I've been on a four-a-week regime for the past month. I don't mean gingerbread lattes, nor gym sessions, but something more fattening and tiring: Christmas parties. Some of these might have been civilised sit-down dinners in a pub, others were raucous stand-up-then-fall-over gatherings in bars, but either way, it's been a gruelling schedule.
Quite apart from the season's physical demands (from keeping the broken loo door closed with one heeled foot to sawing through a plate of marble-hard Brussels sprouts), the marathon is socially and emotionally taxing. On one long journey home last week, I formulated my own rules for survival. It really is no good to simply throw yourself into "the spirit"; you've got to be organised.
So, first of all, what to wear. There is only one thing to bear in mind on this subject, and it concerns the colour red. A surprising number of revellers still insist on a Special Red Outfit – clingy scarlet dress for women, questionable claret-coloured velvet jacket for men, tomato-coloured jumper for either – reserved for the season. This is like co-ordinating your outfit with the Christmas tree. So my only diktat on this is: wear anything – nobody notices really, it's too dark – so long as it's not red. Or sparkly, obviously.
Second, how far to travel. The Christmas party is rarely located conveniently (unless you're the organiser, in which case you've booked it at your local, obviously) so set a personal roaming limit. This year, I'm not going to anything that means I have to listen to a cabbie's Magic FM festive playlist for more than 20 minutes. Remember, this isn't about a one-off night out; December is a series of discrete expeditions, and energy must be budgeted if you're to go the distance.
Next, one for the wine snobs. At larger parties, you can still turn up empty-handed, although austere budgets are making these happy events less common. More intimate festive dinner parties bring into sharp focus what is, in truth, a year-round problem: how to get the host to actually open that carefully selected chardonnay you bought, rather than see it hidden away in a cupboard as you endure the "special mull". Last week, Anthony Rose, this newspaper's revered wine correspondent, offered me a good tip for the whites: "Make sure the bottle is really, really chillled, so that it's blindingly obvious that it's ready to drink right now." And red? As with the rule on jumpers, take any nice bottle so long as it's not red – save that for your night off.
Lastly: make your excuses and scarper early, because it's always later than you think. That's shortly after dessert for a seated meal, or, for a drinks party, just as Ms Scarlet Dress and Mr Claret Jacket have begun their inadvisable smooch. In fact, this year I've made it a personal ambition to be the first to leave. You'll be scorned for quitting so soon, but don't forget all tomorrow's parties...
Can't we have a Bond who is not Daniel?
Will Daniel Craig beat Roger Moore's record to become the longest-serving Bond? He will if franchise producer Michael G Wilson has anything to do with it – he said at the weekend that he wants Craig to do five more Bond films, taking his total to eight. Whether the hulking blond can bring as much amusement to the role in his entire 007 career that Moore's right eyebrow delivered in a single movie is up for debate, but then the current Bond is stuck in a rather humourless, not to mention sexless, place.
Maybe that's why the makers of Skyfall, next year's installment, hope to "take it back to the 60s, a more Sean feel". If the idea is to rejuvenate the films with a little of the irony and sex appeal of the originals, perhaps Wilson should consider giving another British actor a chance. How about a weird and wiry spy played by Benedict Cumberbatch? Or an alluring, sardonic one, portrayed by Dominic West? Even the (surely unintentionally) hilarious Jason Statham would deliver more entertainment than another five years of Craig's moody brawn.
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