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Penguin piffle is picking your pocket

By Grace Dent

The strange thing about this new tradition of John Lewis firing out a sickly, sob-inducing Yuletide ad - like this new penguin wants a girlfriend piffle - is that it goes against everything the company stands for.

John Lewis and its sense of stiff-upper-lip decorum is exactly why so many people joke that in the event of a nuclear attack they'd head to the homes department and fondle the Bridgewater cakestands.

Nothing bad can happen in John Lewis. Only calm, orderly things. It's also an equal-opportunities retail haven. No matter who you are, there is something for you.

This is why catering their Christmas ads to cry-on-demand bedwetters is so thoroughly strange. But, hey, it's Christmas: different rules apply. This year's John Lewis ad is aimed at parents who find the notion of their kids' raggedy comfort toy really adorable. Me, not so much.

"He can't sleep without it," my friends always say, which is ironic as the toxic build-up of germs and micro-parasites that the kid is chewing will keep me awake till Easter, too.

But having watched the ad several times now, the real narrative isn't any less disconcerting. To the child, Monty isn't a raggedy stuffed animal, but a delightful, real-life penguin who enjoys fish fingers and a nice kip at the end of his bed.

The moment I saw Monty in the opening moments of the advert, I prepared myself for his heading off back to the Southern Hemisphere leaving the lad distraught.

But it was stranger than this. Monty had hit puberty and wanted his own penguin girlfriend.

It was a bold and illuminating narrative.

Now I think about it, there are few things that sum up the joy of the little baby Jesus and Matthew's Gospel account of the Adoration of the Magi than a penguin with a crush.

One could simply watch it and get really het up about the Tom Odell track, which is so awfully beige that it's like being drowned slowly in tepid Ready Brek.

And then one could cry and go on the internet and type, "I am crying" and then buy a Monty from John Lewis and a spare Monty allowing a major retail conglomerate to fiddle with your heartstrings for their own financial ends.

Personally, I'll be in John Lewis, looking at the Le Creuset ramekins. There won't be any of your sort in there.

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