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22nd December 2008

Good afternoon.

Three days to go, and counting!

As the Big Boss and I, both proud parents, mused about the durability of the belief in the veracity of the St. Nicholas story for our children, he shared an observation from Max - our "Father Entertainment" figure.

"My kids don't believe any more. " said Max. "An episode of 'Desperate Housewives' blew it ...". Now his children are articulate, perceptive but still quite young. What were they doing watching 'DH', we wondered? Perhaps that is why they are so articulate and perceptive.

A lot of you have put away the myth that we teeter on the brink of an economic cataclysm, the financial equivalent of Krakatoa or any one, or even all, of the Seven Plagues which beset the biblical Egyptians. You have, in the last few days, scorched along Oxford, Bond and Regent Streets like a plague of high-spending locusts, leaving the tills running with cash as the Nile ran with blood. Lewis, who thinks a bunch of daffodils and a white pinny are signs of a generous character, has gone to Oxford Street to investigate.

There he may chance upon Robin, "Chasing The Lady" or buying top-end branded perfume which you and I know to be water with lime-juice but in "nice" packaging. If he gets ALL his shopping done in time, he'll do us a forecast. Otherwise it'll be a map, a fistful of receipts and a distant voice apologising for the cold but the lack of snow.

Efforts to raise the festive spirits in Walthamstow have hit a snag. Not for these good folk the plaintive voice of a Dickensian child seeking a few coopers at your door in return for a whispered "Away in a Manger"; nor, for them, the uplifting and spiritual mystery of mid-night Gregorian chant amidst the incense and purple of my own Church. No, our subjects favour tambourines, drums, massive choirs and a volume that would tempt the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to stay stabled. But others are less warm to this December destroying display of Doh Ray Me's. ASBOS are threatened but, with God on your side, ASBOS are to no avail. I didn't know that either. How will it all resolve itself? Ronke researches a range of Holy texts and recent statutes to discover a way forward. Failing that, it'll be ear-pads and civil unrest at dawn.

The Cafe Royal has seen a good deal of "unrest" in it's colourful past which comes to an abrupt end today. It is in for a face-lift and will emerge as an hotel. Oscar Wilde invented the spritzer here whilst indulging in a range of other activities which we will keep even from Max's kids. Boxers boxed here and more Awards shows than an unsuspecting public should ever have to endure were endured here. Katie remembers a cabaret bar and George Melly. Bet George, now sadly gone, didn't !

Incidently, she has just returned from shopping for Christmas which may put even our shopping story our of date. I feel a bit of retail "pump-priming" that will make the whole cut in VAT and Paulson bank rescue bit look like so much lose change.

Kirstie will review London's property year during which many Englishmen's castle's ended up being worth little more than so much lose change. And we make another bid for your surplus cell-phones to yield what can prove to be a good deal more than lose change for the good people of Missing People as they go about their great works this Christmas.

We've also the terribly sad story of the mother who discovered her son had been murdered by her ex boyfriend. I have left it to last because it is sad but we will report it without fear because life goes on out there. And ends. Sadly.

But we will try to raise your spirits, too.

If, however, Robin offers you Chanel Number "4" or claims he has "found" the lady, walk by on the other side. Trust me. I was educated by the Benedictines.

See you at 6.

Alastair & Katie.