Dom Joly: It was trolleys at dawn and pterodactyls at dusk

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The Independent Online

Thank God it's all over for another year. I do enjoy Christmas, it's just that the lead-up to the event is so stressful. We decided on a dawn raid on Waitrose the day before Christmas Eve... unfortunately our plans were discovered and the secret was out. We arrived to find that everyone in Cirencester was trying to do the same – it was a shambles.

In one corner families struggled for control of the pancetta. Elsewhere pitched battles were being fought in the semolina aisle after Our Lady of Nigella had announced that this was what you should put on your roast potatoes this year.

Some people had built shopping trolley barricades and had completely sealed off both the cheese and baking areas. We did our best and threw everything we could find into our trolley while Jackson kept an eye out for trolley pinchers – these are the people who spot something in your trolley that they have forgotten and grab it from you.

Lined up down an aisle in a long queue to get to the tills, I heard a very horsey woman ahead of me explode with rage as she turned to an ex-military looking type next to her, resplendent in mustard cords and vivid pink shirt: "This is unbearable. It's complete chaos." The military man nodded solemnly and then replied: "I know, I know, but it could be worse. We could be in Tesco."

The lady calmed down as did all the rest of us. We might all be very stressed and bankrupt and in a queue with no end but at least we weren't in Tesco, or, God forbid, Aldi.

Unbelievably, our plans then got even more crazy. Stacey had decided that we must all drive up to London to take the kids to see the Christmas lights. Stacey loves Christmas and does a fantastic job organising it all, but this really was one step too far. I tried to refuse but resistance was futile and I, along with the kids, was forced into the car and off we went. It took us an hour and a half to get to the West End and another two hours before we found somewhere to park.

The kids were going mental but we frog-marched them off to see the lights with the promise of a visit to Hamleys. Nobody I know in London ever goes to see the lights, they don't even go to the West End. Why would you? It's horrible. I lived in London for 20 years and never saw the lights. Now, here I was, a country bumpkin doing the tourist thing and feeling like a plonker.

It was three in the afternoon and the lights weren't even on. We went to Hamleys instead – big mistake. The crash barriers outside should have been a clue. There were badly dressed elves trying to direct the flow of human traffic. It was like Venice in high summer. We were squashed chav to chav as we were carried around the store by a crazed mob. I found the dinosaur section, where several stressed dads had taken refuge with their sons. I ducked in with Jackson and he spotted a pterodactyl – he loves pterodactyls. We picked it up and it was job done for him.

Parker, however, was after a Build-a-Bear. This is a very expensive teddy bear that you construct yourself – you put a heart in it, record a message for it to say when squeezed, then you fill it with stuffing and choose an outfit. For all this work you'd assume you'd pay less, as they've cut out the Chinese labourer from the process, but oh no, Christmas logic dictates that you must pay more. The bear was eventually tracked down, and we fought our way to the tills using swords nabbed from the pirate department.

It could have been worse I suppose; we could have been lying on a beach in the Maldives....