaded with all the films up for a reward. It starts at the end of October and continues right up to the 8th of January when all bets are off and I have to start making choices. It might sound like an idyllic job, but watching back-to-back films for 6 weeks isn’t exactly my mug of Horlicks.

The film I had randomly chosen was Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. A film about the Holocaust in Germany in the 1940’s. After the noise and banter it was sober up time. But beautifully made. It shows the effects the dreadful events occurring in the concentration camp have on the family of the Camp Commandant. Particularly the 10 year old son who befriends a boy of his own age but on the other side of the wire. Hence the striped pyjamas. I sobbed it through until the end. I hate all that Nazis stuff but find it very difficult not to watch.

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Sunday was another early start. The telephone rang a little before eight. It was Steffie back from Venice and checking in. Wonderful! All three appeared to have had a great time and they all insist that Venice isn’t becoming the new Atlantis. A week or so before they left, little Sofia had brought the dreaded lurgy home from school. When it had enough of Sofia it was given breeding room by Steffie. Fortunately, she was well enough to go on holiday but had taken the bug with her. It had transferred to her husband and he has brought it back. I just hope he manages to banish it before I go to their house on Christmas Eve.

Sunday I went to lunch with some friends who live in a houseboat just off Eel Pie Island. I’ve always fancied the thought of living on a boat. As long as it was moored to a civilised dock within hailing distance of a passing cab and an all-night convenience store. I did go and look at one moored on Chelsea Reach some time ago. It was a narrow-boat which had originally plied a trade on the canals. It had been dragged out of its comfort zone and marooned beside the dock. I seem to remember I was told that it was bedded on a huge lump of concrete so the occupants were saved the inconvenience of the rise and fall of the tides as they raced up and down the Thames twice a day. I thought it was wonderful. Until I spoke to a friend who mentioned that he had a flirt with living aboard a narrow-boat on the canal at one time. He agreed it was wonderful – except for the rats. Evidently, whatever you did to keep the little bastards out, they managed to become shipmates. That was enough for me. True or not, my idea of sailing into the future securely anchored to the dock was over.

With surprising restraint I managed to keep my little gem of wisdom out of the conversation as I stuffed my face with finger food at the party. But I couldn’t entirely control the searching looks I gave to the menacing dark corners where my imagination painted scurrying shapes with naked trailing tails.

In the evening I watched Mamma Mia. It confirmed what I have always thought. My choice of films is strange. Every year I decide what I am going to vote for and my selected films get the elbow in the first vote. Several friends had informed me that the Meryl Streep oeuvre was the best musical – ever.  I watched it for 20 minutes and then called a wrap and gave W a try. This is the story of War President Bush, gaffs and all. It was quite interesting and wasn’t a complete hatchet job. It tried to explain why he did what he did. But I’m not sure that makes an entertaining movie. Same goes for Nixon/Frost. It is interesting that David Frost’s interview with the devious and uncouth 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon, was the decisive nail hammered into his tape recordings when he admitted he had been a bad, bad boy, according to the film, but entertainment? – not for me.

Monday – being Monday – I have decided to divide my time between a quick scurry around the shops picking up a few presents, mostly for myself, and then stretch out on the sofa and get into all those films on which I am duty bound to pass judgment. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I hope to be otherwise engaged.

So it is Merry Christmases all round. And the thought for Christmas? Every time you take a drink you curtail your life expectancy. But the bright side is that the days are getting longer. It’s being so cheerful as keeps me going.

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Read Ingrid’s column every Tuesday at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.

23 December 2008