In a few days time, Aurelia and I will be off to the ancestral home for Christmas. Like salmon returning to the stream where they were born, the Youngs migrate annually back to the Thames at Cookham in Berkshire. The average family moves house every seven years, the demographers tell us. The Youngs exert some upward pressure on that statistic, having remained immobile for over 200 years, to the annoyance of generations of local estate agents.
The home now belongs to Son No 1; when the other children complain about the inequity of primogeniture, I point out that, under King Herod, being the first born son was not without risk, and some modest compensation was now appropriate. Giving the property to him was, as they say, a no-brainer. Either Gordon Brown gets the place after I have gone, or the boy gets it now. It is not a place to own when life’s music stops; not so much pass the parcel, as pass the castle. And I am sorry if airport tax has to go up a bit as a result of the Inheritance Tax foregone.
As it happens, Son No 1 has decided to spend this Christmas with his in-laws, abandoning the house to his parents. And so the wheel turns. Twenty years ago, we would have been worried about leaving the children in the house while we went away; now he may lie awake, worried that his father might rip the cloth on the billiard table while he is away.
We go to Cookham, prepared for some interrogation from the grandchildren. They may have been tuned in to Gordon Brown’s Pre Budget Report, with its environmental imperatives. On eco-homes. “If all houses are going to have wind-turbines, instead of chimneys, how will Santa get in?”
“Will the reindeer horns get caught in the spinning blades?”
“Will Santa have to pay the aviation tax?”
We think Santa is OK, but if not, the international civil aviation community will surely provide an appropriate exemption. His carbon footprint must be pretty small, and they have consistently overlooked the absence of conforming brake lights on the back of the sled and a tax disc on the front. And surely there ought to be a retaining cover over all those loosely packed parcels.
We are however prepared for some tough ecological cross-questioning about his reindeer. Reindeer are herbivores, and therefore have a now legendary capacity for generating methane. In the case of Santa’s herd, this damaging biological gas is emitted at a higher level than that of their earthbound fellow-ruminants. Is Santa not therefore an accessory to the crime of melting the ice-caps and flooding his own natural habitat? With these unanswered questions spinning round, we head for the M4 and wish all readers of the website an environmentally responsible Christmas.