The Weasel

I ache to be given a food processor one Christmas but nobody will get me one. The Weaslets can't afford it, Mrs W thinks it unmasculine and my relatives would never stoop to something so frightfully useful
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ah Christmas presents! The deep joy of hacking through 19 layers of Sellotape, shredding the fleur-de-lys patterned wallpaper that passes for wrapping paper these days, extracting with a yell of seasonal triumph the Goblin Magimix you've always dreamed of in its voluptuously bulky cardboard carapace, dropping to one's knees the better to examine every detail of flange and gasket...

Never happened. It's just a dream I've had, these many long years. I ache to be given a food processor one Christmas but nobody will get me one. The Weaslets can't afford it, Mrs W thinks it unmasculine and my relatives would never stoop to something so frightfully useful. I'm afraid it'll be the usual rebarbative haul of turf-scented shaving soap and cut-price CDs of Robson and Jerome singing old Bachelors hits and other Yuletide fare.

It's traditional, at this time of year, to blame the shops for the crap people buy, but people are to blame. It's entrenched in the psychology of the modern consumer that, given a free hand in things to buy, from the heavenly to the atrocious, as presents for their loved ones, they will be driven by God knows what deviant impulses to buy at the atrocity end of the scale. Nothing else could explain the behaviour of Uncle Frank.

Frank is a Yorkshire Weasel, with a hideous strawberry-roan coat and a bellowing laugh. He is a godfather to the younger Weaslet (the one who spends his time in front of the television, developing psychopathic habits) and buys him presents, under my guidance. What, asked Frank, would the youngster like for his birthday? "Oh, something to interest him in technical matters," I replied. So he bought him a plastic dagger with a retractable blade. "What," enquired Frank, "would the kid like for a mid-term treat?" "Something to give him a clear idea of hydraulics," came my stern directive. It was, naturally, a SuperSoaker 2000 Water Gun.

Now he has gone too far. "What," queried Frank, "would the nipper like for Christmas?" "A book, Frank, a book," I said hastily, letting caution be my watchword. "Something instructive, yet not unentertaining to the growing mind. Anything to get him reading." I hold the result in my hand. It is called This Sucks, Change It! and is the official Beavis and Butthead Giant Inactivity Book (Simon & Schuster, price pounds 12.99), complete with remote control. When you're tired of looking at the pictures, you press one of the control buttons and that familiar flat voice says, "That's coo-al" or "Shut up, ass-munch". The Weaslet adores it. "It may not be Jane Austen," beams Uncle Frank, "but it's a start." I think I may have to go and have a little lie down.

Maybe Susannah Constantine could help. You remember her, the blonde with the determined chin, former consort of Viscount Linley, the ermined carpenter who obviously admired her bow-fronted chest, ha ha. Well Ms Constantine has suddenly revealed a hitherto undisclosed talent for presents. She has been crying a book of her suggestions, Just What I've Always Wanted, all over the available media, just in time for Christmas and I, like any other devotee of "gift ideas", have hung on her lips. Half an hour in her company (you imagine) and you'd have everyone's Crimble requirements good and sorted.

Sadly, it's not that easy. Ms Constantine does not believe, like the rest of us, in nipping down to Harvey Nichols. She likes her presents to be personalised, hand-made, wittily custom-built, tailored to suit the recipient's personality, that sort of malarky. After spending a weekend en chateau with Mick and Jerry, for instance, she gave them "a hand-made diary", not that either half of the starry pair would recognise such a thing, having fleets of people to carry, and indeed embody, diaries for them. After staying with Elton John in Australia, she sent him a "personalised badge" with the words "Your sacrifice hits my G-spot". How fortunate that the message (alluding to Elton's hit, "Sacrifice") was so uproarious. Mr John might almost overlook the fact that someone, somewhere, thinks a badge makes a good present.

One rare insight I gleaned from Ms Constantine, however, is that among the upper classes, you personalise presents by, as it were, reifying a popular phrase or saying. Thus if you fancy Imran Khan, you can, like Ms Constantine, send him a box of chocs in the middle of which is a cricket ball, to imply "The ball's in your court". (If I were Imran, I would construe it differently. I'd think someone was threatening me with a 90 mph delivery in the nut cluster.) If one of your posh associates is weighed down by cares (amphetamine habit affecting last payments on the Lamborgini, say), you send them a sculpted toy soldier to imply that they should "soldier on".

I think I'll try it. How would I go about conveying to Mrs W the message that to me she is a timeless beauty, as lovely as the Northern star in the night sky? Obviously I would send her an antique Fortuny evening purse, implying classiness, romance, a little night music and something to keep your valuables in, sort of ... eternally. Would it work?

Or would she think I was calling her an old bag?

Is it me, or is advertising going through a particularly loathsome phase, just in time for the season of peace and goodwill?

This column holds no brief for Theresa Gorman, but there seems something wrong when she's prosecuted for bunging in a couple of double-glazing units where nobody can see them, while the genius who has stuck a picture of a giant toilet bowl with a brick in it on every high street will probably collect an award. It's an advertisement for a computer game that is so frightening that it will make you ... well, you get the point.

I can't say I'm crazy either about the Trivial Pursuits poster that has a sweet old lady pulling a video called Fetish down from the shelves of her local rental outlet: ("I always get the blue ones," she is saying, saucily.) And there's the charming item I saw on the Tube, advertising a photo-developers, and accompanied by a shot of a comely young woman: "It took all night to pull a cracker - and only 30 minutes to get the picture developed." As regular readers may have spotted, the Weasel is hardly a radical feminist, but really...

The Weasel doesn't believe in Father Christmas. I don't deny his existence, as such. That's a matter of faith, and not worth arguing about. What I don't believe in is telling children about him.

The Weasel's circle is full of once-happy homes where tiny children now wake every night in mortal terror of a bearded interloper rooting around in their bedrooms. Pretty soon they're going to need counselling, such is his current ubiquity in their lives. From mid-December, most of the under-fives round our way have been meeting Santa two or three times a week during their round of children's parties and playgroup fundraisers. That doesn't mean they get to like him any better, however.

One anxious Dad of my acquaintance came home to hear the nanny discoursing at length to his two-year-old on the unusual methods of entry employed by the red-cloaked ho-ho-homewrecker. She was launching into an account of the "magic" he used to enter houses, like this one, where there is no chimney.

"No, no, no!" he screamed, aware that months of careful preparation were about to come to nought. "Santa doesn't come into this house. Never. He leaves the bloody presents in the garage."

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