I haven’t believed in you since I was eight. But come to think of it, grown-ups believe in much less likely supernatural beings than you. So let’s talk man-to-man as if you weren’t actually a fairytale cobbled together from ancient Nordic legends and vintage Coca-Cola posters.
Here, Santa, is what I want for Christmas.
1. A clear head. Gone are the days when I’d sink 12 pints of Marston’s Pedigree on Christmas Eve and be in a befuddled grump until Boxing Day. But let’s be honest, drink does get taken at this time of year. It’d be nice to greet the day with a cheerful smile rather than a pained wince. See what you can do.
2. Sunlight. The thing about being a grown-up is you learn to manage your expectations. You do not ask too much of people, because they usually let you down. So I’m not asking you for the whole Good King Wenceslas thing – deep and crisp and even snow as far as the eye can see. But PLEASE, not another of those grey, mild, boring days that make up the English winter. And summer, for that matter.
3. Champagne. Got that? Not Prosecco. Not New World sparkling Chardonnay. Nor Cava. Proper French stuff.
Right, let’s get onto the tricky area of presents.
4. Nothing from Gap. I’ve nothing against Gap. But I’ve probably got enough dull-coloured sweatshirts and tartan pyjama bottoms to last me a lifetime. I know it’s a safe choice for the females in the family. But dissuade them, please.
5. Nothing ‘for the car’ or ‘for the garden’. In my view, a new sprinkler head or boot organiser isn’t quite in the spirit of the old Three Kings thing. For my Dad, yes. He’s practical. Me, I don’t want to be reminded of chores on this most special of days.
6. No supermarket gift sets. You must see a lot of these, Santa: the half bottle of cheap liquor + tumbler + hankies + golf ball. Just Say No.
So, Santa, we are halfway through the list and you’ll have spotted something. When I last wrote to you (aged eight – eight and three quarters, actually) my list was full of things I wanted. It came quite easily, at that age, making lists of things I wanted.
These days – what do I want?
I hate that question. I bet you’re the same, Santa. Over the years a succession of people, usually women, have asked you. Not just what you want for Christmas, but what you want out of life, relationships, the future.
Like all men, we shrink from the question and mutter something like “oh, you know me….ummm…. dunno, really”. Mother Christmas will doubtless have a list that stretches to the North Pole: this moisturiser, that pashmina, those champagne flutes, that cool CD, these box sets, regular chats about what we’re really feeling…. You: no clue. So you can’t really complain when you get a bottle of retouching paint for the sleigh.
But I’m really going to try here.
7. Cigars and whisky. Yes, I know they are bad for me. But I like them. And it’s not boring replenishing my supply of Laphroaig and Cohibas. If you think it is, then get me an OLD Laphroaig and some HUGE Cohibas.
8. Golf stuff. When will women realise that for men, golf is like cosmetics? It’s a bottomless retail pit we are happy to pour money into. We think that new rescue club or instruction manual will finally be THE THING that makes us perfect. It never is. But we’ll keep searching.
9. A big and important book. Christmas is lovely. All the family is there, the kids are shrieking with excitement. But sometimes – okay, EVERY time – it’s nice for the grown-up male of the household to slip away with his new Cohiba and the latest 2500-page History of Complete and Utter Second World War Hell. Just for a few hours.
10. Noise cancelling earphones. See above.
So there you have it, Santa. Christmas isn’t all about the children. It’s about you and me, mate. Minimising the hassle. Kicking back. Being left alone.
Not too much to ask, is it?