Kishwar Desai | Are Santa Claus' days numbered? Britain in midst of shoplifting fever

Some academics are now trying to find out the exact age when children actually begin to doubt that Santa exists

Merry Christmas! That is if one can be merry whilst battling the usual chaos at the airports and train stations trying to get away — if one can afford it. But I must confess that the colder it gets the happier I am, as there is nothing more beautiful than a white Christmas—-even though there is no chimney in our apartment for Santa Claus to drop in from, and by the way, who believes in Santa, anymore?

Naturally some academics are now trying to find out the exact age when children actually begin to doubt that Santa exists, and reach the painful realisation that adults can lie. Ergo, should one tell them the truth from an early age and still break their little hearts? Or should one continue to lie about a man with a white beard who leaps around the world with reindeers and wriggles through chimneys, and let them find out that we too can be dishonest… I am sure that the “woke” police will find something wrong and cancel Santa — but till then let’s enjoy our childhood fantasy!

Because what is real is that people do get lonely at Christmas, when the temperatures drop. And this is especially true for the older generation when times are tough. Now an advertisement made for just 700 pounds from Charlie’s Bar in Northern Ireland has gone viral: It shows an elderly man who is alone, walking into a pub at Christmas and being joined by two strangers and their dog. They begin speaking and suddenly the world is a better and friendlier place.

The message is being appreciated by all, as especially after the pandemic there has been an epidemic of loneliness, and it is a mental health issue which can no longer be ignored.

The ad ends with the words “there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met.”

Charlie’s Bar has a grand tradition of remaining open on Christmas so that people continue to meet and do not spend the day alone. Basically the spirit of Christmas is to give and share — and that’s what the ad (and dear old Santa) capture beautifully.

But, folks, things are not so great here with the cost of living crisis — and every day the papers are full of a strange phenomenon that has gripped the nation. Shoplifting! One had thought that with CCTV cameras and security — it would be difficult to steal, but sadly, it seems that more than one billion pounds worth of commodities — mostly food, according to the British Retail Consortium’s estimates, is disappearing off the shop shelves, without being paid for. Most of this is confectionary, meat and cheese of course. But the matter does not end there — as investigation shows that these goods are resold to unsuspecting customers. It is a very sad day indeed — because I have always had this naive feeling that we live in a very safe society here (even though I have been pickpocketed thrice!) and to think that is not the case makes one wonder!

Who would have imagined a few years ago that there could ever be a black market for food!

And talking about disappearances — this must be quickest art theft ever! A piece of art by the graffiti artist Banksy which was placed on the street side in South London vanished within an hour of its installation. It was a traffic “stop” sign designed by the artist with three military drones on it — and, no, the disappearance was not a prank by the artist. If one recollects that one of his artworks literally went up into thin air after it had been auctioned. But that had been deliberately masterminded by the artist who often makes political and social statements through his art. Obviously this will be yet another “black marketed” item, because who could ever openly display such a well-known piece of art?

Christmas is also the time to greet friends and renew friendships. We remember our long forgotten friends and send them warm greetings to wherever they may be. A Christmas card adorns our Christmas tree and the more cards festooned over the mantelpiece the better. The Post Office has been advertising that we must not forget to send our cards. After all as many as 8 billion Xmas cards are posted each year. There are as many as 14 billion parcels at seasonal times.

But the shock and surprise is that the Post Office in its infinite wisdom gives priority to parcels at festival times and neglects cards! This was discovered by journalists who pretended to be casual staff for Xmas and were told to leave the letters for a while. No wonder the Post Office, privatised a decade ago, is making a loss. Hmmmmm… no wonder we rely on WhatsApp!

Yet, hopefully, your card will reach you, children will continue to believe in Santa and this will be a merry Christmas!

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