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Festive cheer can be so exhausting

THIS is the best week of the year.

From Christmas Eve until January 2 it's like 10 days of Sundays. And who doesn't love Sundays? Even if you have to work on a Sunday (except if you're in the emergency services; in which case it's presumably permanent full throttle) no-one expects your engine to be firing on all cylinders. And that's exactly what the extended festive week is like - a week of low personal expectation.

You can have chocolate before breakfast and mince pie mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks are totally acceptable. As are three-course dinners every day, a cheese board for supper and a nip of Baileys in your coffee. Your 11am coffee.

Exertion is an afternoon stroll. You can watch TV in the daytime even though you're not sick. The Universal Channel has Law & Order SVU on a loop and it's okay to watch it back-to-back; just don't admit it to anyone ...

You can say hello to strangers in the street and, with the festive cheer perfuming the air, they just think you're a little eccentric, rather than out and out barking.

You can also shrug off regular commitments with the excuse that it's Christmas and you're busy. You're not busy, you're watching the Father Ted omnibus on Channel 4. Oh, and transport is on a reduced service so you've absolutely got an excuse to be hibernating.

Poor food choices, daytime TV, an obsession with presents and an unwillingness to travel. For 10 days you're essentially making the choices your 12-year-old self would make. The festive week is like being a child left to its own devices.

Of course, after 10 days of chocolate before breakfast you begin to see the value in a vegetable. When your skirt band is just a little bit snugger than it used to be, you begin to feel that a cheeseboard at midnight and the minimal exertions of an afternoon stroll are just not good choices.

When you can recite from rote the adverts in between Law & Order SVU ("I want the killer in jail, for life, today") in an American accent it makes you realise what you've been missing the outside world.

Basically, the festive period is a chance to find out why being a child again has its limits.

Sure, it's nice to slob around but it's also nice to feel fit and functioning. It's the motivation needed to get through the next 11 months before the pitfalls of slobbery fade to distant memories and the chance to lounge tempts once again.

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