A MERE £4 million on mince pies already! – and we’re still in British Summer Time. We’ve also already spent a million quid on Christmas puds.

Truly, Christmas isn’t just for Christmas any more but all year round.

Back in June I overheard three women in Marks and Spencer in Darlington buying nighties for Christmas presents – I didn’t know whether to be impressed by their forward planning or downright appalled – and this week a toy sale in Sainsburys saw people overloading their trolleys with huge boxes of plastic toys. Maybe they all had ten children to buy for – or one was going to get very, very spoiled.

Even I, who reckon I could whip up a decent Christmas from a standing start on Christmas Eve, have, I’m almost ashamed to say, already bought a few small items… But it’s hard not to feel pressured. The Christmas displays were in the shops as soon as the kids went back to school. New shoes, new uniform, new books, Advent calendars… It’s not just that Christmas starts earlier, it’s always started around August Bank Holiday, it’s just that the pressure is relentless.

It’s also downright sneaky. All these shops and business pretending that if you start now it will spread the cost, make life easier, when actually what they mean is BUY MORE! NOW!

Our grandparents started thinking about Christmas some time in early December. Or maybe late November if they made the puddings on Stir Up Sunday and thought they were really planning ahead..

But now – when life is easier, everything’s instant and we can have Father Christmas on an app – many of us will have a perfectly pleasant autumn ruined by thoughts of one day. I don’t blame big business. We’re the ones mad enough to fall for it.

And it needn’t be like this… At the end of the summer we had a bit of a family gathering at my niece’s house near Oxford. We all brought small presents, mostly stuff we’d made or grown – books, sloe gin, chocolate brownies. My niece chipped in legs of lamb and pork from animals she’d raised. My 89-year-old brother in law brought trout he’d caught and frozen, runner beans and pots of parsley.

The kitchen looked like a mini farmers’ market. Younger son’s baby chased the dog and the dog rounded up the hens. We had a simple enjoyable lunch and a stroll. It was a delightful, relaxing family day. As we loaded up our booty for the journey home, I thought that was what Christmas was meant to be like. No pressure from months of relentless advertising, just a family getting together for pleasure and exchanging small gifts.

Do you think we could Christmas as simple as that again? If only…

APOLOGIES to the wedding party in Alnwick Castle last week. The trouble with having weddings at the same time as the gardens are open to the public is that when bride and groom and guests swarm out for pictures against the stunning backdrops they’re likely to get photo bombed by small children on tractors, teenagers splashing each other and old bags like me absent-mindedly wandering into the middle of every shot... Sorry.

HAPPY birthday and good luck to Davina McCall, 50 this month and looking great. So much so that she posed for a glossy magazine photo shoot with NO make up. Gosh!

Most of us could wear half a ton of slap and still not look as good.

But brave, as some commentators said?

Brave is dodging bullets or speaking up for a cause you believe in, or carrying on when all you want to do is give up and sob. That’s bravery. Going without make-up for a picture isn’t quite the same league.

Nice eyebrows though.

THE surprising aspect about the couple who had sex in Domino’s Pizza in Scarborough – for which they’ve just received community orders – is that delivery staff just carried on with their work around them while they were at it.

If only they’d thrown a bucket of water over them. Or maybe a load of tomatoes…

NOW Shakespeare comes with trigger warnings...

Students at Cambridge University are now advised in lecture notes that Titus Andronicus – a particularly gory play – could be “distressing.”

Not half as distressing as some modern crime novels – Val McDermid, Jo Nesbo – for instance which seem to revel in graphic descriptions of particularly sadistic murders, usually of women.

The reasons for this upsurge in blood, gore and cruelty is worth an academic study in itself – but only, of course, if students didn’t find it too distressing…

SINCE she’s had her son, now in his teens, Liz Hurley claimed in an interview this week that she no longer obsesses with how she looks. This is, you may remember, the woman who got the same son to take pictures of her doing yoga poises in a bikini.

“You don’t have time to look in the mirror and “ooh” and “ahh” because you’re too busy,” she said.

Yeah, right…