Heard it all before

‘IF you do what you’ve always done,’ says the American motivational mogul Tony Robbins, ‘you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.’ That may not be the purest of English grammar, but it’s a wonderful truth with which to examine what we do during Advent. Advent – the last few weeks before Christmas Day – is so full of clichés, so predictable and, some might even say, vague and boring.

It's the most wonderful time of the year – seriously!

PAUL KERENSA loves Christmas. He loves it ‘quiet and candlelit, loud and floodlit’. He loves the turkey leftovers, ridiculous festive jumpers and hearing a brass band playing heart-warming carols on the street. In fact, the BBC comedy writer – whose credits include Miranda and Top Gear – loves the season so much that he decided to write a book about it. In Hark! The Biography of Christmas, Paul tells stories of Christmas past, explores some of the customs associated with Christmas present and considers what might happen in Christmases yet to come.

Many happy returns on offer

Few Bible stories have made such a last­ing impression as the one told by Jesus in Luke 15:11–32. It’s the tale of sibling rivalries, a wasted inheritance, a son who goes missing and a loving father who never gives up hope of his return.

The story is commonly known as the par­able of the prodigal son – even though the word ‘prodigal’ isn’t mentioned in it – and the phrase itself has become part of our everyday language.

Matters of the heart

‘I WENT through a really bad period in my life where I faced rejection, specifically in the area of relationships,’ Ebun Ali tells me over coffee at a hotel in Shoreditch, East London. ‘I didn’t feel adequate or worthy to be in a relationship. I didn’t feel good enough. I questioned why I felt so bad about myself. For a long time I felt as though I couldn’t talk about rejection because of the shame that comes with it.

Don't drop the baby

THE final push for Advent calendar sales will take place over the next few days before the start of the season on Friday (1 December).

This year, the calendar market has continued to target adults as well as children. Prices for some Advent calendars exceed £100, such as the £175 one that is filled with mini beauty products. Another calendar, containing 24 scented candles, will cost about £25, and £8 will buy a calendar that holds two dozen individually wrapped pieces of cheese.

Kindness has its rewards

 PARENTS’ efforts to make the right choices for their child’s development begin early, with them seeking the most suitable nursery or reception class.

Chaplain helps students face their university challenge

THE man wearing a Salvation Army jacket in the foyer of the university library is – he says more than once during our conversation – ‘not at all academic’. But he is ready to discuss all kinds of subjects with students.

Chris Sands is a Salvation Army minister and part of the chaplaincy team at Canterbury Christ Church University. ‘Our aims are to support students and staff,’ he says. ‘We’re here to listen to them and help them in any situation they’re facing.’

Taxing questions

 NEXT Wednesday (22 November) the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will present his latest budget to the House of Commons.

He will be speaking against a backdrop of uncertainty regarding how much the UK will pay as it leaves the European Union in 16 months’ time, as well as concerns over growing inflation and this month’s first interest rate rise in a decade.

It pays to be right on time

ACCUSATIONS. Allegations. Denials. More accusations. More allegations. More heated denials.

On the weekend of Remembrance Sunday, it would be fascinating to know how many disputes, wars and conflicts, large and small, have started with an exchange of words – and even more intriguing to discover which diplomatic words were instrumental in restoring peace.

To distant observers of the Brexit negotia­tions, it can appear as if entente cordiale is not living up to its name, with neither side appearing willing to compromise.

My dad survived Dunkirk

LESLEY LEWIS knew from childhood that her father, Stanley Patrick, had served as an Allied soldier during the Second World War. She understood that when he was 20 years old he survived a torpedo attack in the evacuation of Dunkirk. But she had no idea just how close he came to death – until earlier this year when she watched the Channel 4 documentary Dunkirk: The New Evidence.

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