I’ve often thought that if Christmas didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent an occasion when people could reconnect with long-lost friends and family.
There are people on my Christmas card* list whom I am even less likely to see in the flesh again than Ricky van Wolfswinkel, but it’s still good to keep in touch with them every year.
In fact, Christmas can be seen as the original social networking tool, predating even the ancient and outmoded Friends Reunited.
Oh, I know you young people have other social networks these days, like Faceplant and Twonker, or whatever they’re called. But you still need a reason to make contact with someone out of the blue, so as not to appear a bit creepy or stalkery (which, I’m unreliably informed by Urban Dictionary, is a word).
Christmas is a good reason, but what others could you use?
Well, a job offer, for one. I was astonished to be contacted on LinkedIn recently by someone I worked with on the Weakest Link twelve years ago, to see if I’d be interested in writing questions for the next series of Fifteen to One.
(Yes, for a while I wrote questions and put-downs for Anne Robinson. It was the only job I could think of outside advertising where a head full of eclectic trivia and a knack for gratuitous personal insults would come in handy.)
Actually, the offer came around the same time that Mike Phelan returned to Norwich, and I couldn’t help wondering whether he’d been contacted with the same sort of message that I’d received:
“Hi Mike, you may (or may not) remember me from your days at Carrow Road years ago. I’m currently revamping the team here and was wondering whether you’d consider a return to this line of work. I know there were several reasons why you left, but I’m hoping this will be of interest to you if the conditions were right. For one, you wouldn’t have to sit at a desk facing the wall all day…”
An invitation to a reunion is another reason to renew acquaintances, and as coincidence would have it, I’ve just received one of these too.
My old college is having a dinner for my contemporaries in January, but the invite will be given shrift as short as that accorded to the Fifteen to One offer. I spent my first year at university trying to make friends, the second trying to keep them and the third trying to get rid of them.
And then, of course, there’s football.
Like Christmas, it wasn’t originally created to be an opportunity for people to get in touch after not seeing each other for ages, but it performs that function wonderfully well.
For starters, it works within the Norwich-supporting community. I’ve bumped into people at, or when travelling to, matches all over the country: at train stations, on the walk to the ground, while getting felt up by the friskers and in the stadium itself.
Last season, I met up with a cousin I haven’t seen for years in the toilet queue at White Hart Lane. And I discovered that my old central defensive partner in the Capital Canaries football team now has a season ticket a few rows in front of me in the River End.
Even with my oldest friend, it’s generally events at Carrow Road that prompt phone calls between us. (If football didn’t exist, my wife reckons, it would be necessary to invent a new reason for men to talk to each other.)
But City’s fortunes also elicit messages from supporters of other teams. The last time we were promoted, I was emailed by an old work colleague now living in the US from whom I hadn’t heard in almost twenty years. Simeon Jackson’s headed goal at Portsmouth was the spur for him to seek me out.
It doesn’t even have to be a major event. I often hear from people when we’re about to face their team (or when they’ve beaten us). And it works both ways; I frequently use football to renew relations with old contacts – sometimes, it has to be admitted, with cynically mercenary intentions.
For example, Harry Kane proved to be rather profitable a few weeks ago. I emailed a Spurs fan at an ad agency to ask how he was now scoring so prolifically when he had been so ineffective for us. The message reminded my contact of my existence and I ended up getting some freelance work out of it.
You may be wondering, as during the second half of Saturday’s game at Derby, whether a worthwhile point is to be derived from all of this.
On this occasion, probably not, I’m afraid – except that using the criterion of facilitating social interaction, football is even better than Christmas.
But then I think we all know it’s better anyway.
Here’s hoping you find both of them enjoyable and rewarding over the next few days.
*This year, we sent out Christmas cards designed by our son at school, and he deliberately went for a City-inspired colour scheme.
I have no problem with the green Christmas trees, but you do have to worry about the yellow snow.