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Not so much black tie as Redcoats

WHEN advertising agencies cut back on parties, you know you're in a slump. Saatchi & Saatchi is forsaking its traditional pre- Christmas bash - three years ago the agency rebuilt Charlotte Street at Alexandra Palace, complete with restaurants and pubs inside - for a weekend at a holiday camp in the new year. But that's a secret, so sssh] The London office of the American agency Chiat Day does appear to have had a little left over in the petty cash - enough, apparently, to have flown its 32 staff to New York two weeks ago and put them up in a hotel for the weekend. All this so lil' ol' London didn't miss out on the head office Christmas party. 'It was an excellent way of providing a strong sense of office motivation (and) a great bonding exercise for everyone here,' explains M T Rainey, chief executive of Chiat Day in London, earnestly. 'Through some wheeling and dealing with various hotels and flights, we made it really cost-effective. It will be good for business.' Chiat's big UK clients Midland Bank, First Direct and Neutrogena are sure to agree.

A NEW board game, 'Eurocracy', arrives. Fun for all the family - except John Major. He can't play. The Dutch manufacturers, Euroknow, won't send it to him until Britain ratifies the Maastricht treaty.

A sleighful of Santas

HERE are the fruits of our 1992 Christmas card survey, the result of a painstaking analysis of the 245 in the Independent newsroom. And a pretty unexciting lot they are. City scenes with snow (33) are top of the list, narrowly beating country scenes with snow (32). Santa comes next with 29 appearances, and then 24 representations of Christmas trees. City scenes without snow score 18, an impressive win over snowless country scenes (nine). There were 15 cards with a mere plain message (only two of them obscene) and 12 with holly as a dominant motif. Poor people in various states of distress score a heart-warming eight. More remarkable were the low scorers: only four reindeer, three snowpersons and one sleigh. (There were five doves, three whales and one partridge in a pear tree.) Our favourites? The one from Nuclear Electric, featuring a wind-powered yacht. The only royal card, featuring the Queen in a carriage, was kindly sent by the Pink Paper. And we were quite keen on the card for Action Research, the medical research charity, which featured two small Santas and a large list of diseases. But the best of all was from Select Photos, with a picture of Santa hanging by the neck from a Berlin lamppost.

TWO WEEKS ago Wayne Bailey, a 31-year-old Vancouver hairdresser, wrote to Santa Claus at the North Pole, Canada, asking for peace on Earth. As you do. Attached to Santa's reply, just received, was a handwritten note: 'Don't you think you're a little old?'

Right-on reads

A YULETIDE expression of gratitude to the NUT's magazine The Teacher for the teacher-approved Christmas reading list. New at No 3 is Bailey the Big Bully by Lizi Boyd: '(ages 3-6) . . . the book's message is clear, bullying is out, friendship is in'. Holding steady at No 2 Mrs Christmas by Penny Ives: '(age 3-plus) . . . Father Christmas and the reindeer catch the measles and it falls to Mrs Christmas to take over the big December 24 job]' And straight in at No 1, The Guilty Party by Joan Linguard: '(ages 8-12) . . . a girl's involvement in a fight against the building of a nuclear power station causes trouble in the family and finally earns her a prison sentence'.

AH] - it's the latest Hello] magazine, with a double-page picture of 'favourite personalities and promising newcomers' from television, all lined up to wish us a merry Christmas. But what's this? Right in the middle of the pic, the sort of story Hello] isn't supposed to touch] (Lots of exclamation marks are desirable in this sort of thing.) Esther Rantzen is holding hands with (her husband) Desmond Wilcox, who's holding hands with . . . Angela Rippon]]] And it looks as though Esther is trying to put her other hand on to Robert Kilroy-Silk's left hand, but he's having none of it] Oh dear]


23 December 1923 Dora Carrington writes to Lytton Strachey from Gerald Brenan's house in Granada: 'A week ago and we were shivering in Tidmarsh. Will you believe me when I tell you that we had breakfast this morning out of doors in the hot sun] Do you know we sat on our first evening at a round table over the fire and were waited on by two servant girls, aged 17 and 12 years old? An omelette appeared, wine, and then a delicious chicken cooked with rice and vegetables, the maids waiting on us like Elizabethan pages. This delicious feast ended by a large basket of the most varied and bright coloured fruits being brought to us. Persimmons, grapes, oranges, figs, apples, pears, and chesnuts and almonds and the most wonderful nougat sweets. Oh why, why, can't you be whisked here on a magical carpet?