God save us from Top Gear Advent calendars!

Though it's hard to believe that Christmas could become tackier and more materialistic than it already is, somehow, every year, they manage it. 

You've got to hand it to Marks & Spencer and the BBC: who would have thought 2,000 years of Christian civilisation could culminate in the Top Gear chocolate Advent calendar? 

I could hardly believe my eyes when I spotted this grim, unseasonal artefact in an M&S food hall.

A Top Gear calendar has come a long way from the original story of Advent.

Top Gear

Three wise men?:Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May present BBC show Top Gear, which has released an Advent calendar

Perhaps, instead of being visited by Three Wise Men on camels, baby Jesus can be visited by Three Unwise Petrol-heads driving Jags. 

When I was growing up, the 25 windows of the Advent calendar told the Christmas story.

There was the pleasure of prising open the little card windows before school and finding an angel or shepherd.

I remember that silvery sense of anticipation as I counted down the days to the most exciting night of the year. 

How I pity today's children, who open a window in the Top Gear calendar and find a chocolate and some fatuous fact about Stig, the show's mystery test driver. 

We all know God moves in mysterious ways, but if this is the biggest mystery that the modern Christmas has to offer, then why don't we declare a national shopping holiday? 

I can understand why millions enjoy the antics of Jeremy Clarkson and the lads. They are a national tonic. But since when did the BBC's public service mission put making money from tie-in merchandise above telling children about the Nativity? 

However, the Top Gear calendar is not the real problem. It's the fact Christmas is in danger of becoming an empty shell into which we stuff all our fads.

The Advent calendar of my childhood was about deferred gratification. It taught us there were things worth waiting for. But the Clarkson version is a nuclear proliferation of chocolate. 

Every international survey tells us that our children are poor in ways that aren't just to do with money.

A recent Unicef report put Britain at the bottom of the developed world for the 'subjective well-being' of its children. 

Poverty of spirit, poverty of relationships, poverty of hope. All the shortfalls, in other words, that were traditionally addressed by the message of Christmas, long before we started worshipping the Holy Stig and Bluewater shopping centre became a place of pilgrimage.

As a parent, I know how hard it is not to get sucked into the tide of greed and marketing. Last year, my children talked me into getting a Homer Simpson Advent calendar. D'oh! Ho! Ho! 

The daily fight over whose turn it was to open and eat the chocolate got so bitter that, one morning, I stormed down the frosty garden in my nightie and flung the calendar into the fishpond.

For once, Child A and Child B were struck dumb. 

This year, I'm dreaming of a fight-free Christmas. Just like the ones we used to know. Chocs away!

Nothing beautiful about Belle de Jour

Here's a tough one. Your clever daughter calls from uni to say she's run into financial difficulties, but not to worry because she's making £300 an hour having sex with strangers. Do you: 

a) Say: 'Marvellous, darling, make sure you use protection.' 

b) Have an absolute fit and tell her to get home this minute. 

Belle de Jour

Parental influences?: Dr Brooke Magnanti, aka Belle de Jour

Hmm. Give me half a second to think about that one. 

According to Dr Brooke Magnanti, who as Belle de Jour wrote The Intimate Adventures Of A London Call Girl, nothing could be nicer than supplementing your meagre postgraduate income with a bit of flexible high-class whoring. 

What a silly cow. It takes someone so intelligent to be so astoundingly stupid. Like many brilliant scientists, Belle de Jour is several elements short of the full periodic table. In her case, the vital element missing is a moral sense. 

I smelt a rat as soon as I read the interview in which she unmasked herself. Sure enough, the rat turned out to be her father, who admits he has used more than 150 prostitutes and introduced his daughter to a few of them. 

Paging Dr Sigmund Freud! Instead of a happy hooker totally unharmed by her 'lifestyle', what begins to emerge is a woman who is clearly driven by dark, daddy-related compulsions. 

Belle de Jour's admirers say we should not be 'judgmental'. Yet here is a well-educated woman who has any number of ways to generate an income, yet chooses to sell her body.

Try explaining that to a woman in Africa who turns to prostitution to put food in her babies' bellies. 

No, there is nothing beautiful about Belle de Jour. 

Give pampered bureaucrats a one-way ticket...

Civil servants in the Education Department spent £10 million over the past three years on 60,000 first-class train fares.

This begs the question: where were they going  -  and would our schools be any worse if they hadn't come back? 

When Ed Balls is threatening to lay off headteachers, it is simply gob-smacking that bureaucrats are travelling in such style. 

That money could have been used to pay for 300 teachers or four desperately needed primary schools. 

It's time someone bought these pampered pen-pushers a one-way ticket. To the dole office.

Joe's X Factor disadvantage? He's musically gifted

Joe McElderry

Talented: Joe McElderry

Technicians on The X Factor complain the show is a fix because they have been given instructions to drown out John and Edward with loud backing vocals.

True, but what is the alternative? If they turn up the microphones when the twins are 'singing' then 16 million viewers will be traumatised by the sound of a pair of stoats being fed through a blender. 

On the other hand, I'm not a bit surprised to learn that the contestant who needs almost no technical trickery is that sweet, soulful Geordie, Joe McElderry.

'That boy can truly sing,' says one sound engineer. Let's hope Joe can overcome the cruel disadvantage of being musically gifted to go on and win The X Factor. 

It's macaroni please

Pick up your paring knives, fellow mothers of Britain, and defend yourselves. We stand accused of relying on just nine recipes to feed our families.

That many? Who needs nine? Six is plenty. Spag bol, shepherd's pie, macaroni cheese...

Apparently, those of us who think like this are slatterns. A spokesman for Merchant Gourmet (the firm behind the survey) complains that busy mothers reverting to the same recipes can make for 'very repetitive meal times'.

Forgive me for asking, but have these culinary experts ever met any children, who tend to like 'very repetitive'?

My youngest adopts the Enoch Powell position towards anything he regards as filthy foreign muck. Which is pretty much all food, except pasta (honorary British status) and sausages.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that more than a third of mums won't waste money on cooking something at which their children turn up their noses and that 44 per cent don't have time to experiment.

Mothers are ruthlessly practical creatures. We know that experiments are best left to chemistry students.

My friend Emma decided to escape her culinary rut and presented her three boys with Nigella's lime cheesecake. Result: one happy dog.

Only last week, my homemade lamb rogan josh  -  eight spices ground in a pestle and mortar, and a big round of applause, if you please  -  was greeted with a bewildered silence.

That was until the Small Boy piped up: 'When is the real dinner coming?'

Sorry, new mums have no right to Me Time

Rebecca Stevenson

Escaped jail: Rebecca Stevenson

When a mother leaves her four tiny children alone and goes on a 24-hour drink and drugs binge, a terrible crime against Nature has been committed. 

For this horrendous dereliction of duty, a judge gave Rebecca Stevenson a 20-week suspended prison sentence. Why not throw in a spa break, your Honour? 

Perhaps the most heart-breaking detail was that Stevenson's four-year-old daughter was left to feed her starving baby brother and had to drag a chair to the kitchen to reach into a cupboard for a tin of milk powder. 

Even though she must have been frightened and bewildered, the little girl instinctively tried to step into the nurturing role.

When a child makes a better parent than her mother, something has gone very wrong. 

The tragedy is that 22-year-old Stevenson is just one of a generation of females who believe the concept Me Time is a right, not a rare treat.

Every gossip mag carries pictures of celebrity mums out clubbing, behaving as if they were still single.

On TV, there's Katie Price having abandoned her three children to go into the Celebrity Jungle just when they have become victims of her bitter divorce. 

What we don't see is the huge amount of money it takes to pay for the staff who help sustain the illusion that life after children for these celebrities is the same as before. It isn't, and nor should it be. 

Don't get me wrong. I am all for knackered mums snatching a bit of time to themselves. Almost anything that helps keep you sane is a bonus. 

But if you are irresponsible enough to have four children under the age of five by three fathers (like Stevenson), you have said goodbye to freedom. 

Society needs to send a signal of its deep revulsion to parents who don't put the safety and welfare of their children first. Stevenson should have been jailed. That would leave her with plenty of Me Time. 

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now