“It was like the bar scene in Star Wars, rewritten by Harold Pinter.”by Toby Young / December 23, 2015 / Leave a comment
Shame descended on the Young household last Christmas. When my wife, Caroline, picked up our nine-year-old son from school on the last day of the term, she was intercepted by his teacher, who wanted a quiet word.
Oh no, she thought. What’s Ludo done now?
In fact, it was more a case of what I’d done—or failed to do. The teacher explained that she’d asked the children to write “letters to Santa,” saying what they wanted for Christmas. At the top of his list Ludo had written: “Light bulb.” When the teacher asked him why he’d chosen such an unusual present he told her that the bulb in his bedroom had stopped working six months ago. Ludo’s hope was that if Santa put a bulb in his stocking, his deadbeat dad might finally get around to replacing it.
One of the reasons I was so embarrassed by this story is that, for years now, I’ve been complaining about how greedy my kids are when it comes to Christmas presents. Ludo has never asked for anything as modest as a light bulb before. On the contrary, he has presented me with endless lists, some stretching to several sides of foolscap, nearly all of which contain items like Xbox and PlayStation accompanied by detailed drawings. When he was four, he spent the best part of an afternoon drawing a picture of a “Roket” and then painstakingly explained that this rendering wasn’t supposed to be actual size. He wanted a real rocket, one that could take him to the moon.
The sheer ambition of Ludo’s requests is quite endearing. Clearly, he is still an innocent when it comes to money. Not so my daughter, who’s two years older. Even as a five-year-old, she knew that if she asked for anything costing more than £25 she’d be unlikely to get it. Where she went wrong was in asking for more or less everything in this price bracket. She was so suggestible that she only had to see an advertisement for, say, Hot Wheels Shark Bite Bay, and she wanted it. And I mean, really, really wanted it, as in ran down to my garden office and told me she absolutely must have it. I often thank God that we’re not yet in the era when you can purchase something advertised on television with one click of a button on the remote. If we were, the ground floor of our house would look like a Toys“R”Us warehouse.