John Carter, Now & Then: Christmas 2022

Travel Talk

John Carter ponders on Christmases past and the travel situation present.

Please accept my sincere apologies for neglecting “Now and Then” for far too long.  

There are good reasons, which involve Covid and an unrelated spell of ill health, as well as the need to finish a major writing project which began without a deadline, but acquired one as a consequence of the Covid, etc. 

But here I am, back in time to contemplate Christmas, and note the various forecasts of how tough and gloomy and wretched life is going to be for all of us during the festive season, and the year – or even years –beyond . 

And I can’t help thinking: “Here we go again”.   

As someone who has marked very many Christmases (you, too?), I can recall those which were far gloomier than anything on the present scene.  When money was tighter, life harsher, and childhood presents werebooks that had been bought at Autumn jumble sales. Or bent and battered model cars, similarly acquired.  They did not come wrapped in fancy paper, with ribbons and bows, but in plain brown or even newspaper.

Those were Christmases when treats were, literally, non-existent.    

When municipal displays of festive lights had been packed away “for the duration”. When food was rationed and festive drinks virtually unobtainable.  

But though my childhood Christmases were sparse, they were enjoyable.  

And, as a child, I had the great advantage of knowing nothing different. 

Of having no memories of pre-war Christmases, unlike my parents, aunts and uncles who gathered, more like a clan than a family, to “make the best of it”, thank their lucky stars that they were still alive, and hope for better times ahead.

More recent memories are of the 1960s and 1970s, when social and industrial unrest were rife, strikers challenged the authority of government, and inflation and interest rates were far, far, higher than today’s.

We survived that, and we can survive this. Indeed, more than survive a situation which is far less daunting than some would have us believe.

In fact, circumstances are improving faster than most pundits forecast.

Oil is now well under $84 dollars a barrel, and falling, and Europe is awash with more liquefied natural gas than it can handle. Cargo ships full of it are loitering off our shores because storage tanks are brimming.

The risk of power shortages is rapidly receding. If there is a “Winter (and Spring) of Discontent” it will be self-inflicted.

In any event, if you are inclined to feel sorry for yourself this Christmas, spare a thought for those who are unfortunate enough to live in Kyiv or Odessa or any of the Ukrainian towns and villages without heat or light.

Enough of all that. We should take comfort from the fact that, in spite of everything, holidays at home and abroad are back on the agenda.

Travel industry sources are cautiously optimistic, though some short-staffed UK airports and airlines are struggling to cope.

Another encouraging sign is that the trustworthy “regulars” who supply first-hand accounts for the Silver Travel Advisor website for mature travellers are back on the road, dispensing encouragement and advice. 

Though 2022 turned out to be a rotten year for most, not all its gloom will spill over into 2023.

My opinion mirrors that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who became President of the USA in 1933 – at the height of the Great Depression. In his inaugural speech he declared, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”.

He was spot on. Within months, America and the world began to climb out of the economic abyss.

And now for something completely different – as they used to say on “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.

Something that will, I hope, bring a wry smile to your lips, along with that slow shake of the head that says: “honestly, you couldn’t make it up”.

I assure you this story is absolutely true.

During the course of an argument with his next door neighbour, when expletives were being freely exchanged, a man of my acquaintance referred to him as “a blanking French blank”.

The profanity was not a problem, but mentioning his neighbour’s nationality led to a Crown Court appearance in late November, and a fine of £900.

This is, apparently, because calling the Frenchman “French” constituted “a racially-motivated hate crime”.

Now I tell you this tale, so you will not find yourself hauled up before the beak for a similar offence. 

Though you may refer, for example, to Nicola Sturgeon as “a mendacious politician”, you’ll be in hot water if you call her “a mendacious Scottish politician”. Similarly, Mark Drakeford may, in your opinion, be “a windbag”, but call him “a Welsh windbag” and you’re well and truly in the soup.

Whether this is an international hazard, I have no idea, but I think you might just manage to get away with calling Vladimir Putin “a Russian megalomaniac”.

And Donald Trump is, without doubt, “an American Dime-store Mussolini”.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and may your New Year be filled with love and laughter.

10 people found this helpful

Share Article:

John Carter

Long-time presenter of TV’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and BBC holiday programmes

One Response

  1. Good to hear from John Carter again and I agree with everything he says, especially about the hard times of the past that I’m sure a lot of younger people have no idea about.

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Explore China with our guide tailored for travellers over 50. Discover ancient wonders, vibrant cities, culinary adventures, and landscapes…
Rich in exotic wildlife, tropical forests, white-sand beaches and lost civilisations, Belize really is a diverse pocket of overlooked beauty….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.