OK, Santa, we give in, it's your time of year again. But here's one fat her with a list of what he doesn't want for Christmas
As one father to another, can we make a deal? You won't need telling that the festive season begins in earnest this week as the schools break up for the holidays. This is where you take centre stage, so may I ask you to sharpen up your performance a little?

Take Santa's Grotto. Always neatly positioned on the top floor of the big chain store at the end of all the toy displays, to put plenty of expensive ideas into their materialistic little heads.

Now let's leave aside the fact that these grottos used to be a sight more magical, with exciting mechanical sleigh rides to meet your good self, whereas now they are invariably just a room, a chair, some bottom of the range, gift-wrapped, remaindered stock, and you.

I suppose you can't be held responsible for that exploitative deterioration in standards. But you can be held responsible for your own performance. It's pathetic, man. "What would you like for Christmas, dear?" followed by a discernible head movement, a wink and a leer at the parent, and a far from sotto voce "How does that sound, dad?" It might get the sympathy vote at Rada, but a streetwise four year old sees right through it.

Hone your acting skills, please. When she asks for that £250 rocking horse, give her a lecture on goodwill, or the curse of Thatcherite values, or Bosnia, or anything. Use your imagination. Just don't shift the guilt trip on to me.

If you want things to whisper back into their little ears, why not be a back-to-basics Father Christmas? Sing the praises of jigsaw puzzles, Lego, a scintillating Peter and Jane book. No bicycles, computer games, and no, repeat no, Lion King soft toys at£30 a roar. There may not be a recession in the Disney empire, but there is here.

That's my anti-wish list I wanted to give you for the kids. Now here's some of things that I don't want for myself.

First of all, no Christmas cards. My real friends I see, talk to, lunch with, argue with all the time anyway. What's the point of sending cards to anyone else with the implicit message that I don't quite like you enough to want to see you during the year?

I also desire intensely not to have to go and see the Oxford Street lights with the children, shiver in the cold, get clamped, dragged into a megastore and probably end up in your grotto again.

Deliver me, too, from the Christmas panto: £15 a seat, non-stop chat, crying, sweet-unwrapping and occasional vomiting in the audience, though admittedly, it's better fare than the inept acting of Home and Away and Neighbours characters in search of an autocue.

Does that all sound churlish, Father Christmas? Then bring me something for the festive season that I really want. Like a trip to the Caribbean.

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