jo brand's week

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In this season of enhanced Christian values and love towards our fellow man, it seems even Santa cannot avoid getting a bit of a battering. Bracknell in Berkshire was the venue for a dispute about parking after residents got angry about people attending a nursery nativity play parking in their street. Santa tried to intervene and was "jostled". Parking in someone's self-appointed space does seem to be a hazard in these days when everyone is so property minded. Many people desperate to park outside their own house erect obstacles to prevent anyone else getting in there, with a plastic bollard or a couple of planks of wood. So it seems an Englishman's home is now his own perceived parking space as well. One parent attending the play said of local residents, "These people obviously don't remember what it's like to be a child. It ruined our evening." I would say they remember very well. They all seem to have been behaving like children.

Of course, Santas always do it differently in America. A Santa in New Hampshire, of more than 20 years' standing, has been charged with assault for allegedly slapping a cub scout who pulled his beard after he and some other cubs accused Santa of being a fake. I can't help feeling sorry for this miserable old Santa. After 20 years, I'm surprised he hadn't fallen apart altogether, with the demands of a nation of spoilt little buggers.

So while adults behave like children, it looks as if many children are behaving like adults. I wonder what effect it has on a newspaper reader when they see that a child who has gone missing is described as "streetwise". Possibly something like the effect it has on readers when they discover that the female victim of a murderer is a prostitute. It doesn't feel quite so bad. I don't know if anyone thinks it's shocking that a nine- year-old girl goes into town and befriends men who live on the street, but I do. This is no reflection on people who are homeless, it's that "men" word, when you are examining how a nine-year-old lives her very young life. I saw a programme recently in which parents were discussing what they let their five-to-seven-year-old children wear. One couple said they allowed their five-year-old daughter to choose all her clothes, most of which were miniskirts and sawn-off tops showing her tummy. Who'd be a social worker, when there are such desperately ignorant parents around.

The Australian government is worried because many students from Asia are leaving the country because they are experiencing racism. This means Australia is losing money, and so they would be worried. When I was in Australia earlier this year, l found casual racism everywhere, even among students who are supposed to be a bit more liberal. I remember asking a punkish-looking girl what she didn't like about Australia, to which she replied, "All these strange foreign people coming in and taking our jobs". Perhaps the government needs to start with the telly. The most popular show has a section in it called The Nan News with some bloke dressed in a turban speaking in a cod Pakistani accent.

That Oliver Cromwell was a cheerful bugger. He apparently outlawed Christmas pudding, and the law in question has never been repealed so in theory loads of people have been acting illegally over Christmas. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of Christmas pudding but Oliver chucked in mince pies as well and I'd definitely have had a bit of trouble avoiding them. Cromwell declared these foodstuffs to be "abominable idolatrous things to be avoided by Christians". I can think of far more useful things that could be outlawed at Christmas ... the Spice Girls, the Queen's Speech, tiny carol singers that only know the first line of one carol, dates (the edible kind), those socks you get every year with rubber things on that stop you slipping over, and any type of sweet with the word "fruit" in it. That would sort my Christmas out.

Talking of tiddly little carol singers who know only the first line of one carol, or "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", repeated endlessly until you go psychotic, I have had my fair share this festive season. They also had a good little scam going, because one group appeared with the "Wish You a Merry Christmas" torture and I managed to stop them after the first line, thankfully, gave them some dosh and bid them a cheery-ish goodnight. Ten minutes later another group (same carol) appeared. However, what they'd done was just put a new one at the front of the pack so I thought it was a different group. I sussed them straight away and they confessed, but asked for some money for the one who had been absent the first time. They had one more bash with two extra singers up front, then retired gracefully. Still, at least they're using their initiative I suppose.

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