JUST occasionally I ask the Man-in-Charge if he has any ideas for this column.
This is because after 12 years of charting the choppy waters of family life I admit there are times when I struggle to think of something new.
In the earlier part of this week I asked him more than once. I think my brain is badly in need of a holiday – and not the sort of holiday that involves stuffing unfeasibly large turkeys into small ovens or queuing in the supermarket to buy the sort of foods that no-one eats at any other time of year and yet encounters a surplus of at Christmas, such as mince pies and dates.
“Why don’t you write about what people have for Christmas dinner?” he said, trying to be helpful.
“Someone’s already done that,” I replied sadly. Only that day I’d spotted a column on the topic of turkeys and their deadly dull and dry texture/taste by my colleague Andy Jackson. “Think harder.”
Then, as often seems to happen, The Girl said something that had the germ of an idea.
We were being mesmerised by the television advertisement for Christmas fare at a supermarket.
You know, the one where the mother is rushing about doing everything; putting crosses in the bottom of sprouts, stuffing a massive turkey into her oven, roasting spuds in yummy goose fat and claiming that because it’s all for her family it’s worth the humungous effort.
“It’s not exactly selling the idea of motherhood to me,” said The Girl, who was still recovering from a discovery made during an episode of How I Met Your Mother in which a heavily pregnant character talks about breastfeeding and cracked nipples.
“I don’t think the advert is for being a mother,” I replied. “It’s to sell sprouts and turkeys.”
She gave me the sort of withering look that she excels at, having practised from an early age on her brother.
We watched another advert. You know, the one that features the two snowmen (or should that be one snowman and one snowwoman) who long for each other and, to the strains of The Power of Love by Gabrielle Aplin, finally manage to snuggle up, but not too warmly, in someone’s garden.
We’d seen it before. “What’s this an advert for?” I asked before it reached its satisfying and heart-warming climax. It was a test of their observational powers.
“Ooh I know,” said The Man-in-Charge. “It’s Marks and Spencer.”
But, of course, it isn’t.
And could we remember who the over-tired mum was working for? No we couldn’t.
Nor do we know who is responsible for that other masterpiece of the genre, the orchestra of babies playing the Dexys Midnight Runners’ iconic single Come on Eileen, but we love the advert.
British advertising is widely regarded as among some of the most imaginative in the world. In other countries they just say things like ‘Buy more sprouts’ or ‘Shop at John Lewis.’
But in Britain we have a long tradition of teasing the punters with creative, subtle adverts that have more of a drip-feed than punch-in-the-face action. The creators are clearly thwarted art movie directors or comedy club aspirants.
I’d need a lobotomy (or perhaps something not quite as drastic) to live in Spain, for example, where they still use tarty blonde women with dazzling white smiles to advertise everything from chocolate bars to haemorrhoid cream and where there is no BBC in which to seek refuge. Ditto Italy where the blonde bombshells are often scantily dressed as well.
It has been commented before that on some evenings the adverts are the best things on television. But not necessarily at this time of year, I hasten to add. Although the love-struck snowpersons definitely get my vote for best short film of 2012.
“Have you thought of anything yet?” enquired the Man-in-Charge midweek – my deadline being Thursday.
“Yes,” I said, “I thought I might write about television advertising over Christmas. But I’m not sure if I’ll get 700 words out of it.”
But then, you know what, I did.