Head to the high street for a fes­tive hor­ror show

The Daily Telegraph - - Saturday Comment -

There is both hor­ror and plea­sure to strolling around the coun­try’s big­gest depart­ment stores at Christ­mas­time. The av­er­age high street might be strug­gling, but the likes of Sel­fridges and Fort­num’s are boom­ing. One way they lure you in is with the grotesque in­san­ity of the win­dow dis­plays. This year Sel­fridges fea­tures Fa­ther Christ­mases in all man­ner of tight, Bowie-es­que, se­quined out­fits, writhing over an elec­tric gui­tar.

In­side, there’s an ex­quis­ite bar­rage of per­fumes, thou­sand­pound silk slips and cho­co­late fig­urines. But it’s the Christ­mas sec­tion that re­ally out­does it­self.

There’s all sorts of “very Bri­tish” tat – teabags dec­o­rated with Royal fam­ily mem­bers and pens shaped like soldiers – all of which can be had cheaper on­line. Then there’s the re­ally weird stuff.

First, there’s an 8ft stuffed di­nosaur (species un­clear). The cen­tre­piece of the girls’ sec­tion is an enor­mous, soft-toy, winged uni­corn, roughly life-size (if that ap­plies to uni­corns) but oddly hideous, fea­tur­ing ab­nor­mally deep, grey nostrils, a weird cuff of shoul­der wrin­kles and a hor­ri­bly hunched back. Any lit­tle girl’s dream, it’s a snip at £3,600.

That’s thrown into shade, though, by the mas­sive, singing rein­deer. The crea­ture comes to a jerky, dis­jointed sort of life at the touch of a but­ton, upon which it be­gins to swing its big head back and forth while Silent Night plays. I think it’s meant to be ap­prox­i­mat­ing singing, but the mouth move­ments are ran­dom and the voice is that of a large choir.

And what can you ex­pect to pay for this cre­ative, avant-garde Christ­mas mas­ter­piece? The flap­ping plas­tic la­bel on its fore­head pro­claims the price to be £11,500.

In case any­one is wor­ried about the Ir­ish border in the Brexit de­bate, Brex­i­teer Tory Owen Paterson was on hand to dis­pel anx­i­ety late dur­ing the de­bate on Tues­day night. “Peo­ple have this ludicrous idea of bor­ders – that we have a man in a tri­corn hat stop­ping the stage­coach with a la­dle and test­ing the brandy,” he de­clared, adding, for clar­ity’s sake: “That does not hap­pen.”

I’m not sure who the “peo­ple” are to whom Mr Paterson’s been talk­ing, but I would like to ob­tain the use of a time ma­chine to meet them. The brandy and tri­corn hat sound rather charm­ing: far bet­ter than the bore of elec­tronic cus­toms forms, trade re­port­ing sys­tems and risk-weighted reg­u­la­tory checks. A mod­ern con­tainer ship isn’t half so pic­turesque as a stage­coach.

Rock bot­tom? Sel­fridges’ win­dows fea­ture Santa writhing over a gui­tar

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