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Giving John Lewis child is just too good to be true

PUBLISHED: 17:11 16 January 2012 | UPDATED: 09:12 15 February 2012

We know it's Christmas when John Lewis brings out the big guns and takes us from nought to blubbing in under 90 seconds. Everyone wants a John Lewis Christmas: everyone.

Even the most black-hearted cynic feels comforted by those price guarantees and staff that look pleased to see you as opposed to being one “could you help me?” away from stabbing you in the eye.

People who shop in John Lewis have enchanted lives, beautiful homes, impossibly wonderful children and probably poo golden eggs as a party piece – who wouldn’t want a slice of that? I do. I definitely do.

I can’t imagine any other high street store that could have persuaded Morrissey to hand over the rights to what is my favourite Smiths song of all time and then stand back as some syrup-voiced breathy harpy strangled it to death with a caramel noose in a vat of candyfloss.

Then again, I’d hand over my children to JL if they asked me to – because I know they could give them a better life: one full of Waitrose hummous, quirky 1950s vintage- style curtains and Cath Kidston crockery.

Morrissey’s endorsement is the icing on the cake.

All this aside (and I am being genuine, I do love John Lewis), I’m not convinced by that kid in the advertisement: show me a child who believes that it’s better to give than to receive and I will show you a bewitched changeling.

Seven-year-old Lewis McGowan is the adorable imp that ignores his own presents in order to wake his parents with a (huge) gift that he’s bought them himself – ironically, the last time I bought anything that big from John Lewis was before I had children, when I had a disposable income.

One of the creative team behind the advertisement said: “His parents were on set and his mum was shouting things at him that could be in the box.

‘A beautiful handbag for mummy!’, ‘new shoes for mummy!’ that’s why he starts smiling at the end.” I’d have shouted: “it’s the head of an infidel!” or “it’s the illusion of a wonderful gift but it’s actually a wrapped, empty box, which is a brilliant metaphor for the materialism that saturates Christmas!” It’s a travesty that I wasn’t invited on set.

The sad reality of life is that it’s normally far more like the Littlewoods advertisement than the one from John Lewis.

In the former, a gang of grasping tinies hijack a school Christmas show and bark out orders for the presents they’d like to receive from the store’s online catalogue: this, I recognise.

My children will not awaken me with a beautiful handbag or new shoes, they will awaken me with their elephan-tine thudding down the stairs to see whether or not Father Christmas has left them a 48” plasma television, tickets for a trip into orbit on Virgin Galactic and a pony.

In fairness, the very last thing I want for Christmas is shoes or handbags, especially if they’re ones chosen by my son, whose idea of high fashion is wearing only (a) his school uniform or (b) a tiger suit complete with paws and ears.

Equally, I don’t want to wake up on December 25 to discover my children have been swapped for simpering replicants. Just because that’s what I wanted in 2009 doesn’t mean it’s what I want this year.

•This article was original published on November 14, 2011

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