Charles Spencer

Pain and pleasure

Pain and pleasure

The so-called festive season is the time of year all serious drinkers dread. Their favourite pubs are filled with amateurs, largely consisting of braying office parties. It takes for ever to get served at the bar, and there is the ever-present danger of being sicked over by some daffy young secretary who has been overdoing the alcopops. Then when you’ve finally got your drink — my Christmas cheer used to consist of triple Scotches with a dash of ginger wine and a Guinness chaser — some moron from accounts will lean over and say, ‘Cheer up, mate, it might never happen.’ The trouble, of course, is that it already has.

Mercifully, such torment is behind me, just for today, and Starbucks is serving excellent slices of Christmas cake to go with the double tall latte with caramel. But what fresh hell is this? I refer to the record shops, where I now waste so many hours of my life, as well as more money than I ever spent on the booze.

In the frantic run-up to Christmas, these sanctuaries, too, were overrun with amateurs. The other day I had practically to fight to get into HMV in Oxford Street, and was almost knocked over by crowds of vicious grannies desperately trying to find where they keep the 78s these days. Frazzled mothers drifted like lost souls round the heavy-metal section, trying to find the ghastly album their ghastly child was insisting upon, and spotty youths brought Franz Ferdinand for their girlfriends in the forlorn hope of seeming cool.

For once I wasn’t in HMV for myself, but for my nephew Tom, who has just turned 13. It’s only a couple of years since I was buying him the Best of the Goodies for Christmas, one of the more embarrassing purchases I have ever had to make, certainly on a par with requesting my first packet of Durex from a dragon assistant at Boots.

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