The Third Leader: Toy town

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Christmas! Normally, I impose a strict embargo on any mention of the over-hyped, over-sold and over-dear festivity until the second week in December at the earliest. But having examined the lists released yesterday of toys predicted to be the top sellers this Christmas, I feel compelled to speak out.

In my day, you stuffed your wish list for Santa up the chimney (remember them?) and then passed the remaining few days in a fever of expectation, hoping against hope that he would stump up the Eagle annual, a Meccano spanner, three triangular stamps from Turks and Caicos, a new battery for the torch, six penny chews, a balaclava, a packet of Spangles, a diabolo, a tin whistle and the latest novelty record from Bernard Cribbins.

In the event, you blinked into delicious consciousness, clocked the well-stuffed sock at the end of the bed and found you had got all of the above, and a shiny apple as well. And now? Look at them: a beeping, winking, hectic, gaudy cacophony of computer games, consoles, cameras, animated animals with audio, visual and touch sensitivity, dancing dolls, dolls with real diamonds, aliens you can grow in a test tube, hair streaking sets; even Monopoly has gone electronically cashless, with cheeseburgers instead of the top hat.

And there's a board game, "Sshh!... Don't Wake Dad", mocking the person who helps provide all this, featuring a plastic, snoring caricature of a parent in bed while the players try to sneak to the fridge for a midnight snack. Meretricious, expensive, indulgent, disrespectful: it's an absolute disgrace. Why couldn't we have had stuff like this?

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