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Rhodri Marsden is a writer and musician based in London. A columnist for The Independent for more than a decade, he writes features, books and opinion pieces about subjects as varied as bad dates, rude place names, USB cables, crumpets, perfume and anxiety. He plays in hardy perennial post-punk band Scritti Politti and Britain's best-loved TV theme covers band Dream Themes, and he won the under-10 piano category at the 1980 Watford Music Festival with a scintillating performance of a piece called Silver Trumpets .
Hmm (bug)… does the world really need another Christmas-themed stocking filler book? Surely the genre is as dead as Old Marley, doornail and all, with nothing new to say, no fresh, funny takes to be made. Well, actually, this stylishly illustrated tome does have more to say. In fact, it offers a veritable forest of sharply spruced-up observations on everything from disappointing gifts (“14-year-olds do not want two-foot wide peg looms for Christmas”), to the entirely unsuitable sleeping arrangements Britons typically endure after driving home for Christmas (the out-dated spare rooms stuffed with “several hundredweight of car-boot sale fodder”, and nights spent on “rapidly deflating airbeds, barely the width of the average human body”). The first-person anecdotes are an absolute joy; often cringe-inducingly hilarious, and sometimes moving. Indeed, alongside the excellent observational humour, astute points are made about the likes of rampant consumerism and seasonal depression: Christmas “acts as a kind of emotional multiplier. If things are good, they feel glorious; if things are bad, they feel dreadful”. This cracker of a book (not sorry) will have recipients ho-ho-ho-ing around the Christmas tree, and keep them entertained long after the last pesky pine needles have been vacuumed up. ~ Joanne Owen