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How to keep boredom at bay over the break

From the must-read books to those classic films you've always wanted to watch and the games everyone should play at Christmas.

Creepy drama: Anya Taylor-Joy as Nella Oortman in The Miniaturist
Creepy drama: Anya Taylor-Joy as Nella Oortman in The Miniaturist

By Frankie McCoy

Christmas is, at best, a day of enforced sofa slumping; chances are, you're looking at three days or more of Terry's Chocolate Orange-fuelled lock-in, the sugar simultaneously sending you hyper, yet comatose. Fear not. It turns out that there are plenty of things to do that don't involve leaving the house for whole hours at a time. Who knew?


If You Had To… (£16.99,

Your Cards Against Humanity are dog-eared, wine-stained and vodka-wrinkled, with several missing and the others forever committed to your sick, twisted memory.

This festive season, you need a new horrible game. Shuffle forward If You Had To… a card game that is basically a slightly elevated version of 'would you rather?'.

There are 250 cards printed with deeply distasteful-slash-deeply stupid scenarios (for example, from the printable options, would you rather… 'Have live webcams on you 24/7' or 'have all your meals fed to you like you're a baby bird'?).

One person is the judge; the cards are dealt to the other players, who have to play whichever card they think the judge would least like to do, then convince the judge why their card is the worst.

A great way to practise your debating skills while knocking back sloe gin and secretly judging the judge forever more.

See also: Dead Sleb (£14.99) a version of Top Trumps incorporating all your favourite former famous people, ranked by popularity, age, tragic factor and exit method.


The Best of AA Gill (W&N, £20)

Few writers could compete with the late, great AA Gill. Lap up his wonderful wit, merciless excoriations and lyrical musings in this collection of his very best journalism, covering everything from eating turtle to Iraq, dyslexia and Good Morning Britain.

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young (Faber & Faber, £9.99)

There's a good chance you've found this quirky little thing in your stocking, but it's more than a jokey gift. Young's sweet, if weird, bovine book about how cows think is engrossing and will ensure you never look at a field of cattle the same way again.

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst (Picador, £20)

A Hollinghurst is inevitably impossible to put down and his latest is no exception. A hugely engrossing portrait of gay life through the 20th century, from Oxford during the Blitz to Eighties liberalism, it's a perfect excuse to hunker down in your childhood bedroom until the new year.

Modern Gods by Nick Laird (Fourth Estate, £12.99)

Laird might be best-known for his poetry, but that's changed with his third novel. Modern Gods contrasts the lives of two sisters, Liz and Alison Donnelly, jumps between Northern Ireland and Papua New Guinea, and is brilliant.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury, £18.99)

There's no time like post-present opening to get stuck into this year's Man Booker Prize-winner. Saunders' experimental novel re-imagines President Abraham Lincoln's grief after the death of his third son, Willie, in astonishingly beautiful, Dante-esque style.

The Standing Chandelier by Lionel Shriver (Harper Collins, £9.99)

Shriver can do no wrong and her latest short, sharp novel, about whether a man can ever be 'just friends' with his ex, is a perfect antidote to saccharine Christmas cheer. And at 128 pages, you can read the whole book while small relatives are engrossed in The Emoji Movie.


Nan hogging the telly for the Queen's speech? Cousins drawing blood over Christmas University Challenge? Disappear for a streaming sesh. This is the perfect time of year to tick off those Oscar winners you've pretended to have seen all year, get your indie fix and documentary hit and, obviously, snort into your eggnog over Ron Burgundy.

Netflix: The Breakfast Club, The Diary of a Teenage Girl (for indie angst), Annie Hall (for that therapy scene), The Big Short (for a super clever, hilarious take on the financial crisis).

Amazon Prime: A Clockwork Orange (for a little of the old ultraviolence), Nightcrawler (for evil Jake Gyllenhaal), Moonlight (for beautiful Oscar-winning meaning), Anchorman (for the endless quotes).

Hulu: Searching for Sugarman (for edgy music buffs), Total Recall (for old-school Arnie), Chicago (for all that jazz), Apocalypse Now (for that smell of napalm in the morning).


Ah, Christmas TV. Full of royals and book adaptations, terrestrial channels are chock-a-block with soothing balm, the perfect accompaniment as you rifle through the Quality Street tin for the last green triangle. Here are the shows to set your watch for.

Victoria Christmas Special

(Christmas Day, 9pm, ITV)

Mere hours after the Queen makes her speech to the nation, her fictional great-great grandmother Victoria, aka Jenna Coleman, celebrates Christmas in proper Victorian style.

Little Women (Boxing Day, 8pm, BBC1)

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a BBC adaptation of a classic, and this year the Beeb has branched out from Dickens to make Louisa May Alcott's family drama about the March sisters. Prepare to get weepy.

The Miniaturist (Boxing Day, 9pm, BBC1)

Another festive hour, another adaptation, this time of Jessie Burton's international bestseller. Romola Garai and Anya Taylor-Joy star in the creepy period drama about dolls.

A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong

(30 December, 7.10pm, BBC1)

After six Baileys, anything's funny - but this comedy from the makers of the hysterical West End slapstick The Play That Goes Wrong should be genuinely hilarious.

McMafia (New Year's Day, 9pm, BBC1)

The last day of the Christmas break should be filled with charming things, like James Norton. He stars as the son of Russian mafiosos, trying to avoid their criminal world. Spoiler alert: it's not that easy.

Plus, in case you haven't already binged the entire series, The Crown is back for series 2 on Netflix, while series 4 of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror starring Andrea Riseborough), (aka, probably the cleverest, most terrifyingly prescient dystopian series to grace the internet) hits Netflix on December 29.

Belfast Telegraph


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