Any Garland on Christmas

Andy Garland

Andy Garland - Credit: Archant

Radio Kent broadcaster and producer Andy Garland is trying his best to avoid knuckling down to Christmas planning this year by indulging in the random acquisition of useless information

I’m...well, I’m er…um…

Procrastination, the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished, the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks rather than more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later date.

December is a perfect month, with presents to buy, social events to attend and an almost military-like schedule of familial visits; I begin them all by completing the essential task of once again typing ‘derelict mansions UK’ into Google.

Fuelled by repeated viewings of Grand Designs and Country House Rescue, I dream of renovating a crumbling pile. With Kent’s property prices beyond my reach, my search takes me from Wales’ Hafodunos Hall to the Disneyesque towers of Shandon House in Scotland, just a stone’s throw from the peace camp at the Faslane naval base (the reason for these tangential informational excursions will become clearer in a moment), via my home county of Devon and its Poltimore House.

Dreaming of panelled libraries, oxblood red leather chesterfield wingback armchairs and gravelled turning circles can keep me quiet for at least a couple of hours; but when a festive season deadline really begins to loom there’s nothing better than traversing the highways and byways of a Wikipedia trail.

So, my curiosity piqued by a recent sideways glance from the M20, I search for Aylesford’s Preston Hall. This leads me to the Medway Valley Line which ran through part of the estate, and from there a swift canter through the 1955 modernisation plan inevitably points to every rail enthusiast’s pantomime baddy and infamous man of Kent, Dr Richard Beeching. A hop, skip and a jump via former Transport Minister Ernest Marples combined with a rather saucy turn of events and eventually I end up reading about the rather more prosaic topic of green belts. All fascinating but I’m still procrastinating.

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And I’ve not even begun on the time-wasting capabilities of social media; time was, when on Christmas Eve when I would actually sit down (at the bottom of the stairs – remember the days when the phone was in the hallway? How impossibly quaint that seems now) and call my friends up one by one to literally talk to them.

Now a flick through my Twitter feed and a scroll down my Facebook timeline reveals I’m not alone in passing virtual season’s greetings to friends and family alike. Indeed my New Year’s Eve message last year from Monty Python’s The Meaning of life - “Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations” - was shared far and wide.

Sensible policies for a happier Britain that may be, yet in the time it’s taken to copy and paste that text, I’ve since learnt that Python regular Carol Cleveland is 73, Jane Leeves (one of the Christmas-bedecked dancers in the The Meaning of Life) was born in Ilford and has an Emmy to her name and that Matt Frewer, who also featured briefly, went on to play 1980’s icon Max (M, M, Max) Headroom.

I like this almost random acquisition of useless information, but it is such a time waster. I must knuckle down to December’s Kent Life column… wFind out more

Andy Garland presents Sunday Gardening from 8am on BBC Radio Kent, kentgardening@bbc.co.uk or text the team on 81333, starting your message with KENT