Black eyes. If all you want for Christmas is a shiner, you must be counting down excitedly now.

Let me help – it’s three days away. Assistance with calculation is offered willingly because anyone wishing to be part of a pummelling – and maybe a night in a police cell – probably needs it. None too bright, eh? Never mind, we’re all different.

Black Eye Friday is as much a part of festive traditions in these parts as turkey with trimmings, roasted chestnuts, trimmed-up trees and Quality Street.

The last day of work before the Christmas break is customarily the chance to tank up with more booze than any system can stand and then to engage in combat.

It remains a complete mystery to me, never having been the fighting kind. But that’s neither here nor there – it happens. Every year in towns across Cumbria, the intellectually challenged set out for their fight night with salivating anticipation.

Hardly the seasonal spirit of peace, goodwill and hope the rest of us know to be the point of it all, is it? And since the lads, lasses, men and women who look forward to inflicting spontaneous, unnecessary bodily harm on fellow revellers are generally condoned as just party-people having a good time – well, the mystery deepens.

Anne PIkcles Curious, though, that while Cumbria County Council prepares to give safe haven to 300 Syrian refugees fleeing a hellish war, so many here react vociferously, vehemently and – if some of the comments made to the News & Star’s website are any measure – with vile objection to offering homes to strangers who may be dangerous, different, violent.

It’s a puzzle. Anyone seeing what’s happening in Aleppo and elsewhere in that desperate region will know it to be a deeply distasteful conundrum. Women and children are suffering the untold horrors of an orgy of fighting and bombing. To be honest, it’s now so fierce and has continued for so long, we’re hard- pressed to remember how it started, what any of it is about or what can be achieved.

Which is a bit like Black Eye Friday – on a massively different scale, of course. But what do those angry objections to holding out a hand of help say about the thinking of so many in Cumbria? Violence against women and children is hardly unknown here – especially at Christmas. Is it that we prefer to keep brutality exclusively home-grown and part of our good-time Christian traditions?

Fighting in the streets of Cumbria is so frequently followed by beatings served up at home, Cumbria police are finding it tough to keep track. And there’s little merit in arguing that we should look after our own before we reach out to refugees. One does not rule out the other. Looking out for fellow human beings – whoever they are – is a collective compassion and an imperative.

So, if you’re heading out after work on Friday – or any other day, for that matter – fully prepared for an overdose of ale and aggression, with a bit of domestic violence at home for afters, do have yourself a merry little Christmas, safe in the knowledge that someone else will patch up your victims and clean up the mess you leave in your wake.

But don’t dare to assume that there aren’t people more civilised than you, people who need rescue through no fault of their own, people desperate for the compassion of people absolutely unlike you.

And if there is any remaining spirit of goodwill in Christmas, they will find it. Here.