Too naughty for the Nativity

19th December 1997 at 00:00
As the end of term is upon us, there's seasonal news of Santas and Nativity plays; the inevitable warning of the dangers of the demon drink; the enduring appeal of Winnie-the-Pooh and the latest Teletubbies scandal.

So to Father Christmas: in the US state of Michigan they are running sensitivity training classes for aspiring Santas, covering everything from avoiding charges of sexual harassment to voice training and dress etiquette.

An unfortunate Santa in Rochdale, England, could have benefitted from similar advice when confronted with eight-year-old Christopher Chantler, an inquisitive and rational child who promises to go far (according to The Times). Master Chantler asked Santa Claus how he had managed to cross Greater Manchester when he had just seen him a mile away in another store. Then he pulled his beard. What happened next is unclear. Santa slapped Christopher, is one version. The other is that as he tried to pull his beard back on Santa accidentally struck the boy. "There are some questions that are better not asked. And if you pull the beard of Father Christmas you should duck," advises the Thunderer.

There must be something in the air in Lancashire. Barbara Milne-Redhead, head of Brennand's endowed school, has stopped all Christmas festivities because of bad behaviour. Even the vicar's children are to be banned from taking part in the Nativity play, as "I had to do something drastic." Pupils were rude, answering back and using bad language, she said.

There might be something in the water in Stourbridge, according to Dennis Wyatt, deputy head of Redhill School, who has 18 sets of twins, half of them identical, on roll. "We must be unique," he said.

The enterprising young women of the lower sixth of Tiffin girls' school in south-west London have formed a company, Taboo, to create knickers with pockets. They got fed up with having nowhere to stow their money, keys or condoms when out for the evening in skimpy slip-dresses. Bentalls, the department store, is said to be interested in the idea. Look out Marks Spencer.

These thoughtful girls would not need any help from Jane Fonda either. She has come under fire for joining London International Group, the world's largest condom maker, in promoting birth control to teenagers in the US. She is leading the Truth for Youth campaign, an educational trust which encourages parents to teach their children how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Conservatives - US ones that is - have condemned her campaign for tacitly endorsing pre-marital sex and for explicitly criticising legislation that allocates some Pounds 150 million for promoting abstinence.

British teenagers, not noted for theirs, are the envy of Europe for their fun-loving disco lifestyles; but not for their spots nor for the time they spend in front of the small screen, a survey of 10,000 11 to 19-year-olds across the European Union discovered.

Most glamorous teenager of the week award goes to six-footer Olivia Inge of Wells Cathedral school who is combining homework for A-levels in English, theatre studies and French with a modelling career. "I haven't filled out the UCAS form," she said, confessing that she had more of an eye on the catwalk.

It is not known if Ms Inge speaks with a glottal stop, but linguistics experts have identified a trend towards this south London habit among posh public-school types. Charles Jones, professor of English language at Edinburgh University, has noticed that accents have percolated from working to upper class; not the other way round. Even the Queen is not quite sure if she should say "orf" or "off". So will the worst fears of former education secretary Gillian Shephard come true? Will we all be speaking "Estuary" before you can say: "Eliza Doolittle"?

And there's another hazard on the horizon: emotional literacy. "A weird hybrid, mothered by England's new emotionalism and fathered by the Hydra that is our burgeoning psychotherapycounselling industry. Watch out for it, " warns Garth Wood, a physician, who took schools minister Estelle Morris to task for embracing this "strange and dangerous animal".

And so to Pooh and Piglet : an EH Shepard drawing of the endearing creatures sitting on a five-bar gate singing the "Tiddly Pom" song has just sold at Christie's for Pounds 31,050. It was bought for Pounds 3 in 1958.

Finally, Teletubby Laa Laa has been hijacked by Sinn Fein to become an Armalite-toting IRA volunteer. She appears on a T-shirt sported in nationalist areas of Belfast. The BBC is appalled.

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