Mixed messages for mixed-up folk

MESSAGES from the legal system and clergy this week sounded like those in power and influence have been over indulging on the Christmas tipple.First a judge, presumably appointed for his fairness of mind and erudite judgment, locked up a man for two and a half years for chasing and beating a member of a gang who had held his family at knifepoint in their home.

MESSAGES from the legal system and clergy this week sounded like those in power and influence have been over indulging on the Christmas tipple.

First a judge, presumably appointed for his fairness of mind and erudite judgment, locked up a man for two and a half years for chasing and beating a member of a gang who had held his family at knifepoint in their home.

His learned honour's message? When an intruder calls, welcome him in, put on the kettle and offer them a nice cup of tea while they pick through our belongings to see what's worth nicking. Help them fill their swag bags even.

Hang on, though. Insurance companies might object to paying out if we're too welcoming so hold the cuppa, do as we're told, play dead and offer no resistance.

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By the way, the man beaten was a habitual offender with more than 50 previous offences. So the legal system had made a real fist of punishing the real criminal and protecting society.

But a man, defending his family after watching them cowed and terrified, tied up and threatened at the hands of this man, is in clink for Christmas. Who else wouldn't use force on someone who harmed everyone we hold dear?

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Then, just as it feels it's as barmy as it can get, a vicar advises shoplifting from his pulpit.

Baffled? It gets worse. The Rev Tim Jones, doubtless a respected and admired leader of his flock in York, chose the Sunday before Christmas to say how stealing was the only way people could survive the recession.

'My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift.'

Come again? Moral guidance from the pulpit. Not thieving from small family businesses, mind, but just the big high street boys. Big national companies.

I doubt M&S will be sending him a box of communion wine.

Magistrates and prosecutors too will be agog by the advice of a man of the cloth. It won't be just the criminals they're taking on now but God. What more ideal defence is there than: 'A vicar told me it was ok to take it?'

What was he thinking?

His point was that if stealing was the only way to get by for the needy then they should steal from those who could best afford to lose.

Stealing from shops was preferable to other degrading or violent crimes like prostitution, robbery and burglaries.

Now even the church is grading crime.

According to the rev, his advice did not break the eighth commandment 'Thou shalt not steal' because 'God's love for the poor and despised outweighs the property rights of the rich.'

Society might have failed the needy; too many people are living in misery unsupported by a system with too many holes. There are also too many managing to play the imperfect system to their advantage.

Christmas is the hardest time for so many in the face of constant bombardment to spend, spend, spend.

There's been no escape since October that all we can give comes with a price tag, to be wrapped and presented to bring instant happiness.

If only.

What the vicar is really urging is protest. Protest against an unjust society. It has always been so.

But stealing is hardly the best way for those failed by a selfish society to make a point that those with much treat them with indifference and contempt.

But, as loopy as both opinions may look, both have got us thinking about right and wrong, how people across society are treated so differently.

So a Christmas message nonetheless - to think about others and how we treat them. So good can come out of plain wrong.

The Strictly Come Dancing marathon came to the right end. The nice guy won.

Chris Hollins is the type of person we all love to work with. Eternally cheerful, hard working, honest and fun. Always a smile on his face, willing to take on any task with good heart and gives his all to everything he tackles.

Such was his work ethic, he was back at his desk before dawn on Monday morning doing his day job. He even responded, within minutes, to an early morning 'well done, I voted for you' email from a Radio Norfolk producer. Now that's class and the impeccable manners we've come to expect from self-effacing Hollins.

Ricky Whittle might have been the better dancer from the start.

But Hollins proved hard work and good cheer could turn him from clumsy awkward amateur to a charming entertainer.

His dancing aside, his other qualities made him a favourite- qualities I tell my boys count for more than anything in life. Being nice and working hard with a smile. Winners every time.

There are few things in life I claim to be good at but driving and parking are two.

Even my boys concede I'm a better driver than their father to which he obviously takes great offence.

And when it comes to parking, I'd take on a man any day.

So scientists, predictably in Germany, who have concluded that men are far better at parking than women can go and reverse into themselves.

Only last week I was congratulated by two men who watched me squeeze into a tiny space with less than a foot in front and the same behind in two deft manoeuvres.

I do it all the time but they seemed to want to burst into applause such was their shock as if I'd performed some sort of miracle.

Hello? I've only parked a car. Calm down, dear.

They got the withering look they deserved.

Why do men feel the need to stop to watch a woman try to get into tight parking spaces? To quietly intimidate and fluster her or be ready to take down her number if she hits the car in front or behind.

Women never watch men. We've far better things to do.

Scientists put men's alleged superior parking down to better coordination and spatial awareness because their brains can process the changing position and speed of a car quicker than women's.

What a lot of hydraulics. It's all down t confidence. Men try to erode women's confidence behind the wheel and, sadly, too often succeed.

And arch feminist Germaine Greer doesn't help with her input into the great parking debate.

According to her, our bosoms get in the way 'which makes it very difficult to turn around.' Hardly a spirited defence, sister.

Among the many unfathomables in life, the British pantomime is one.

I just don't get it.

While families rush to buy tickets for the Christmas panto, I'd rather run a mile along the beach slathered in goose fat in sub-zero temperatures than endure the forced supposed hilarity of a pantomime.

I took my family once to the Theatre Royal in Norwich and remembered why we'd never been before. It was unfunny, laboured and amateurish - and that's a professional performance. Even my boys asked to leave at the interval.

Excruciating double entendres, washed up 'stars' and, worse still local pantomime, 'in jokes' about local personalities and issues.

Panto is in the news now Pamela Anderson is in Aladdin at London's New Wimbledon theatre. Once Anderson has resorted to panto it's time to stop.

It might be tradition and British but it's tired and dreadful.

Christmas is almost here.

As we dash around doing our last-minute bits and bobs, welcome family and friends into our homes, prepare feasts for visitors and swap presents, there are plenty of people on their own at Christmas, lonely and sad.

This year might be the first Christmas without a loved one, a mother who has lost her son in Afghanistan, or a widow grieving her husband.

Christmas is a terrible time to be alone when all about you seems to be buzzing and busy.

If we could all spare a thought this Christmas for the lonely - offer a Christmas wish, kindness and a place at the table beyond our immediate family and friends. A little to us can mean such a lot to others.

With that thought, wishing you all a very merry and peaceful Christmas.

Has any woman endured such public humiliation as Elin Nordegren, the wife of Tiger Woods?

She has had to suffer woman after woman slithering out of the woodwork to spill the beans on their passionate encounters wither husband and father of their, let's not forget, so young children. The youngest is just 10 months.

With a two-year-old and 10-month-old most young mothers have spent the last two years exhausted, sleepless nights, leaky breasts - and as the 29-year-old has coped with the children believing her husband to be out working on his strokes, he's been feeding his sex addiction with a coterie of dodgy blondes.

How does any woman cope with that devastation and in the public eye too?

According to her friends, she's wanted him to show contrition so they can stay together for the children but he refuses to get help for his sex-addiction.

She must be at the end of her tether. She's putting her children first but he won't even meet her half way and get help.

But now she's threatening to cut him out of her children's life going to sole custody.

Her hurt and anger is understandable but using children as a weapon is never the way. Children want and need to know their father, whatever their mother's thought s about him, she should keep them to herself because every child deserves a relationship with his or her father.

What goes on between the parents should never affect the children's relationships with either. Hard - sometimes torture - but the foundations of good solid parenting.

Good on Fern Britton.

Like so many women in middle age, she's looked at her life and wondering what it's all about.

After a career in the TV spotlight, at 52 she's decided to retrain and swap career. She's beginning a BSc in Chinese therapy and acupuncture.

Good luck to her and every amazing woman of a certain age who grasps nettle to change her own life with education, retraining or a new career.

It's never too late and life is for living. Go girls.

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