Not a lot of genuine Christmas cheer around, is there. Huge ads yelling about price cuts, as retailers make increasingly frantic efforts to lure us into spending money we haven't got on things we don't need. The new bunch in the Beehive backing them up and telling us it's our duty to spend our way out of the looming recession.
And all over the country, women starting to panic about all the extra work involved in producing a proper Christmas. I don't think I've ever heard a man say, "Oh dear, I haven't done a thing about Christmas yet" - but every year I hear scores of women saying it.
I admit I'm feeling less Christmassy than usual. It hasn't been a good year for us - in fact it's been a real bugger - and it's been much worse for some of our friends. I'm not looking forward to writing the annual round robin letter. We always seem to get quite a few that go like this:
"As you know, Justin retired last December from his post as managing director. (His timing couldn't have been better, because in January the receivers moved in. Thank goodness he'd sold all his shares!) In March we celebrated our 40th anniversary at a magical hideaway in the Cooks.
May brought the pleasure of seeing both the twins graduate with first class honours, Logan in law and Megan in marketing. Then in September we finally took our long-delayed holiday in Europe. For me the highlight was probably dining by moonlight in the Colisseum with Andrea Bocelli singing some of his gorgeous Italian songs.
Now you may recall that last year I did that wonderful Creative Writing course at Victoria? Well, in November I was amazed when my little collection of short prose pieces won the 2008 New Voices Prize!! It's coming out next week, just in time for Christmas. Speaking of which, we're off to the Far North again for our annual family gathering at the beach house. Hope you have a great one!!!"
I feel strangely ashamed that I can't provide my own glittering catalogue of good news. Last year I could at least report that we'd moved house. This year the best I can do is resort to wry humour.
My husband has dramatically reduced his petrol consumption! (Because of his illness, he's just had to give up driving.) My son was appointed to a prestigious Chinese university post! (He's teaching part-time at a weekend business English course, on top of his regular job, so he can save enough money to come home.) And as for me - well, I started a blog!