Brent Cross Shopping Centre is quite lively in the run-up to Christmas.
Actually, this is a bit of an understatement. It is lively all right, but in the sense in which the anteroom to hell must be lively.
A vortex of humanity, an eddy best described by the Latin grex venalium, swirls widely from one shop to the next, sucking in countless trinkets and disgorging them into the multi-tiered car park.
This is Christmas! Yuletide! Time for the throng to be at its most venal.
Tis the season to be competitive, to show that upstart Darren that he isn’t the only one prepared to borrow enough to finance a whirlwind looting expedition to Brent Cross.
Tis the season to beat that bitch Sharon in the festive poker game: I’ll see your tasteless scarf, Sharon, and raise you a set of place mats with pictures of rosy-cheeked angels on them.
Why angels? Well, it’s Christmas, innit?
That’s what it’s all about, innit? Shopping for angels, place mats and electronic devices.
Some intrepid researchers, fully aware that shopping is the underlying theological basis of Christmas, nevertheless conducted a quick survey designed to find out how much young shoppers knew about the bloke who used to be seen as the reason to be jolly.
To that end, researchers showed 1,000 children an iconic picture of Jesus, identified him as such, and asked the young shoppers who Jesus Christ was.
To duplicate the educational technique with which the youngsters were familiar, this was a multiple-choice question. The choices were:
a) A footballer for Chelsea FC
b) Son of God
c) TV presenter
d) X Factor contestant
e) An astronaut
It’s clear that the researchers weren’t fully au courant with educational techniques. If our ‘educators’ were as ignorant, we’d never see a steady increase in A-level scores.
The trick isn’t just to give the little ones a multiple choice, but to make the answer bleeding obvious. To that end they must be given no more than three options, with two of them patently ridiculous.
For example: ‘Who invented the telephone? a) Alexander Graham Bell, b) dumbbell, c) bluebell. Correct answer (practically) guaranteed, the doors of Oxbridge flung wide open.
Those who composed this survey followed a different route, guaranteeing failure. First, what’s with the five options? How did they expect those shopping tots not to be confused?
And, I’ll have you notice, all five choices were perfectly plausible, which was bound to deepen the confusion even further. No wonder the answers were evenly spread, reflecting the statistical likelihood of random choice.
Hence exactly 20 per cent of the survey’s subjects identifying Jesus as a Chelsea ball-kicker – this in spite of the fact that his garment in the picture was brown and not blue. Judging by the report, they weren’t probed deeper, to establish which position JC plays.
If this isn’t testimony to the catastrophic… Sorry, finish it later, have to run now.
It’s only 13 shopping days left to Christmas, and I hear there’s a tasty sale going on in Piccadilly – next to that church.
My new book, Democracy as a Neocon Trick, is available from Amazon and the more discerning bookshops. However, my publisher would rather you ordered it from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.html or, in the USA, http://www.newwinebookshop.com/Books/0002752