We didn't get fancy presents at Christmas (because iPads hadn't been invented)

Swindon Advertiser: The 'real nativity' The 'real nativity'

A FIFTH of children are ignorant of the true meaning of Christmas, according to Church of England charity The Children’s Society.

Among the findings of a survey it commissioned was that nine per cent of youngsters think December 25 is the birthday of Father Christmas.

I think the charity is worrying unduly. Every kid knows the true meaning of Christmas and always has. They just get a bit confused. I reckon the best bet is for schools to print off handouts with all the pertinent information – something like this: Christmas is the birthday of Jesus, the baby in the manger at your Nativity Play. Yes, we realise the baby in the manger is a doll somebody found in the lost property box and swaddled in a length of curtain material, but try to imagine a real baby.

Things in the real Nativity happened more or less in the same order as they do in the Nativity Play but weren’t recorded on smartphones by the participants’ parents.

Baby Jesus was also grown-up Jesus, who did miracles and was a nice man. If you want to know what he looked like, Google an actor called Robert Powell and imagine him a bit younger and with long hair and a beard.

Jesus is 2013 years old. If you find that confusing, just wait until we get to the bit in RE where he’s also God and the Holy Spirit.

Christmas is also the time of year when lots of grown-ups like to talk about the true meaning of Christmas being lost. We like to tell you about Christmas in our day being a magical, twinkling time of innocence, simple presents, gratitude and the comfort of knowing that it’s better to give than to receive. All we got, we’ll tell you, was a modest stocking of toys, some fruit and perhaps a low-denomination coin.

This is, of course, complete nonsense. We threw screaming tantrums until we extracted a promise from your Grandma and Grandad that we’d get an Evel Knievel set, a Tiny Tears, a Castle Greyskull, a Cabbage Patch Kid, a Thunderbirds Tracy Island or whatever else we’d seen advertised on the telly or found in the Argos catalogue.

We also fought your aunts and uncles like mortal enemies over everything from batteries to who got the first pick of the Quality Street.

We’re telling you the truth when we say we didn’t have fancy games consoles and tablets and things like that, but only because they hadn’t been invented yet.

Something else we’ll tell you is that we didn’t spend all of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in front of the telly. We would have done if we’d had several hundred channels to choose from like you. Instead we only had three or four and they were mostly rubbish.

We didn’t go out to play in sub-zero temperatures for the good of our health, I can tell you, but it was better than watching Digby the Biggest Dog in the World yet again or seeing some second-rate celebrities ‘cheering up’ the unfortunate inmates of a children’s ward.

Apart from that the only other TV programmes were grown-up ones such as the news, which always seemed to include some ancient people aged 35 or more talking about how commercialised Christmas had become and how it was better in the old days.

  •  THE emergency services and other safety organisations have united to bring us their annual rolling programme of excellent festive safety advice.

Simple but eminently sensible tips include avoiding cheap and nasty Christmas tree lights and not leaving newly-bought presents in unattended cars.

I’d just like to add my own handy hint: Sellotape pillows to the hard edges of furniture to minimise impact and injury if you happen to bump into or trip over it. Pillows attached to coffee tables are especially handy if you’re too tired to get to bed or the stairs are suddenly a bit daunting.



SMOKING should be banned from all hospitals and all hospital grounds, says the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

In addition, says Nice, staff should refuse to assist patients who want to make their way to a smoking area.

Now then, while I reckon we can all agree that smoking’s a killer, I think Nice and the NHS in general would do themselves some favours in the popularity stakes if they attended to one or two other issues before tackling smoking.

Cleanliness would be a good one. Ask Joe and Josephine Public whether they’re more bothered by (a) people lighting up in far-flung corners of the grounds or (b) blood and excreta on the floors and sometimes up the walls, and it’s a fair bet that most will plump for (b).

Other things the officials might want to prioritise are patients waiting on trolleys because there are no beds available, patients waiting for procedures because there are no staff available and patients being denied life-changing or even life-saving drugs and therapies because there’s no cash available.

The continued problem of hospital-acquired infections might also be something which merits attention.

The advantage of tackling these issues rather than bullying smokers who are only harming themselves is that it would make a real difference to the health of countless people.

The disadvantage, of course, is that it would be far harder work than bullying smokers and wouldn’t give bosses the chance to proclaim meaningless nonsense about zero tolerance.



THE recent closure of a Swindon hotel set me thinking there should be a change in the law over who gets what when a business goes bust.

Instead of first paying off the biggest creditors such as the banks and the Inland Revenue, how about starting with the people owed the least but who can least afford to lose it? How about starting with the people who hand over deposits and down payments and then have to go through the worry of waiting to find out what, if anything, they’ll get back?

Maybe if the banks, the financiers, Whitehall and the rest of the ne’er-do-wells knew they’d be last in the queue when it came to divvying up the remains, they’d pay more attention to what was happening while companies were still going concerns.


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