Donald MacInnes: Can you really put a price on magic? Even second-rate magic?


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Why are we at all surprised when, at this time of year, we go through money like a canoe through water? Since when was Christmas anything at all to do with good financial sense?

Mary and Joseph were penniless, for heaven's sake. Their lodgings for the big night – a stable – was not some straw-strewn, barn-themed Bethlehem Travelodge. No, they had to bed down in an actual stable. And because it was essentially, you know, a donkey's toilet, you could have hung curtains on the smell. But it was all they could afford and they were darn grateful to have somewhere to lay their halos.

Now, I'm not here to cast scorn on those who equate Christmas with cash money, be it squandered or spent frugally. There is a lot of green being thrown around just now, so go ahead – exchange it for whatever you fancy. Just don't expect to get decent value for your festive doubloons.

I thus found my eyeballs rolling violently, as I read about the dissatisfaction shown by many woolly-jumpered families when they visited the much-derided winter wonderland theme area which was creatively overlorded by that most ludicrous of popinjays, His Velvetness Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. The Magical Journey, as the attraction was known, began near Sutton Coldfield (as all magical journeys surely must).

I'm not entirely sure why some people are complaining that the journey they undertook wasn't magical enough. But they are. One of the disgruntled attendees, Ms Michelle Guarini, moaned: "The Christmas market was about six shacks and there were some elves who didn't seem to know what they were doing."

Look, I'm no apologist for Larry Loo-Bowl, but come on, Michelle! Yes, you may have been charged a tenner to get in, but you saw elves! How can you be so blasé about catching sight of magical creatures that, just a few days ago, would have been dismissed as mere constructs of a storyteller's imagination? But your own eyes have confirmed that they exist! Does it really matter that they "didn't seem to know what they were doing"? Of course they didn't! They were out of their element! Probably still sleigh-lagged. You think wearing bells on your toes and a big pointy hat is fun?

Anyway, I have had a far worse festive experience. Only a few days ago I was pinballing through the television channels and was unfortunate enough to catch sight of the Sainsbury's "Christmas in the Trenches" advert. How the retail group's marketing team and its board of directors must have high-fived each other when they came up with the idea of slapping their logo on to the First World War; what business nous! It needs a special kind of genius to take the public's enduring and very palpable sympathy for those lads in the trenches and make some real wedge out of it. Well, guess what, Sainsbury's? You were wrong and your advert is monstrous. Go away and have a think.

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