By Santa's sainted-testicles!

Remember the good old days, when we was all children and winter was a time of wonder, and big woolly jumpers? Of frolicking in the snow and building snowmen? Of making a latticework on the front windows with black electrical tape, then spraying that nasty white stuff that came out looking like desiccated coconut and smelled like the underside of a tramp into the corners, in an effort to make your two-bedroomed terrace in a nondescript housing estate look like it fell out of Dickens? Of traipsing off to the local woods to buy a Christmas tree that would shed 40% of its needles in the car on the way home and the rest by the time you got all the blue and silver tinsel on it?

More importantly, do you remember when Christmas used to happen in December?

Before that we had things like the Trades Fortnight -- or the tattie picking holiday as we used to call it up here, which was pretty much an excuse for the local farmers to indulge in their love of child labour hefting potatoes out of the cold, claggy soil; Bonfire Night -- when they used to actually have bonfires, before the Health And Safety zombies sulked all the life of things; Halloween -- when we used to go guising, NOT TRICK OR BLOODY TREATING; and then you'd get a couple of weeks before the build up to Christmas began.

So how come when I was in my local Tesco* last week, they already had shelves groaning under the weight of festive provender? It's the first week in September! SEPTEMBER! Christmas isn't supposed to be till the end of December, that's nearly four months away! A third of a sodding year and they're already flogging mince bastarding pies.

It probably doesn't help that I hate mince pies. Even if you leave them in the back of the cupboard till the filling's started to ferment, they're still bloody horrible things. When I eat a mince pie, you know what I want to taste? Not nasty, over-spiced chunks of horrible dried fruit, that's for damn certain: I want bits of ground up animal, thank you very much. How in the name of all that is plastic, can you call that foul, gritty brown... yuck mincemeat?

OK, I understand that way back in the distant past, these vile little pastries would actually contain meat as well as all that gag-making fruit, but nowadays? Sod all. What's the point of having a Trades Description Act if we can't force these nasty things to be called what they really are?

"Ooh, Henry, listen to them loverly Carol singers, standin' outside in the snow. I'll go get them some of me fresh, home-baked Horrible Fusty Fruity Christmas Tart Things..."

Anyway, back to the supermarket. 'OK', I was thinking, in my usual even handed manner** 'maybe this is so those strange, organised people can get their festive foodstuffs bought well in advance and not have to worry about battling through the crowds at the last minute?' You know the sort of people: the ones who buy Christmas presents throughout the year when they see them, rather than leaving it all till the weekend before, when the shops resemble the third circle of hell (mind you, I think even Satan would balk at playing Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody' on a continuous loop).

Vile and nasty, Mince Pies should be banned under the Geneva ConventionBut that can't be the case: even if you were so anally retentive that you had to buy your Horrible Fusty Fruity Christmas Tart Things at the beginning of September -- just in case there's a rush on them later -- it's not going to do you any good. Because the 'best before' date on the damned things is the seventh of November, 2007! Now unless you're purposefully buying them in order to give carol singers food poisoning, what sodding use is that?

Are there really people out there so desperate for a taste of Horrible Fusty Fruity Christmas Tart Things that they can't wait till December to eat them?

Has the world gone mad, or is it just me?

* Other supermarkets are available
** Sometimes I sicken myself with this 'let's try see both sides of the argument' bollocks

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