Ian O'Doherty: Gender-neutral toys? Sure where's the fun in that?
I have to admit, I had a typically enjoyable Christmas -- the usual round of formal parties in various ambassadors' residences; a day at the races rubbing shoulders with the great and the good and I was also grand marshal at numerous traditional countryside pursuits.
These social engagements included such highlights as the Bollocking of the Badger in Baltinglass on Stephen's Day and the now legendary Mild Mockery of the Mink, which sees the well-heeled burghers of Greater Wexford gather together and accuse a mink of being too fat to make a good coat. This ritual, whose origins are lost in time but are believed to have started roughly around the time Love/Hate was mean to a cat, is always a highlight on the calendar.
No, I can't start the year with a fibaroo. I hate to inform you, my Christmas didn't revolve around swishing from one swanky party to another and it certainly didn't feature any of tho weird rituals of those who celebrate the birth of the ickle baby Jesus by smearing some fox blood on their nose.
I simply spent the last week and a half like everybody else -- collapsed in a heap in front of the telly, rousing occasionally only to scream 'what day is it?' and freaking out that I should have been back in work.
Having said that, one incident stands out -- when I witnessed a shocking incident with a gun on the north side.
It happened when I was dragged to, sorry, willingly visited, some of the wife's family. It was all going pleasantly enough until one of their children present produced a toy gun and started to play war with me.
Who on earth gives a boy child a toy gun in these enlightened, emasculated times? Who is prepared to indoctrinate the future heir to all their earthly possessions with such a symbol of violence and oppression?
Well, the parents of an extremely well adjusted, happy-go-lucky kid, as it happens.
Because as he stalked the house, gleefully shooting all and sundry (although his mother did seem a bit pissed off when I taught him how to line up his Action Men and mow them down while saying 'this is what we do to those who betray the Reich!') I realised something -- he was thoroughly enjoying himself.
In fact, young Oscar was having a blast as he went up to everyone and pretended to shoot them and continued until they played dead. He spent his time running around like a ball of nappy-clad energy before he demanded a bottle and went into a deep sleep which, I'm sure you'll agree, is a damn fine way for anyone to spend an afternoon.
Of course, there are numerous pursed-lipped harridans out there who think the idea of giving a young boy a toy gun is as bad as giving them the real thing. That's fine, there have always been loons and cranks and crackpots among us. But where they were once ignored, now they are being indulged in their crankiness.
And their lunatic ideas about what toys are suitable for which gender are now given priority over that most precious of natural resources, common sense.
Any parent who does something as crazy as getting their boy a gun is guilty of breeding a future war criminal, according to one feminist hack writing in the London Indy recently. She asked: "Is it any wonder then, that with the deluge of guns, cars and war toys, so many men grow up feeling they need to be 'macho' and 'hard'?"
Ah yes, 'war toys'. The best of all the toys.
This could be put down and filed away as simply the latest idiotic dribbling from yet another tedious feminist who thinks boys are stinky and noisy and should be curtailed. But the growing liberal dogmatism that sees adults told what they are allowed to think has been spreading into the children's realm for a while.
And 2014 will see the first great victory for the social engineers who would turn your children into the equality-obsessed, extremely confused grown-ups of tomorrow. Because this is the year when Marks and Sparks will stock only gender-neutral toys, no nasty blues or girly pinks here, thank you very much.
This has been hailed as a triumph by activists and eejits who think you can socially engineer your way out of basic biology and is as good a reason to boycott M&S as any I can think of. This isn't new, of course -- several toy outlets in Sweden have been proudly gender-neutral since last September, and the British store has promised that: "By this Spring, all our toys will be gender-neutral!"
But let's be honest, if something has become popular in Sweden then that's a good reason to completely ignore it. After all, we have nothing to learn from the land of Scandinavian silliness, which has quotas for everything and recently saw their best footballer, the refreshingly mad Zlatan Ibrahimovic, complain that the local media keeps insisting that the best Swedish female footballer is automatically just as good as he is.
Boys will be boys and girls will be girls.
And, by and large, boys will go for things that go bang and girls will go for softer toys. That's not a hard-and-fast commandment, but it works as a general rule of thumb.
So trying to force your kid into some sort of rigid, politically acceptable play-space just to conform to this deranged gender tampering is not only stupid, but doomed to failure -- nature trumps fashionable politics, every time. Because as long as kids such as Oscar enjoy running around with a gun there will be girls who like playing dress up and this just proves one thing -- kids are a lot smarter than their parents.
Although, in hindsight, I now understand that teaching Oscar to take his sister's My Little Pony toys hostage and threaten to shoot one every five minutes until she let him watch his favourite show on CBeebies was probably taking things a step too far...