The dark side of the whiteboard - So much for elf and happiness

24th December 2010 at 00:00

When did Christmas get so glitzy? I remember when preparations consisted of looping a single strand of tinsel over a synthetic tree, roasting potatoes in glow-in-the-dark lard and shoving a fistful of Paxo up the turkey's bottom. Maybe we pushed the boat out a bit more at New Year and toasted in the chimes with Pek chopped pork, Eat Me dates and a bottle of Cherry B. But nowadays, the whole festive food thing has spiralled out of control. Thanks to the clash of the culinary Titans - Delia, Jamie, Nigella et al - you can't move in supermarkets for goose fat, redcurrant jus and long-haul vegetables. Your chestnut stuffing is as likely to be accompanied by a frequently flying Jerusalem artichoke as a stay-at-home English spud.

And the extravagance doesn't end there. Look at your crackers. In the olden days, when you pulled a cracker you got a riddle and a fortune-telling fish. But snap one open today and out pops a luxury executive toy. The only riddle is what to do with that silver money clip when the penny finally drops that you've got no fivers left to clip.

You might have thought that in these frugal times, with Santa delivering more austerity packages than PS3 bundles, we would be tightening up our belts. But looking at the star-spangled cast of the current MS advert, it's clear the message has yet to hit home. Quite why we should be dancing isn't made clear. Since British Gas increased its prices by seven per cent for eight million customers this winter, maybe it's simply to keep warm.

The Ghost of Christmas Past could help us cope with the hardships ahead. For my 10th Christmas, I wanted a pony. What I got was a Timex and a tin of toffees. But I suffered in silence. In those days, you were stopped from complaining by some astute television scheduling - just as you opened your presents, images of Leslie Crowther making the rounds on a children's ward were beamed directly into your sitting room. How churlish would it have been to moan about an unwanted wristwatch when these kids weren't complaining about unwanted tumours?

We've become too soft. We need our toy manufacturers to toughen up the next generation by introducing new lines to reflect the zeitgeist. How about Benefits Barbie, the single mum with a "pop-'em-out" tum? They could accessorise her with a BrightHouse furniture pack featuring overpriced "rent-to-own" essentials.

And while we're about it, we could pressurise the BBC to sack the celebrities in the Boxing Day panto and cast the coalition instead. Nick Clegg would be great as Aladdin the unprincipled boy, while the part of WisheeWashee has Vince Cable written all over it. And Michael Gove could put the wanky back into Widow Twankey. Scene One: Enter Widow Twankey carrying a wrapped Ikea flat-pack school, bearing the gift tag: "To Toby, with love". Cue music: Mistletoe and Wine. Sings: "Christmas time, Miss Birbalsingh's divineSoldiers drilling kids in lineSport funding's under firethe curriculum's been set freetime to make all schools into academies ... ".

We could follow this up with It's a Miserable Life. But in this modern remake, George Bailey drowns, the Building and Loan collapses, and Mary loses her job and ends up as Mr Gower's crack whore. And in the last chilling scene, Bedford Falls turns into Cameronville. Atta boy, David!

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.

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