Arts and Entertainment

A window on the real world with Danny and his diamond geezers

CHRISTMAS WITH THE ENGLISH NOVELISTS

Dickens' A Christmas Carol is practically a blueprint for a traditional celebration, despite the fact it doesn't feature plastic toys, Quality Street, turkey or squabbles over the Christmas TV programmes. Anyone harking back to a simpler, less consumerist festival should consult one of three literary anthologies, published by Sutton at pounds 9.99: Dickens' Christmas, ed John Hudson, The Brontes' Christmas, ed Maria Hubert, and Thomas Hardy's Christmas, ed John Chandler (all Sutton pounds 9.99).

Theatre / Flying turkey

Missing Jesus

LAST NIGHT

As a device for extracting intimate information, The Chair (BBC2) is nothing compared to the large expanse of the daytime chat-show sofa. Julian Clary, a man introduced as being more serious in private than his outrageous public persona (shock), occupied the tiny seat opposite Oliver James. Would he, the good doctor wondered, care to discuss which parent he preferred the most? Or would that question be deemed too invidious? Our Julian, the product of a scholarship education, didn't understand the meaning of the word and, anyway, he couldn't possibly say - they might be watching. Though it was, Julian conceded, not a question that Anne Diamond would have asked. Too true. On the daytime sofa they would have simply asked him if he was gay because he didn't like his mum. And then they would have laid on a nice phone-in so the viewers could chip in their feelings on the subject. But Julian, we discover, is none too fond of confrontation. "I can't go to New York City," he said. "Because the policemen shout at you for crossing the road, and I can't stand it."

It's Wednesday the 25th: just another working day

The emergency services are not alone. Caterers, farmers and bankers are on duty too, writes Clare Garner

Whitaker and Skelton triumph

John Whitaker and Nick Skelton celebrated their new sponsorship deal when they won yesterday evening's two contests at the Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

BBC drops its pounds 1m Christmas TV turkey

A pounds 1m Christmas food scare spoof on "mad turkey disease" has been pulled from the BBC's Christmas television schedules because of the Scottish E coli outbreak which has now killed 12 people and infected nearly 400.

POETRY IN BRIEF

2 Christmas Day by Paul Durcan, Harvill pounds 9.99/ pounds 6.99. If you are at all jaded by or cynical about the commercialism of Christmas, you should try this as an antidote. Paul Durcan's new book-length poem portrays the Christmas ritual not so much as spreading goodwill as showing up the fissures and sutures in the protagonists' lives: "Christmas is the Feast of St Loneliness."

Film: Christmas Turkeys

Christmas is coming, and it's the time of year when bountiful studio santas like to offer audiences a few brightly wrapped novelties. If you read the gift tag on the poster, these are usually billed as "a magical modern day fairytale" or some other twinkly guff that screams "Beware! Schmaltz! Only watch this if your brain has been irreparably damaged by sherry!" Unfortunately, instead of setting the warning bells jing, jing jingling, such tags can actually excite the seasonally sluggish Christmas bloater into staggering from the table towards the local multiplex, producing respectable turnovers for even the most corn-fed of Christmas turkeys.

Competition: Literary quiz

This gastro-literary quiz is divided into three courses, each with an element of self-service. We give you all the ingredients - both the questions and the answers - all you have to do is mix them together to taste. The prizes for the winner are all the food and drink books in the Dillons Christmas catalogue. There are also three runners-up prizes of pounds 100 of Dillons Gift Vouchers and an additional 10 runners-up prizes of pounds 50 Dillons gift vouchers.

Suicide fears for `bullied' boy

A missing schoolboy thought to have thrown himself into the sea was the victim of bullying, his father claimed yesterday.

Have yourself a calorific Christmas

THE COST of Christmas has been calculated, and it comes to 6,825, writes Tim Minogue.

Not everyone is nuts about Christmas with the folks

Dreading those days spent holed up with a bickering family? Virginia Ironside offers some advice

There's turkey and pud, but why?

The Christmas meal. A ritual in piggery that makes mothers scream and sends cardiologists into a frenzy. As turkeys tremble and stomachs recoil from the next onslaught of Aunt Aggie's terminal Christmas pudding, don't you ever ask yourself, "Why?"

LEADING ARTICLE : A warm glow in South Mimms

Stress over Britain. Stress curling under the doors of the executives of merchant banks; stress seizing the hearts of overworked middle managers in cold embrace; stress entering the industrial estate and paralysing the limbs of the small businessman; stress enveloping the Christmas shopper; seasonal stress taking the round redness out of the cook's face and replacing it with a pinched desperation. And stress gripping the temper of the Yuletide motorist, caught in jams or stranded by snow, with so much to do and so little time to do it.

Jasper Pleydell-Bouverie squares up to being the perfect Christmas host

This festive season looks like being an interesting experience. Gathered around a Derbyshire Christmas tree will be my mother and father- in-law, my wife and I, and two complete strangers called Dagnew and Ying Xue.
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