Graham Carter - the voice of age and experience

HOW is your Christmas shopping coming along? Ours is off to a flyer.

And yes, I know it’s only October.

Actually, it was still September when we started it — in Brighton, last weekend, while wearing sunglasses and eating a 99.

We like Brighton a lot, and one of the reasons is the shopping there is great (much better than in Swindon, frankly).

On the way down, my wife revealed her cunning plan: as we wander around the Lanes and the other shops, why not have a think about what would be suitable for Christmas presents?

I thought she had gone completely mad this time, and had to give her one of my stares, but the more I thought about it, the more it began to make perfect sense.

I love Christmas, but I think there are millions of people who don’t like it because they think it has lost its magic, and that is really sad, because Christmas should be a happy time, filled with happy memories.

But those who have let the magic fade only have themselves to blame.

If you don’t like Christmas any more, it is probably because you have let yourself get too stressed about it, usually because you have left the shopping too late, or you think it has become too commercialised.

We could see this happening to us, too, so two years ago we decided to do something about it, and came up with a strategy.

It involved booking a short holiday in Berlin in the first week of December, partly because the Germans have Christmas off to a T — not just with their markets, but the whole atmosphere they create in their cities in December.

But it also allowed us to complete all (or at least most) of our shopping in one fell swoop while we were away, leaving us with the rest of the month to relax and enjoy the fun things about Christmas.

Last year we did the same, but in Hamburg, and it was just as successful, and this year we are hopping over the border to Poland, where we are even hoping to really get in the Christmas spirit by getting snowed on.

It all seems a long way from sunny Brighton in September, but we just thought that, with the pressure off and since we were enjoying the shops anyway, we might as well start even earlier, especially as we have big families and the number of great nieces and nephews we have to buy presents for has now hit an alarming level.

In no time we had bought our first half dozen presents, and by the time we reach Poland, we will be in cruise control.

If you still think we are mad, consider this: Brighton’s shops weren’t packed like they are in December, and nobody was pushing and shoving or shouting at their kids; not a single shop was playing that irritating song by Slade; there were no dodgy people wearing Santa suits, beckoning us into their tacky Christmas shop; and we weren’t met at every turn by gaudy advertising and signs spelling Christmas with an X (my pet hate).

It was Christmas shopping heaven.

Don’t assume from all this that we approve of shops putting up decorations and selling chocolate Santas in October, or that we will ever forgive pubs for getting out the Christmas trees and fake presents while the leaves are still falling, shamelessly plugging their overpriced festive meals.

We all know it all starts too early, gets far too much hype and gets tackier every year, so follow us and take control of Christmas 2017 before it’s too late.