The Duke - December 23, 2015

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‘Tis the day before Christmas Eve, so there’s only 366 shopping days left until the next one.

More worryingly, you’ve only got what’s left of today and a few hours tomorrow to finish the shopping for this one.

The more organised members of the household will have everything bought, sorted, stuffed or wrapped, stored away or on display to gloat about how good they are at planning ahead.

But what about us men? Yes,‘tis also the day an ashen-faced legion of panicky male shoppers realize they’ve again forgotten the previous year’s vow to shop early and actually find what they are looking for on the shelves.

Unlike Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the average bloke can’t rely on coughing up some loose change for a street urchin to go and buy the biggest turkey in the butcher’s on Christmas Day.

For starters, assuming you are not arrested for pestering the youngster, he would probably run off with the money. And even if he only pocketed some of the cash, where’s he going to find a butcher’s open on December 25? Not even Lidl and Aldi have caught onto that one yet.

No, ‘tis the day many men wish they could remember what their partner’s preferred perfume is. And for those who – for whatever reason – have more than one person to purchase for (so therefore can’t rely on anything being delivered to the door) it’s even trickier to select the right fragrance – especially when all that’s left in the shops is “bucket” sized rather than “bouquet.”

Online shopping has made things easier, but the best they can offer is a 24-hour delivery turnaround – not an “oh, crikey, I knew I’d forgotten something” couple of hours’ service. And anyway let’s face it, if you can’t shop in the ever longer hours that proper stores are open, you’re not going to hit the laptop in time for Amazon to save the day.

Best bet is to suggest your beloved selects her own present(s) – granted, it rules out the element of surprise (except the one when you see the bill she’s racked up), but it will be something she wants and it saves a lot of grief.

For stocking fillers you can always pop into the pub this evening and tomorrow and hope some bloke has forgotten to pick up his bags after celebrating successfully buying the last tin of Quality Street or box of After Eights. A cheap trick? Hardly the spirit of Christmas? Or any port in a storm? You decide.

Anything more valuable than sweets and chocolates and you’ll have to hand it in at the bar of course – with your name and number in case there’s a reward going.

My own Christmas list is pretty small. Aftershave, whisky and wine. Even so, I worry items one and two might be absent on Christmas morning (there’s always plenty of item three around).

So I buy myself an emergency stand-by bottle of aftershave just in case I get invited anywhere (which I rarely do), and a bottle of whisky so I can leave a drink out for Santa to slurp as he does his rounds and top myself up with a tipple in lieu of those parties I’m not at.

I try to avoid going out on Christmas Eve evening.

Partly because my track record on that night, isn’t good – I once lost my brother in a nightclub and once forget to meet The Manager after church.

And then there was the time… but no, I’ll save that for another column.

Merry Christmas!

The Sopranos can damage your health

I don’t want to put a downer on your Christmas TV binge viewing, but an 18-year study of 86,000 people has found that telly addicts face similar risks of a pulmonary embolism as long-haul flyers.

Where this puts anyone watching end-to-end movies on their dream trip to Australia I’m not sure, but for anyone a little more landlocked, just think twice before too many small screen marathons of House of Cards or The Sopranos.

For those of you who haven’t already binged on box sets of Grey’s Anatomy, a pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the artery that carries blood from the lungs, and is usually caused by a blood clot formed in a vein in the leg.

Up to 60,000 people die as a result of pulmonary embolism each year in Britain, and many of them were watching the omnibus edition of Coronation Street at the time.

I actually made that last bit up, but “experts” do warn that the box set boom means more than forgetting to put the cat out or walk the dog.

People sitting in front of the TV for five hours or more a day are twice as likely to suffer a clot as those watching less than three hours. So just stand up and watch them all instead.