And now – Christmas carol rage

THERE’S a new social and psychological disorder abroad in the world.

It joins the ranks of road rage, computer rage and government telephone‑answering-machine rage.

The only good thing is that it’s seasonal. You can only get it at Christmas.

It’s Christmas-carol rage.

It’s highly infectious and may contaminate anyone who goes near a shop over the Christmas period, but it’s particularly virulent among shop assistants.

When you think about it, if they shut a soldier in a room and forced him to listen to John Farnham singing Good King Wenceslas continuously for a month it would be regarded as torture and a breach of the Geneva Convention.

But if you’re a shop assistant you’re fair game.

The most surprising thing is that more of them don’t climb over the counter and club customers to death with plastic Santas or china cherubs.

Don’t get me wrong, I like John Farnham (he’s almost as old as I am!). But there are limits. I couldn’t even put up with my mum on a permanent loop from opening time till closing, especially when closing time gets later and later as Christmas approaches.

And I chose John Farnham at random. There’s more! There’s Kate Ceberano, Olivia Newton John… even The Wiggles! They’re all at it.

Why are they doing this to us! It’s supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill!

They don’t even do it well. They manage to reduce truly stirring and uplifting carols to a kind of over-egged pudding of schmalz and cloying sentimentality.

They don’t seem to understand that carols weren’t meant to sound sexy. They were meant to sound inspirational. When Charles Wesley wrote Hark! The Herald Angels Sing he was using words like virgin and flesh in their classical sense. He did not intend it to be used as background music to a striptease, but that’s how I’ve heard it sung in the past few days.

Okay, I forgive The Wiggles. Schmalz isn’t their thing. But there’s only so many times in one day — in one hour — that you can listen to Jingle Bells without wishing reindeer was on the menu instead of turkey.

And of course, they only record the damn music. They don’t force us to listen to it. It’s the shopkeepers who do that. Do they think we like it? Do they imagine they are enhancing our shopping experience, or persuading us, subliminally, to buy more.stuff?

The only extra item I am going to buy, if I hear Lee Kernaghan crooning Silent Night one more time, is a gun.

And I’m a mere shopper! How must it be for people who have to work with this infernal row? I’ve seen them… eyes glazed, hands trembling, sweating profusely. All the classic symptoms of drug overdose. It won’t be the customer who cracks first, it’ll be the shop assistant.

I went into one of our larger stores this week and it took me a few minutes to realise how pleasant it was. Silence… a truly novel experience in a modern shop.

“Thank God!” I cried to the assistant, “A shop that understands we don’t all want to be drip‑fed fourth-rate carols for the next three weeks!”

She shook her head. “It’s not that. The PA system has short-circuited. They’re fixing it now.” She choked back a sob. I thought she was very brave.

I’m sure that wasn’t the whole truth, though. I think one of her colleagues probably threw themselves across the mains terminal. The ultimate sacrifice for the good of humanity.

It won’t work of course. They’ll just chip her charred remains off the wires and go back to their bad old ways.

When you think about… that’s what we all do every Christmas.