Lynne Mortimer - What about Father Christmas? Nooo! I’m not listening... la la la

Lynne Mortimer

Lynne Mortimer - Credit: Archant

Excuse the bluntness but this is how it was said to me.

“The trouble is, we can’t talk b*****ks any more.” This was Andrew’s observation at the dining table at a posh restaurant in Cambridge. My fork had been hovering over a tiny quail’s breast topped with sliced grapes... was this one mouthful or two?

He expanded. “Once upon a time you could give a clever-sounding explanation for something or display impressive knowledge and everyone would think you were right and very wise. But now we can Google, you can’t get away with it any more.”

My mind rewound to 1970 when my best friend Ruth and I, aged 15, went to a party at my (then) boyfriend’s big house which was furnished with all manner of arty stuff.

“That’s an amazing rug,” said Ruth. He was not wearing a wig, she was referring to a handwoven rug with a bold, contemporary design.

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“Yes,” said my boyfriend, “That is an Aboriginal hare-hunting rug.”

“Really,” breathed Ruth.

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He could see he was on to something.

“Yes, the hunters would take it into the outback and, at night, when it got cold, they laid out the rug and the hares, attracted by the warmth would creep in under it. Then the hunter would jump up (despatch the hares) and roll them up in the rug.”

“Really,” said Ruth.

“Really,” he confirmed.

It was, of course, a complete invention but this was 45 years ago when credulousness couldn’t be checked on the internet.

Now, it only takes one raised eyebrow for someone to whip out the smart phone.

The day of the know-it-all is over (except, perhaps, for Stephen Fry). There always used to be an uncle who would hold court about his adventures... when, as a small boy he met Rudyard Kipling in India and was the inspiration for Mowgli, in The Jungle Book. Today, a quick flick to Wikipedia would reveal your uncle would have to be extremely old because the tale, published in magazines, came out in the early 1890s. The same uncle would have played football for England and managed to sneak into Westminster Abbey to watch the Coronation. He also invented the self-adhesive postage stamp.

It’s so much more interesting than the truth and, truth to tell, I invented the uncle.

The truth can also be quite sad because our most treasured myths come under threat.


Father Christmas, for example.

The Santa-loving world has had to make a number of amendments to traditional Christmas Eve goings-on in order to keep things ticking over.

For a start, the jolly chap can now magic himself into a house without the need for a chimney. Moreover, his elves are now electronics savvy. Some time ago his glass of sherry was replaced with a tumbler of fresh orange juice so that he didn’t drive his sleigh while over the drink-drive limit or unduly exacerbate his Type 2 diabetes (you can’t eat that many mince pies over that many years without getting something). Best advice: don’t Google “Father Christmas exists” because this is an occasion on which, I for one, can’t handle the truth.

** But while the awful Gradgrindian facts are churned out of cyberspace, the internet is happy to confirm virtually any old b... rubbish.

While its veracity has now been roundly refuted, there was a totally false allegation that Captain Pugwash had a cabin boy called Roger on board the Flying Pig.

Generally speaking, the internet keeps all its information safe whether true or false and every now and then one delicious piece of misinformation will re-enter the public domain.

For example, it was put about that if a thief is forcing you to take money from a cash machine, you should punch your PIN in reverse. The money will come out but will be stuck in the machine and the machine will immediately alert the police without the thief’s knowledge.

It’s not true. The idea has been mooted but what if your number is 4004? (This is not my PIN)

Oh, and I googled Aboriginal hare hunting rug. Nothing.

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