Spiral Notebook: On the first day of Christmas

By Giles Broadbent on December 24, 2012 3:38 PM |


Top three Christmas conversations occurring in the office during the doldrum days.

Favourite lines from Christmas carols. My favourites include - from While Shepherd Watched Their Flocks - "Fear not said he (for mighty dread had seized their trouble mind") - with that wonderful sub-clause sounding like something from the director's commentary.

Then there's In The Bleak Midwinter with its famous forecast "Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow."

Which is either a rum-te-dum filler line or one doozy of a prediction.

Seasonal vegetables. More particularly Brussels sprouts, a discussion which unearthed a number of useful facts, including the tenuous link to the Belgian city.

Also, the habit of Americans to say "Brussels sprouts" as opposed to the British "Brussels sprouts" negates much of their comedic value stateside.

Our office Christmas tree. If you want the lights then you also have to endure the random Bontempi carol selection. A bubble wrap and neck tie parcel is no muffler compared to the off switch - so silent days beat Silent Nights.


Just recently I engaged in an activity that in 50 years' will be, if not criminalised, then demonised.

I pursued this act with a heavy heart (ironically) but was swept along by the same sort of hedonistic fervour which encouraged bear pits, dog fights and budget air lines.

Yes, I was in charge of the helium balloons at a children's party. I hope that history will show some mercy on my profligacy.

Dr Peter Wothers, a fellow of the Royal Society, will be less kind - and quite rightly. He argues in the Royal Institution's 2012 Christmas Lectures that helium is precious, irreplaceable, vital for healthcare (such as cooling systems on MRI scanners) and running out.

Dr Wothers says: "The scarcity of helium is serious. I can imagine that in 50 years' time our children will be saying 'I can't believe they used such a precious material to fill balloons'."

But it was our children wot made us do it, sir!


After the pleasing numerical balance of 2012, I thought 2013 would at least have the claim to be a prime. But it's factored by 3, 11 and 61. What hope now?