It's a Mann's World: Letters to Santa

Olly Mann 3 December 2021

This month, Olly Mann takes a leaf from his son's book and writes his own letter to Jolly Old Saint Nick…

Dear Santa,

I suspect you’re not too fond of me these days. I’m sorry I always drink the sherry we leave out for you. I’m sorry I strong-armed our kids into better behaviour by convincing them you’re monitoring us 24/7 via the burglar alarm. And I do regret that I sometimes stream "Santa Baby". It is objectifying.

The thing is, my son wrote you a letter recently; a task set by his teacher, as handwriting homework. I hope you received it? Apologies that he appears to confuse you with Jesus. I reckon you get that a lot.
Anyway, it made me think: it must be—what?—33 years since I’ve written you a letter myself? So, here are five things that I want for Christmas. To be honest, it’s been a release just to write them all down. You probably get that a lot, too.

 A smart speaker that can’t identify children. I used to be a bit, "Jeff Bezos is spying on us!" about smart speakers. But lockdown helped me accept humanity’s future as AI-hominid hybrids, and conclude that I am in fact willing to trade my privacy for the ability to set an egg timer with my voice and achieve perfectly browned onions.

However, each morning, while I’m listening to The Today Programme, my kids get Alexa to play "Baby Shark". This is a design flaw. I imagine you’ve got good contacts at Amazon, given your experience in supply-chain logistics; but, if you can’t pull any strings there, perhaps you’re aware of a marginally less effective product? 

I need a smart speaker that’s unable to interpret the high-pitched squawking of my sprogs, please.

A gadget to scrape burnt bits off baking trays. To be clear: the device I desire is not for washing up. For that, I’m content to use the tried-and-tested technique of filling my used baking trays with a layer of washing up liquid "to soak overnight" until they become a fatberg swamp. No, what I require is a trinket that can help me eat more of the burnt-on bits first. 

You see, I’ve come to realise that my favourite meal—literally, my favourite, more than lobster Thermidor or eggs Royale or steak and chips—is "the burnt bits from the bottom of the baking tray".

Typically, I’ll wait until after dinner, offer to do the washing up, then quietly gorge on what remains of the roast veg, chicken bits, and garlic skins, all mushed together in a charred stack, sprinkled with salt. Delish! But a spatula only accesses the top layer, and scraping it with a metal spoon leaves revealing clues of my feasting. Santa, as a man who evidently enjoys a roast dinner, I’m sure you won’t judge me. Help!

An upgrade to "towel tier". We felt smug, when we joined the health club on the cheapest membership package. "Why would anyone stump up an extra £20 per month for a guest pass and a slightly nicer steam room?", we snorted. After a few months of damp car journeys and endless laundry cycles, the answer became very clear: because the top tier comes with free towels. 

Every time I swim, I must lug my water-logged towel through the car park, drape it over my shopping in a fruitless attempt at air drying, and then cruise around with it for the whole day, stinking out my boot, and exposing my penny-pinching for the world to see.

Yet I simply can’t justify shelling out an additional £240 per year, just for a fresh towel to be handed to me at each visit. That feels like opulent indulgence; the last days of Rome. Something I would never buy myself. Which is why it would make a perfect Christmas present…

A dreamcatcher. Not the Native American pendant, thanks (if I’m going to appropriate a traditional craft from another culture, it should, at least, match my wallpaper). I want a tech solution (a smart pillow, perhaps?) for automatically transcribing my dreams. I have a lot of great ideas when I’m asleep. Or at least, I think I do. Then I wake up and immediately forget them. If they were captured for posterity, at least I’d know that they were terrible.

A new favourite cereal. You know my tastes, Santa. I’ve always loved Cinnamon Toast Crunch, for my sins. I’ve eaten it at least once per week since the age of ten, cherishing the reassuring childhood nostalgia each sugary mouthful provides. 

I stuck with it through the Cinnamon Grahams years (seriously, who at Nestlé thought it was cool to name a kid’s cereal "Graham"?), and have persisted, under its current guise as Curiously Cinnamon, but the packaging is just killing me. "Seven Vits & Iron", it claims. Nobody, but nobody, uses the abbreviation "vits". Every day, the packaging is a micro-aggression. I desperately need a new favourite cereal, Santa.

I hope that my list is not asking too much. And best of luck with our chimney. I promise we’ll get it cleaned next year. 

Merry Christmas. 

Olly x 

Read more: Why resting your brain is important

Read more: How to enjoy Christmas dinner with anosmia

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter