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Suzanne Power: Final preparations for our virtual Christmas

At this time of year I tend to feel like a service provider: cards, presents, drinks, food, family, running like a hare before hounds.

But this year is a very different rule to my usual Yule. This year it's all been done by touch-type.

We were snowed in for 11 days. I don't know what the white stuff does to your brain, but mine goes cryogenic. I couldn't write. I just surfed for stuff that would make it to our house by December 24. And it was thinner on the ground than the snow outside. The weather outside was frightful and inside was just as bad as we realised how late we had left it to shop for stuff overseas.

Our location meant we couldn't even get off our laneway. Our only option was to email Santa, who told us, even though he might live in Arctic conditions, he often has to send stuff ahead via courier.

He advised us, in a not very ho ho ho reply, we needed to talk to the delivery companies, not give out stink to his elves or him. He's had enough of ratty Irish parents putting his workshop under pressure. It's not his fault the bits of technology my nine-year-olds want under the tree are stuck in a Dagenham warehouse or a New York depot.

The trouble with the global economy is it's so global. It'll take NASA to get some of our parcels here on time. And NASA don't do next day delivery. Christmas this year will be a split shift, some stuff on the right day, some in the first month of 2011.

We told the boys the bad news. They are still scratching their heads to understand how a guy who lives in the North Pole was delayed by the Irish snow. One of them saw my inbox and looked to see where my reply from St Nicholas was.

"I didn't see any," he said doubtfully. "But there were a few from Argos. Does he use Argos to order iPods?" You know you're on thin ice when your son is providing his own excuses.

I put on the inevitable pack of sausages, purchased from the local barn shop, eaten once a day for 11 days, and the inevitable Advent smile: long-suffering and barely able to prevent myself breaking into the festive drink. There's a week to go and I sure can't do this Christmas job pissed.

Last year I had every intention of setting up a support group for parents brought up in the age of manual typewriters and round dial telephones, trying to upskill to sufficiently grasp the world postal system and the technology revolution as they shop virtually for products, usually called by acronym rather than anything recognisable, that they don't understand. "Shopping made easy," one site told me, then timed me out because I was bursting for the loo and took 11 rather than 10 minutes to input my credit card details.

The real world is on hold. My Christmas -- craft fairs and hot pots with friends and family after a big shopping day where we get real presents in our real hands -- never happened. I may be mad but I missed the madness of the dash with other frenzied purchasers. I love the camaraderie among us disorganised parents, offers of help to track down the Wii accessory that will work with the yoke.

The yoke is what I call everything my lads will get this year. I've yet to care enough to use anything but the most dismissive terminology relating to it. I still think Blu-ray is a kind of shark.

When the weather broke and we got the car out on the road, we went straight down to the garden centre to get a big fat real Christmas tree. It will shed needles and I will not complain, because I am so glad to have something so real, when I yearned for it in the first days of December.

The day there's a virtual tree on an LCD screen is the day I'll turn to LSD. Now there's an abbreviation for you.


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