Monday 22nd November. For goodness' sake. That was the day on which the first Christmas lights appeared on the outside of one of the houses that neighbour mine. 22nd November! That is a full week earlier than last year (although not the same household). I am disgusted.
Please do not misunderstand me - I love Christmas, the trees, the scents, the decorations (the tasteful ones, at any rate), the carols, the food (inevitably) and - yes - the lovely lights. But I love all of these things at Christmas. NOT half-way through November. Grrrowl...
I did actually growl at one of the twinkling plastic icicles, but it served no purpose. The wretched illuminations continued to shine, oblivious to my disdain.
I mentioned the arrival of this year's lights to Ewan and Fizzy at work the next day. Almost as an afterthought (and don't ask me why I decided to pursue this line of enquiry - I ought to have known better from the outset), I thought I'd better make sure that the pea-brained, cheese-obsessed, but ultimately adorable canine Ewan understood what "Christmas" was. He is almost eight-years-old, but one can never tell with Ewan...
Ewan chuckled affably when I asked him if he knew what Christmas was all about.
"Oh, Jazz, you duffer!" he grinned. "Of course I know! Christmas is when we celebrate the arrival in this world of the innocent, simple, saviour of our hearts and souls."
I was most impressed.
"Blimey, Ewan." I exclaimed. "Well done you!" Ewan nodded and grinned proudly, before he added:
"The baby cheeses."
"The baby cheeses." repeated Ewan, innocently. At that, Fizzy got up quietly and trotted over to the wood skip in the yard where, as soon as she disappeared from view, I heard her dissolve into hysterical laughter. Totally oblivious to this, Ewan continued. "The baby cheeses came into a humble stable to bring purity and cheesy-goodness to all living things."
"Ewan - no. The Baby Jesus, Ewan, it's The Baby Jesus."
"The baby cheesus?"
"No - Ewan - no -" I began, before deciding that it really wasn't worth the effort. After all, he seemed to be almost half-way there...
"But yes." persisted Ewan earnestly. "The baby cheesus came from God to make everything better."
"Well," I began, "I concede that one might associate God with cheese-making - in that (if you are a follower of the Christian faith you believe that) he provided humans with the means and the materials necessary for MAKING cheese. But I'm not sure what his more direct involvement was - say, in the way that the cheese-producing Oke Valley Creamery, in Devon, is..."
"What do you mean, Jazz?"
"Well, I'm not sure that God Himself is an accredited cheese-maker. And, whilst Jesus of Galilee, no doubt, enjoyed eating cheese (primarily from the milk of sheep and goats, one suspects) he was in fact a man of mortal flesh and blood, as opposed to an actual cheese."
There was the merest moment of silence.
"So why was he called the baby cheesus, then?"
"Well... - He wasn't. He - oh, never mind. Just trust me on this one, Ewan. And be careful with whom you share this theory. Not everyone will take kindly your comparison of the Son of God with an unripe cheese."
Ewan looked somewhat deflated.
"But..." he whimpered, "I wanted to get leaflets printed and everything. Mummy is going to go round where we live putting little books about the true story of Christmas through peoples' letterboxes. She got them from church. They've got pictures in and everything." He began to get quite agitated. "I MUST help to spread the word about the baby cheesus!"
"Ewan - you concentrate on spreading actual cheese, just for you. And let the Word shift for itself, OK?"
My permanently-baffled friend looked rather crestfallen. However, true to his nature, he soon perked up.
"I like spreadie cheese!" he announced loudly. "I like it when I spread it on my biscuits!"
"Jolly good." I smiled. Ewan giggled conspiratorially.
"And Fizzy always likes it when I spread it on my -"
"YES! - Thank you, Ewan!" I interjected, hurriedly, as Fizzy instantly appeared from behind the wood skip with a stricken and mortified look upon her pretty face. "I believe that is a nugget of information which I can do without."
I will admit to feeling somewhat ashamed as Ewan trailed off, guiltily, "- breakfast biscuit for her to eat.... what?!"
"Never mind, Ewan, never mind. You worship at the altar of the cheeses. As long as you're happy."
"Oh, I AM, Jazzy, I AM!" beamed Ewan, wagging his mad, over-sized, fluffy tail. "How can I ever be sad when I have, not just the baby cheesus to love but, as well, my mummy, my daddy, my pretty lady Fizzy and my bestest-ever friend in the whole of the world, who is Jasper?!"
How could anyone NOT love Ewan?
"Ewan." I replied. "You are like no other dog I've ever met. Don't you ever stop being you."
As Ewan beamed his silly smile wider than ever, I realised that I had learned not just to tolerate him. Oh no. I had learned to love him.
True, he had the brain of a cold, overcooked, sprout on Boxing Day. But that just made him all the more loveable.
Baby cheesus, indeed. For goodness' sake...