Andrew Starkie’s Ashes Diary 2013/14 (entry 3)

What, with life with a feisty one year old; extra shifts at work; a nasty little virus; clean ups and catch ups; having my online bank accounts cleaned out; packing for tomorrow’s trip to Canberra; arranging a neighbour to look after things while we’re gone; my sisters, their kids and Handsome Joe and his out of the blue, Belgian fiance on their way over this afternoon for a bbq; Linda about to burst a boiler and Eloise down for a rare arvo nap, it’s been a bit hectic of late.

I reckon I’ve got 53 minutes to share a few thoughts. Don’t expect thorough proofreading.

Tell me what you think about this:

The other night at work we had an Art Therapist in to run a workshop (I work in Welfare these days). Afterwards, as she was packing up and heading off, I wished her ‘Happy Christmas’. Pretty natural I thought, this time of year.

She chucked it straight back at me.

‘Actually, happy holidays and happy new year,’ she corrected.


It was an uncomfortable moment.

Now, it goes without saying, I respect everyone’s right to believe and celebrate, or not, whatever they choose. Each to their own. Separation of religion and State; Democratic country; freedom of choice and all that. Love it all. But, I have to admit, I was somewhat stung by her response. I had never met this woman before and offered my words as a genuine gesture of goodwill and peace. I offer similar sentiments to everyone I meet this time of year, regardless of race, religion or football team. It is not meant to be indoctrinative; simply friendly.

As I said, I’ve never met her, know nothing about her past or upbringing and respect her right to believe whatever she wishes. However, I felt my rights were being disrespected in a little way.

What do you think? Has the world gone mad when you can’t offer someone a Christmas greeting? Or am I reading too much into it. Or is that just the Welfare sector?

The cricket…..

I was so nervous at Lunch on the last day in Perth I forgot to put baby tomatoes in the salad, while later, nearly forgot to pick up Eloise from Daycare (a fate worse than death).

With the Poms six down and cruising, Stokes doing a Botham, the cracks too wide to help the bowlers, Aussies getting edgy, I feared the worst. I had visions of a stiff upper lip, miracle England victory leading to a huge momentum swing and a 3-2 series defeat for our boys.

Thankfully, my catastrophising was wrong again.

The Poms haven’t been up for the fight. Batsmen haven’t coped with the bounce and our bowlers’ menace and have showed too little grit and application. Too many get out shots when Boycott guts was required. The wickets of Bell and KP have been crucial but at times they’ve looked disinterested. Cook can’t wait to return to the manor.

Besides Broad, bowlers have disappointed. Anderson can’t swing it here and drops his head. Swann’s found it all too hard and has just announced he’s taking his bat and ball and going home. On the one hand this is a selfish, abandoning the sinking ship move, particularly with Trott gone, however when your time’s up, it’s up. Trembles and Bresnan are unfit and shouldn’t have played, particularly when others were raring to go. England’s bowlers have had Australia in trouble in each Test, but haven’t had the desire to finish the job.

Hang on, Eloise is awake and I have to change her nappy.

Back. England’s fielding has been scratchy at best, which is the best indicator of how a team is travelling. Cranberry, or whatever his name is, shows a bit with the bat despite struggling with the bounce, however I wonder if he realised he dropped the Ashes in Adelaide.

Australia, obviously, has dominated all three areas. We knew what we were going to get from Clarke with the bat, however the performances of Warner, who has suddenly found a straight bat, Haddin on a second wind and Watto and Smith in Perth, have had greater influence. Smith’s century will be talked about for years.

Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Enough said about our bowlers. Mitch, Sidds, Harris (how good is his fielding?!): menacing and unrelenting. Bowling to plans and to maintain pressure. Lyon has taken important wickets. McDermott must take credit.

Sledging? Notice both teams pulled their heads in in Perth? We can win without it.

Well, as said above, we’re off to our nation’s capital tomorrow and then down the south coast on Boxing Day. So, no Test for me. I won’t pretend I’m not shattered.

Happy Christmas. Oops, can I say that?



  1. AS – it’s an easy one. Let those offended by Christmas keep working. The rest have a break.

    This Test will show how good we are (or not) with nothing really on the line.

    Happy Christmas to you and yours.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    Personally, it doesn’t bother me if someone wishes me happy xmas*, but I can well understand why someone might be bothered by it. In short, it is not politically correct. The acceptable well wishing is ‘Happy holidays’ as she pointed out. I think it’s just safer to respect that there’s enough atheists and non Christian types out there who’d prefer this phrasing. As to why there is a sensitivity about this, well I expect each person that is offended by ‘Happy Xmas,’ could give you a solid reason for it. Mine would be a plain and simple dastardly one: I just love agitating Christians any way I can!

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Dips, well said. And yours.

    T Bone, ‘not politically correct’, ‘acceptable well wishing’? First I heard. Christmas means so much to so many, Christian and Athiest, why can’t people be allowed to enjoy and spread joy without running foul of the Fun Police. Interesting how Christian bashing is in. Local councils not displaying nativity scenes; Annabel Crabb asking Pm Abbott why he had faith, instead of simply respecting his right to. If he was of another faith would she have asked the question? Often it’s non-believers, with little knowledge of the faith, who take religion more seriously than practising Christians. Each to their own.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Personally not religious so don’t mind either way the , Ad Uni FC greeting of ,
    Merry Bob Neil and a Happy New Beer always suffices for me . Good summary and the lack of fight from several members of the all nations side has been bewildering at best and spot on the selectors must take a lot of the blame for picking underdone and unfit bowlers .if any more members of the touring party decide to knick off they may have to make a , SOS to the barmy army to make up the numbers . Ohh hang on they will find a
    New Zealander who qualifies to strengthen there side Thanks Andrew

  5. I pedantically always write “Merry Christmas.” Merry Xmas is a worse abomination than “Happy Holidays.”
    I am not a practicing Christian, but the Jesus story is the foundational myth of western society. I try to honour it, and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.
    The sins of the church are many, the sins of atheists many times worse. We are all imperfect, but the Art Therapist would have copped a gobfull from me.
    Christmas good wishes to all.

  6. For those of you out there who are going to continue using Happy Xmas in the workplace, or the public domain, I suggest you think it through a little more. Quite simply it is the very definition of political incorrectedness. Read the wikipedia page on political correctedness if you’re having trouble getting your head around it.

    As for those of you who are going to give people a gopful to other people don’t like it, well how very christian of you.

  7. Correctedness??? Correctness, correctness! I’m type too fast these days for my brain to keep up.

  8. Phil Dimitriadis says

    T Bone, I defected to Festivus after watching ‘That’ Seinfeld episode. Not everybody celebrates or believes in Christmas, Starkie. Maybe it was the tone in the way she said it that irked you. Merry Christmas to you and all knackers who celebrate the myth/tradition/historical event.

  9. Hey Phil

    Merry Festivus right back you. And love your work in Fandemic … beautifully written articles and you make many convincing cases tying in footylore with mythology.

    Oh and happy holidays to everyone in the almanac community.

  10. Whether you believe in Christmas or Jesus or Allah or not, the fact is: it is Christmas time. And it is not necessarily holiday time, especially for shift workers such as myself who clock off at 6am this Wednesday morning.
    Starks, Couldn’t she have just said ‘thank you for the sentiment, but…’?
    Merry Christmas to all almanackers.

  11. Ben Footner says

    I’m with Dips – if we’re going to do it, let’s go the whole hog. No religious based holidays to be observed unless you have a ‘priests’ certificate certifying you as a regular practicing Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/etc.

    Same goes for the old footy on Good Friday argument. You want footy on Good Friday? Fine – just abolish the holiday for all those who don’t believe in it. Problem solved.

    We live in a world where it is now even too hard to simply wish our fellow man/woman well. Says it all really.

  12. Ben

    No one is stopping you from wishing your fellow man / woman well, just follow what’s PC. We share our workplaces with people who have a great many varying beliefs and ideologies. We have to learn to be mindful that things we consider to be harmless may not be to others. I imagine a person who doesn’t like the merry Xmas greeting has very good reasons for as much ( and if you want me to speculate over some, by god, I don’t where I’d start!!). I feel that those of you who laugh this off do so at your own peril. As Andrew found in his workplace, this sensitivity is out there and it’s here to stay.

  13. Ben Footner says

    If people can’t take my well wishes in the manner they were intended, regardless of their form, then I just won’t bother T Bone.

    It’s no different than giving someone a gift, and having them hand it straight back to you because they don’t like it. What do you do next time? Nothing. You don’t bother. Here ends ‘love thy neighbour’.

    In a truly open and accepting society the onus should lie with the receiver, not the giver in this instance.

  14. Hey Ben

    I think it’s a bit more sophisticated than that, mate. By wishing someone a merry Xmas, you’re adding a religious connotation to your well wishes. Not everyone wants the connotation. Dare I say, some are even mortified by it ( i.e. the great many of us who despise Christianity.) It’s just safer to say ‘Happy Holiday’ in the workplace. Happy Xmas, for me (and the PC world for that matter), is out of place there.

  15. I fear we are at an impasse here T Bone, best we call truce now I think.

    Happy …. no wait ….. merry …. no wait ….. oh, whatever….

  16. Ben

    Actually, I thought I had your view on the ropes … but I’ll settle for the impasse

    Happy holidays to you and your family

  17. Nice post Starks. I wonder how your co-worker would go if she worked in Saudi Arabia and objected to ‘happy Ramadan’.
    Cripes, soon we won’t be able to call Aussie Rules “football” because it might offend some soccer purist.

  18. Let’s be thankful we don’t live in a tyrannous country, Damien, and we can express our right not to have religiousness in any way or form pervading our personal space, I say.

  19. If anyone’s still interested in this brewing development in political correctness (if indeed it is a brewing development in political correctness!), I found this thread on the ABC. It contains the usual quotient of nutters and haters, but if you can wade through them, there’s some really interesting views (and for both sides of the equation.)

    PS And on my manner in this post, I hope I’ve not come across as being combative. I readily admit that I have an axe to grind against religion (the reasons for which are very personal) and that that sometimes gets the better of me. All the same, I also thought a few of you were a little too dismissive of this matter. Maybe you’re right, and it is dismissible, but perhaps it not. Only time will tell I guess. Cheers.

  20. Peter Schumacher says

    Was going to stay out of this rather than stoke up the flames but for what it is worth, Christmas is the time to celebrate Christ’s birth,whether that be fact or fantasy or whether the implications of this event are fact or fantasy.

    I totally understand that in this secular world of ours that to express any view of religion with any sort of certainty is doomed to failure because there is not proof of any of it, for the adherents of any religion or creed it is just blind faith. Of course this is no basis on which to enter into any enlightened discussion with those who don’t share that faith or who are uncomfortable or indeed for any reason annoyed by the influence of what they see as unbridled and ignorant superstitions.

    I think that my response to the lady would have been, “no you are still wrong, if you are going to invoke that line of thought the correct greeting to give would be “have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year”.

    That is what I offer to Almanackers

  21. Hi All

    I stumbled upon a Merry Xmas / Happy Holiday correction this arvo (link below). Up until the correction, the Fox News interviewer is harassing the atheist (my take, but I’m sure you’ll agree) and in closing, wishes him a Merry Xmas, to which the the atheist corrects with a Happy Holiday. It is a very tense moment, and in viewing it, you can only think that we are in for some uncomfortable times if both parties don’t give in a little. Anyway, if your interested, have a look see.

  22. Andrew Starkie says

    T-Bone, can we put an end to this, please (he says while typing another post). Each to their own. Believe or don’t believe, whatever. Just respect each other’s rights and don’t be insulting.

    My Christmas wish was a simple gesture of peace and happiness that I say to everyone, EVERYONE, this time of year. I used to teach at a very conservative islamic College. In my leaving speech I wished all Happy Christmas and the world didn’t cave in. The kids I taught, mostly Middle Eastern, loved the presents and good will at that time of year.

    You’re right Phil, it was her tone and approach that irked. Her response was rude and lacked social grace and skill.

    PC is well and good and has its place, for sure. But sometimes it goes too far and simply becomes madness

    Happy Christmas.

  23. Hi Andrew

    You seem terribly annoyed that this dialogue is continuing so I’ll respect your wishes, and cease and desist.(as I’m mindful each comment flows through to your email address.)

    But I have say I am very disappointed that you’re so dismissive of what is now a well established part of PC etiquette. If you want to cherry pick which part of political correctness suits you, that’s your business. But I shouldn’t be surprised should I, as cherry picking what suits you and what doesn’t suit you is all part of being Christian, isn’t it?

    Happy Festivus

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