The weather outside may be frightful, but we couldn’t give a brass monkey’s any more
It was Oliver Cromwell who banned Christmas, not the Grinch. The Lord Protector wasn’t too keen on booze, either. Such were his yawnsomly puritanical ways. And despite being born in Huntingdon, he was - by descent - Welsh. Not for nothing does his name appear as Oliver Cromwell alias Williams on his marriage documents.
You can probably tell where I’m going with this. Prohibition. Misery. Tyranny. All in the name of protecting those in his fiefdom…
Yep, Mark Drakeford has gone and done it again. Except you’d have to say he’s more Oliver Hardy than Oliver Cromwell. Let’s face it, his systematic dismantling of the Welsh hospitality sector is without doubt another fine mess.
That hospitality is the third-largest private-sector employer in Wales, accounting for some 180,000 jobs matters not to the Welsh government, judging by their coup de grâce - an alcohol ban that would’ve had the puritans, the prohibitionists, the dry-Sundayists and the temperance movement all purring with schadenfreude.
Yet even as Drakeford laughed behind his lectern at a question from the media about whether mulled wine would be allowed to accompany mince pies in a cafe (yes, he actually guffawed as he effectively signed the P45s of thousands of workers), I couldn’t help but wonder whether he’d really thought this through.
I don’t mean thought it through in terms of the economy. He clearly hasn’t fumbled with a calculator in years. I mean in terms of his own personal safety. Because all these restrictions that keep being thrown at us… Well, they’re turning us into a bunch of hard nuts, on both sides of the Border.
Let’s not forget, Boris is screwing things up royally in England, too. He can blast his bugle and eye the sunlit uplands all he likes, but we’re all now bored of his empty, second-division Churchillian rallying cries. The worm has been turning ever since we were turfed out of the pub at 10pm. Told we could only meet friends and family in the park. Forced to shuffle around outside in takeaway queues, eat on picnic tables and drink in hastily erected draughty marques and gazebos as business owners endured another rally of kickings from Cardiff and Westminster, but somehow managed to keep buggering on.
And all this at a time when it’s starting to get a bit chilly.
Now normally this would present a problem. We'd shiver and turn up our frosted noses. Yet in our determination to grin and bear the new normal, with every degree of centigrade lost to the ether we’ve toughened up into a new species of hard-as-nails punter hitherto only ever witnessed on the terraces of Newcastle United on Boxing Day.
Getting a bit parky? Throw on another layer. A touch of frost? No need to scare the horses. A bobble hat and a pair of mittens’ll do the job. What’s that? A howling gale? Stop being so nesh. A nip of brandy’ll do the trick.
Me and Mrs Sheep have even taken to keeping a couple of bin liners about our person wherever we go, now. In case it chucks it down. Not to put over our heads, you understand. A bit of rain never did anyone any harm. We carry them to sit on. And to stay sat on for the next three stubborn hours, while we lay claim to the “ancient, inalienable right of the free-born people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub”. (Now who was it who said that, before condemning everyone except the Cornish and a few islanders to more tiers than cheers?)
It's because of this transformation, from lilly-livered first-worlders to new-age survivalists, that I say thank-you. Thank-you Covid. Thank-you China, with your bat soup. Thank-you Trump for… everything. Thank-you Chris Whitty and your dodgy graphs. Thank-you Boris and your whiff-whaffing flip flops. Thank-you Matt Hancock, and Michael Gove, and that berk at Imperial College with his doomsday scenarios. Thank-you Jeremy Corbyn, for giving us the hopeless Keir Starmer. Thank-you to the BBC for swallowing it all and turning yourself into a government propaganda machine. And thank-you, of course, to Mark Drakeford and your over-inflated sense of purpose.
Thank-you all for trying desperately to scare the crap out of us, but succeeding only in turning us into weather-proof, sub-zero-defying, hardened boozers all the more determined to keep drinking, eating and carrying on.
What's more, Bojo, Drakeford et al, you should be fearful. Very fearful indeed. I've witnessed just these past few days the incandescent ire on the faces of pub landlords, cafe owners and hoteliers, while their customers have become beer-garden vikings with axes to grind. And with your latest round of shenanigans dreamed up in your cosy, public-bankrolled assemblies and parliaments and official residences, well... now is the winter of our discontent. (Don't take my word for it, check out the West Conwy Pubwatch group who've banned Drakeford from than 100 boozers in North Wales!)
For starters, they might just want to dial down a bit on the Christmas rules. You know, like telling us not to play board games, for crying out loud. Not that we’re interested in Monopoly any more of course. Not when we can have a good old ruck outside playing British Bulldog in the snow. Or go skinny dipping in the village pond, once we’ve broken the ice.
As for being told to keep all the windows open on Christmas Day in order to save granny… Do you know what? We’d probably do that anyway now. Because we’re that bloody hard.
The only problem is, we’ll be getting far too drunk on cold mulled wine and bottles of Smirnoff Ice to notice that granny - suitably safe from catching Covid - has gone and keeled over with hypothermia instead.
It’s beginning to look a lot like a fiasco, don’t you think?
A mutton for punishment, Black Sheep welcomes all comments. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to air your points of view. You can also read Black Sheep in Welsh Border Life every month. When it's back.