It comes but once a year, but brings good cheer

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The Independent Online

Today I am proud to bring you a traditional pre-Christmas entertainment entitled Bah - Humbug! (A Tale of Old Fleet Street).

The phone rang. Dr Julian Angell answered it.

"Angell here."

Julian Angell was what they call a media doc. He was medically qualified, good looking, charming and not too expensive.

"Julian? Hello, there. It's the Life Force section of The Sunday Comforter here. The Christmas number is coming up, so we thought it might be a good idea to have a piece commissioned on how to deal with hangovers."

Dr Angell smiled.

The time had come again.

"Hangovers?" he said. "What a good idea. Sort of, how to prevent them or, if you can't, how to deal with them when they've already arrived?"

"Spot on," said the voice |of the Life Force section of The Sunday Comforter. "Is 5 December all right?"

Julian said it was fine, put the phone down and went to dig out his piece on how to deal with hangovers that was printed somewhere every year.

The phone rang. Sandy Whitlow answered it.

"Sandy, hi, it's the Getaway section of The Saturday Comet here, right, and winter-sports time is upon us again, so we thought we ought to run a piece on skincare in cold climes, and who better to ask than Sandy Whitlow, Cosmetic Auntie of the Airwaves?"

Sandy smiled to herself.

"You mean, skincare in cold places? Subcutaneous advice in sub-zero conditions? What a great idea! Creams... rubs... stretching exercises... skin food... all that sort of thing?"

"Yeah, whatever," said little Miss Getaway. "By 28 November, OK?"

Sandy Whitlow said it was fine, put the phone down and got out her little cardboard box marked "SEASONAL PIECES". She opened it. She put aside all the pieces on the dangers of suntanning, and the ones on springtime wrinkles, and got the one out called "What a Wise Girl Knows, Whenever It Snows: A Guide to Ski Skincare". She read it through. Yes. It was as good as it had ever been.

The phone rang. Julia Lyttle, a TV cookery woman, answered it.

"Woman's Universe here," said the voice, without preamble. "Look, Julia, we thought we'd try something a little different on our cookery pages this Christmas. Any ideas?"

"Well, off the top of my head," said Julia, "how about an article along the lines of 'Thinking the Unthinkable - a Christmas without Turkey or Sprouts'?"

"Brilliant!" said Woman's Universe. "You're on!"

Julia put the phone down and clicked on her word processor to the file marked "Christmas". Yes, there it was. "Thinking the Unthinkable - A Christmas without Turkey or Sprouts. Try Goose This Year, suggests Julia Lyttle".

Julia smiled to herself.

An oven-ready article.

The phone rang. Hector Malquist, a professor of philosophy, answered it.

"Malquist here."

"Oh, hello, Professor," said a voice. "It's The Times Thinking Supplement here. We thought for our Christmas number it would be nice to have a philosophical view of seasonal celebration. We have tried to get hold of De Botton and Grayling, but they're busy, so we've come to you."

Nobody likes to be the No 3 Pop Philosopher, but what the hell, thought Hector philosophically. At least they hadn't asked Roger Scruton.

"Well, how about 'Seasonal Affective Disorder - It Really Exists!'" said Hector.

"Brilliant," said the voice. "Oh, 'And What You Can Do About it'?"

"Of course," said Hector, who knew that in his computer there resided an old faithful article called "SAD: Winter Blues For Real - And What You Can Do To Counter It".

All he had to do was print it off and send it in.

The phone rang. I answered it.

"Hello," they said. "How about writing a piece taking the mickey out of all those predictable seasonal Christmas articles?"

"Excellent idea," I said. "I'll see what I can do."

This Miles Kington article has appeared in this space every year since 1997