I hope you got everything you wanted for Christmas, or at least one thing you wanted. Here's what I asked for. I'm writing this a little before Christmas, so I have no idea which, if any of these, I will have received. Fingers crossed, though.
* An enormous bag of money. I ask for this every year. I don't want it in 2p pieces, because that's just not funny. I'd like it in used £20 notes, please, which are so much less suspicious than £50s, don't you find?
At a cashpoint the other day I pressed the button for £100, and the machine gave me two crisp, new £50 notes with consecutive issue numbers. Ten minutes later I was in a pub trying to buy a round with one of them. "Ha bloody ha," said the landlord, glaring at it, and at me, and then at the note again, and then at me. I figured that if I said, "I just got it out of the cashpoint," he would definitely refuse it, whereas if I glared back, he would accept it, sighing self-pityingly as though acknowledging that he was a soft touch. This turned out to be correct.
* Wine, and somewhere to put it. Really the only disadvantage of this bijou first-and-second-floor maisonette is its lack of cellar. Some men dream of Maseratis, and an old friend of mine dreams of being submerged in a giant egg mayonnaise sandwich with Bananarama. But in my dreams, when I'm not being eaten by giant centipedes, I imagine wandering through my capacious wine cellar, showing a couple of friends around, maybe. We turn a corner, and there, lit by a single unadorned lightbulb, is a wall full of dusty bottles. The 2000s, I say modestly. Should be ready for drinking very soon. Just be careful of the trip wires, and the man traps.
* Clothes I will like. This is an unfair request, I realise. How is anyone else supposed to know what clothes I will like when I don't know myself? Like many men I go clothes shopping from time to time, hoping to be inspired, and after roughly 15 minutes I am either curled into a ball in the corner of the shop, sweating and shaking, or being led out by security, yelling obscenities. And yet I love clothes, especially the ones I already have. I just want more like them, but they're not sold any more, except in charity shops. Or I want things I don't know I'll want until I see them, and have had time to think about them for a while, say a week or two. The clothes you buy in a panic, because you have to make a decision NOW, you will hate forever and never wear.
* Things that money can't buy. Peace of mind. The unconditional love of millions. A holiday I don't have to organise myself or pay for. Time to fritter and waste. The ability to bowl leg-spin.
* Things I've had already and lost. My Hugo Boss raincoat, stolen from a pub in Muswell Hill in 2004. Youthful good looks. The ability to run fast enough that you can hear the wind whoosh past your ears. Books I lent to people that haven't been returned. Much loved friends who died too young. Books I lent to people who died before they could return them. (I've rather given up on those.)
* Things I've always known I'll never have. Physical grace. Ease and comfort in social situations. Instinctive command and authority.
But to be honest, I'll be perfectly happy with an enormous box of Quality Street, as always.
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