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Letters to Santa: Our Secret Hopes and Desires

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UNCLE GENE AS SANTA
AP

Royal Mail has published a postal address for kids to write to Santa. Each letter gets a personal response from Father Christmas. I wrote to Santa. I am left handed, so I wrote with my right hand, which created a more child-like scrawl.

As children, if we are loved, our parents ask us what we want from life, what we want for Christmas. I asked for a piano once and my parents couldn't afford it. I got a plastic guitar instead. I was happy enough. This was a good lesson for how life turns out.

If Santa existed, what would we, as adults, ask for? Unlike kids, adults are weighed down by life. The usual cocktail of thwarted ambitions, extinguished desire and the need to remember to buy adequate amounts of loo paper.

Writing to this benevolent Santa, far, far away, telling them what you want, is like sending up a prayer.

I think we all have two Christmas lists. The first list contains the material presents we want. Although, contrary to what the magazine supplements tell us, I really do hope no man actually desires the latest Calum Best fragrance.

The worryingly named site Celebrity Fragrances tells us that, "Calum Best, son of footballer George Best, released his fragrance titled 'Calum' and it became an instant hit. Beautifully presented, with its unique fragrance, it makes a perfect gift for any man."

My first list contains the latest box sets of Mad Men and In Treatment (latest series of both cruelly bought up by Sky TV and taken away from most viewers). Something melancholy to read, to bide my time in that dead period between Christmas and New Year (even Twitter and Facebook seems to fall silent at this time - what are people doing during this period, I wonder?) Short stories by Alice Munro or the latest heartbreaking book by Joan Didion will do nicely, thank you. And, of course, the Calum best aftershave.

The second list Christmas list we all have is more private. It contains what we really want - our deepest, most secret desires - the unfulfilled desires that have entered our souls.

If you could write to a Santa that existed, one who might reward you for being good, what would you ask for? Would you ask for a flat in Sloane Square? Someone to love and care for? Reassurance that we're doing ok, all things considered? A best friend - just one will do - a friend who will really connect with you and understand what you feel? To not feel guilty about what you really want? As the wonderful Alain de Botton says, "Definition of a present: something you can't get for yourself. As a child, that meant toys. In adulthood: reassurance, sympathy, forgiveness."

On Coronation Street, a beautiful young woman, weighed down by the problems of her life says to her boyfriend, "Oh, Let's just forget about it, right? Let's get drunk, have a meal, a laugh?"

This - this attitude - is exactly what I would like to ask for - the ability to celebrate life no matter what.

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