Belfast Telegraph

Saving the best for last ... how I just love the end of the year

By Lindy McDowell

This is, in my opinion, the best week of 2011. This bit between Christmas Day and New Year is, as the man says in his song, the most wonderful time of the year.

It is the leftover, the fag end, the last dregs of the past 12 months. Nothing is expected of these last fading days of December.

January is lurking just around the corner like the grim calorie reaper - with its chill winds, its diet sheets, nicotine patches and credit card bills.

And that long, horrible stretch until the next payday as you curse what you foolishly cheered at the time as the boon of getting paid a week before Christmas.

But January with its resolution, and retribution can wait. For this is the one wonderful in-between week when the pressure is off.

We are now in that happy staging post between Christmas build-up and New Year austerity where we can kick back amid the Quality Street and odd liqueurs and not feel guilty about ingesting Things That Are Bad For Us.

We've got the Wii game to work at last and we've even got over the emotional trauma of Christmas Day soaps.

We've barricaded the children in their bedrooms, seen off the visitors and finally managed to stuff the mountain of ripped-off wrapping paper into the recycling box (which has since, handily, been blown to the North Pole by those Force 8 gales.) All is well with the world ...

We should make more of this time of the year. Give it a proper title, perhaps, and encourage people to celebrate it for what it is.

This is a turkey sandwich of a week. It's a mix of Christmas excess and pan loaf comfort. It is the one week of the year that makes no apology for having an elasticated waistline.

This is the week when most stuff in the shops costs half the price it did only a few days ago.

(If you have money left to buy any of it ...)

Of course you could just stay at home and read the sales guides. One newspaper, I noticed, was offering a five page special on shopping for sales bargains. Surely by the time you'd have got through all that, the best bargains would have been snapped up.

The telly is quite good now too. Having been driven to dramatic crescendo for the Big Day itself, the scriptwriters now have to resolve all those cliff-hangers.

And just think - it will be a whole year before we'll have to watch Jamie Oliver getting excited by a turkey again.

Sport has come into its own. Sport takes a breather over Christmas, but now it's back firing on all action replays. And not just live sport ...

One satellite channel which took the Boxing Day label literally, featured the fights of Muhammad Ali (Cassius Marcellus Clay as he then was) including that stormer when he lifted the World Heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston. It was amazing TV.

The television reporter was buffeted around the ring by Ali's exultant followers as he manfully continued to describe the scene of utter, glorious, pandemonium. When the boxer lurched close, the reporter's means of securing an interview was to reach over and physically haul him in front of the mic.

Today there would be delay buttons, agents, an army of producers and fixers and analysts. But what the old television coverage lacked in slickness it more than made up for in sheer, raw excitement.

It's not the sort of thing I normally watch on TV. But over these last few days there's been time to meander around the channels.

It's been that sort of week. Next week we'll all be back to work. Back to porridge.

In the meantime though, feet up, pass the Pringles and the remote control ...

Happy New Year!

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