The scene is a large supermarket in the south east of England at 6pm on the eve of Christmas Eve. A constant and grating loop of seventies pop songs is playing instead of a school choir or Salvation Army Band.
Helpless men between the ages of 18 and 60, who would prefer to be still in the pub, shuffle outside The Perfume Shop and La Senza, summoning the courage to approach the giggling female assistants in their last minute hunt for that perfect present that might, at least for now, persuade their wife or girlfriend to see them in the light that they did when they first met.
A middle aged couple are doing their last minute food shopping for the “big day”. Although they have already bought many of the Christmas-specific items – party food, snacks, chocolate – they bicker over whether they have enough to satisfy the army – alias the man’s father – who will descending upon them tomorrow, and the neighbours who will be calling in for drinks on Boxing Day afternoon.
Why are we getting bottles of apple and orange juice when we know that Jean likes wine and Peter will want a beer? We don’t drink it and we are going away on Tuesday (the husband is forced to repeat this over the increasingly manic strains of Noddy Holder).
You say that, but that was last year – they may not be able to drink alcohol any more, they’re not getting any younger y’know.
(“So here it is, Merry Christmas”).
And why do we need to get sweet biscuits and pork pies which neither of us eat, and will only end up going home with my dad?
(“Everybody’s having fun”).
Well, he can take them home then can’t he, it’s not a problem.
(“Look to the future now”).
And we don’t need the extravagance of a Christmas tablecloth and napkins, I for one am happy to eat off a normal one.
But it’s Christmas and I want it to be special, and that’s the end of it (the husband ponders whether The Perfume Shop accepts returns BEFORE Christmas).
(“It’s only just begun”).
We will leave them now to plan their Christmas Eve search for parsnips and brussel sprouts, both of which have been ransacked earlier in the day.
A teenage couple with a small baby are trying to arrange a short term loan that, judging by the girl’s industrial language on her mobile phone, is meeting with as much success as Joseph and Mary’s efforts at securing a room at the inn.
In a quiet corner of a busy café, whilst her weary, shopping-laden mother sips a caramel macchiato, a three year old girl, oblivious to everything around her, with eyes alight and blonde curls swaying in unison, sings a medley of Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
So here it is.