COLUMN: December 27, 2012

I WAS slightly bleary of eye on Boxing Day morning. I was even more bleary of brain. Like people on the tills in Next and some train drivers, journalists generally have to work on Boxing Day.

This is so that you can sit where you are now reading this, probably complaining that there isn’t much on the television and wondering why you have eaten so many satsumas over the past three days, bearing in mind that this is nearly 2013 and satsumas are available at pretty much any time of the year. If I sound bitter about that, then that is because I am.

I stumbled into the living room and fumbled with the Christmas tree lights. It was about half an hour before I had to get up, but a couple of younger members of the household had inexplicably woken me early.

Then a small girl of my close acquaintance shoved a package into my face and made it clear, in a sweet but insistent way, that I was expected to open this package. It was a box containing four Disney Princesses. And I quailed.

Normally I perform this task with a clear head and sharp focus. But I was bleary of eye and brain, as I think I mentioned. This was going to be trickier than usual.

First, the lid was stuck tight with a form of sticky tape. I am full of nervous energy – it is the only energy I have – and I squander it on biting my nails. This makes peeling Sellotape a difficult and onerous task. It is like trying to scrape ice off a windscreen using a piece of fruit cake.

If all people were like me, those pieces of tape would be enough to protect the contents from shoplifters. But very few people are like me, which is how our society is able to have electricity and roads and houses.

This is why, after I had struggled to remove not one but three pieces of tape, I had to move onto the next level – the twisty wire.

Each of the four dolls was attached to a cardboard backing by two or three pieces of twisty wire and some other devices, the likes of which I had not seen before.

I decided I’d worry about them later. I would have a go on the twisty wire first. I did the due diligence, ascertained it would need a clockwise action, and started untwisting the first one

About a minute later, I was still untwisting it, and realised I had untwisted it so much that I had twisted it in the opposite direction.

I cursed softly under my breath, and carefully unwound the wire until I realised it was going to happen again. At no point did the wire come free. I was baffled.

I do not know why cyclists bother with expensive chains and padlocks – all they need is to attach the bike to some railings using toy packaging-grade twisty wire.

Eventually, I realised the wire had been tied in a simple knot before being twisted and I was able to release the first doll. I imagine this is how Hillary felt upon reaching the summit of Everest.

I handed the doll to the small girl, who correctly remarked that it had taken me some time.

The next two dolls were released relatively easily. The twisty wire was no longer an obstacle, and the clear plastic strands holding the necks sinisterly in place were despatched with a snip of scissors.

But the last one, Sleeping Beauty, was to prove more tricky. Her twisty wire was around her waist, but I couldn’t see where, meaning she stayed resolutely attached to the cardboard. The only way I could remove the wire was to remove her dress.

I feel uncomfortable enough about removing clothes from a Barbie – which I am sometimes called upon to do – and she seems quite a game lass. But then I generally feel uncomfortable performing any sort of task about which another adult could reasonably ask: “What on earth are you doing?”

Anyway, it felt downright sordid doing it to a Disney Princess. Not even the prince had to do that to release Sleeping Beauty from her trap.

As I finished, the alarm on my phone went off, telling me it was time to get up. It had taken me half an hour from being given the box to handing over the last doll. It appears the children knew exactly what they were doing.

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