Monday, 27 December 2010

Not Boxing Day

Did you get some nice presents this year?

We're a bit odd in our family, in that we never ask for, or receive, anything of substantial monetary value. Even our kids have never wanted anything particularly large, though I'm sure we would have bought it for them if they had. Instead, we go in for lots of small and "moderately priced" items! It's a lot more fun, though it does make wrapping a bit of a chore.

My favourites this year were these:

The knife is a paring knife from Swiss kitchenware designers Kuhn Rikon -- a lovely thing, razor sharp with a non-stick coated blade and a plastic sheath, costing all of £4.50. I have no idea who designed the Amazing Flygun, but can't wait to try it out. I had a lot of fun last summer taking out flies with one of those wooden repeating rubber band guns -- amazingly accurate and effective over anything up to ten feet. I hate flies. Hunting them down one by one is far more satisfying -- and somehow more honourable -- than using flypapers and sprays.

Talking of design, if anyone knows the address of the person who designed condensation boilers with external condensate pipes (or of the person who made their use compulsory in Britain) do let me know, as I'd like to pop round and have a word...

Our condensate pipe froze yesterday, causing the boiler to refuse to work. I discover this is the commonest cause of boiler "breakdowns" in Britain. I spent a morning up a ladder applying a hot-water bottle to the pipe, to no effect. I gave in, and summoned a British Gas engineer. We spent the rest of the day without central heating or running hot water.

Inevitably, when the engineer turned up this morning, the pipe had thawed overnight and the boiler came on without a problem. Don't you hate it when that happens? Never mind, I expect he's been happily earning Bank Holiday overtime all day, tutting over condensate pipes that were definitely frozen yesterday. You'd think, wouldn't you, if they were going to make it compulsory to use these boilers, they'd also make it compulsory to insulate the external pipe... Call me a malcontent, but a heating system that is inclined to halt in cold weather seems somehow flawed to me.

Today, incidentally, is not Boxing Day. That was yesterday.


Dave Leeke said...

Actually, Mike, tomorrow is Boxing Day as it's a secular holiday - a bank holiday. Today is the holiday for Christmas Day. But Boxing Day is the first working day after Christmas.

Mind you, as we're now a secular country and loads of people work on Sundays anyway, it probably doesn't make a lot of difference.

Also, it was technically only St Stephen's day in Ireland. It's all very confusing, really.

So let's just all agree that yesterday was Boxing Day.

Even though it wasn't.

Mike C. said...

Nope, according to the Oxford Book of the Year, yesterday was Boxing Day. Oh, I can't be bothered to copy it all out...


Bronislaus Janulis / Framewright said...

Having just read the wiki article ... and being quite confused, I'll leave you Englishmen to work it out, or not.

Gavin McL said...

John Prescott (I think) introduced the legislation to make condensing boilers compulsary for new or upgraded heating systems. It was part of his megadepartments (can't remember what it was called at that time) responsibility in the early nougties. The installation guidelines now recommend that the condensate is fed into a bathroom drain or similar. Like the fly gun.

Dave Leeke said...

In a country that prides itself on its rich history of traditions - most of which tend to have started around 1830 - it's interesting that so few people actually understand the point of "Boxing Day". For most of the world December 26th is, indeed, St Stephen's Day - the first Christian martyr. In England - not a Catholic country - we call it "Boxing Day" based on the fact that there is a long-standing custom (not tradition) of giving and receiving a 'Christmas box' to tradesmen. First mentioned in the 1620s, they were earthenware receptacles with a slot in to collect annual 'tips' for services rendered. Different counties had different customs and amounts for certain trades people. It was quite a complex affair open to abuse and blackmail. See "Punch" magazine from the 1840s for satirical articles about it.

Anyhow, into the 20th Century the custom hung on for a while and post-WW2 generally the postman, paperboy, milkman and dustman were the usual recipients.

Given that I have to do most of the dustman's job for him and we don't have any of the others (well, postie turns up in-between strikes), the only person I gave a Christmas box to this year was the nice Indian chap that runs the local takeaway and brought our curry round on a freezing Christmas Eve.

It would seem that as the custom involves working people, that technically Boxing Day should be on the first working day after Christmas. But as anything that was done once before in this country constitutes "tradition" then as we have always called the day after Christmas Day Boxing Day then that's what yesterday was.

Honestly, I don't remember ever having this old nonsense brought up before. Surely we've had BD on Sundays before?

Mike C. said...

Prescott! Might have known...

If you're reading this, Two Jags, I've got my sights set on your mock-tudor condensate pipe -- prepare for a cold night!


Mike C. said...


You wouldn't let it lie! Please don't make me copy out the section in the "Oxford Companion to the Year" for Dec 26, including references to the Bank Holidays Act 1871...

According to the above tome, the first reference to Boxing Day is indeed 1833 (at least in the OED, never entirely reliable).

Boxing Day was yesterday. At least on this blog.

N.B. on "boxes", my Dad used to have a traditional bit of fun when the dustman knocked on the door, announcing "I'm the man that empties your bins". Dad would cheerfully reply, "And I'm the man that fills them for you!" It's not a tradition I've continued -- he had the presence and chutzpah to carry it off unbruised, and I don't.


Gavin McL said...

Your plan to do mischeif to Prescotts condensate pipe is possible as he his away on a cruise at the moment. Unfortunatley our ex Deputy PM and his wife have been struck down by Norovirus and are confined to their cabin. I know you will be dissapointef for them. By the way the security phrase is "lordlavy". How do they do it?