Belfast Telegraph

Shop until you drop, then get up and do it again

Capitalism needs your cash now

By Robert McNeil

Since we've just had Manic Monday, I suppose this must be Unstable Tuesday. I can't remember what Saturday was. Not sensible Saturday certainly. Then there was Insane Sunday and Certifiable Friday, all taking place in the last week before Christmas.

The tills in Belfast's city centre rang merrily throughout these loopy days, or at least they sprang open with a ping whenever debit cards were accepted (am I the only who breathes a sigh of relief when that happens?).

"Getting and spending," said the poet Wordsworth, "we lay waste our powers." Getting and giving is at least more admirable, as most of the spending this last week has not been on ourselves.

Shoppers in Belfast have braved bomb threats and flag fetishism to gather gifts for their loved ones or, failing that, for their spouses.

Children, of course, demand ever more from the field of electronic gadgetry, as no one is more concerned with keeping up with the Jones's than a nipper. It must cost a fortune being a parent these days.

And all for what? Well, the ripping off of Christmas wrapping paper is, for most people, much more exciting than undressing their partner and, often, just as disappointing. Some presents will be useful and some will be beautiful tokens of love or appreciation. But, by the time you read this, many gifts will also have been dumped, broken or shoved into cupboards to be quietly forgotten about.

The main thing is that we've all clubbed together to give capitalism a commercial boost up the bahookie and now everyone can live happily ever after, or till mid-January, whichever comes sooner.

However, it doesn't end there, you slackers. There's the sales to consider. I haven't noticed so many of these starting so early this year.

I've been waiting to see if the price of an executive-style hedge trimmer will come down. I'd hoped someone might buy me one for Christmas, but when I tried hinting at this, friends said they didn't like me enough to commit that much expenditure.

Fair enough. Like most of my presents this one will have to come from myself. It's time to get back on the hamster's wheel, folks. Shop, as they say, till you drop. Even then, you should make an effort to crawl to the till.

What day is it now? Hey, it's Unhinged Thursday. Hooray, let's get out there again!

There's a right Carry On over ITV3

Must be a holiday. Everything's closed and the telly has gone peculiar.

ITV3 is showing Carry On Follow That Camel, followed by Carry On Matron, Carry On Loving, Carry on at Your Convenience, Carry On Girls, Carry On Doctor, Carry On Cleo (left) and Carry On Up the Jungle.

Oh, if only every day could be so magical.

Disgrace we still have homeless people in 2013

Like many hard-working, decent and honest citizens, I have nightmares about being homeless.

I use the expression "hard-working" in its flexible sense, but you get my gist. Homelessness can happen to anyone.

The speed with which food banks have become part of everyday life is shocking. Initially, they seemed something of a gimmick. But it turns out they're a lifeline for many.

That goes for Britain and Ireland both. How discomfiting to read about the experience of Benny Donnelly, a self-employed tiler who moved from Kilkenny to Dublin to find work.

He found zilch and ended up on the streets. Or, at least, in a car park. "It was out by the Barge pub in Ranelagh. I was grand in there, not a bother. The only people in there were the foxes."

Grand. Not a bother. Sleeping with the foxes. In a car park. Welcome to Christmas, 2013.

US reports virgin on ridiculous

Belfast, as we know, is a place where virgins abound. But there are few reports of virgin births. Unlike in America.

There, one in 200 women claim to have become pregnant as virgins. A study by the University of North Carolina, published in the British Medical Journal, found 0.5% of 7,870 women reporting at least one virgin pregnancy.

In its Christmas edition, the BMJ notes that parthenogenesis is generally associated with yon Virgin Mary, along with Jurassic Park 3 and the Dr Who episode Partners In Crime.

Mind you, a third of those claiming virginal pregnancy had signed a "chastity pledge". Which turned out to be equally fictional.

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