HECKLER

<em>Illustration: Caroline Adaszynski</em>

Illustration: Caroline Adaszynski

CHRISTMAS has a distinct resonance in our house. In other homes, the festive season might be accompanied by the sound of Jingle Bells or the comforting noise of cooking from the kitchen. Perhaps it's the crackle of paper as gifts are wrapped or the squeals of excited children unable to sleep as Santa's visit approaches.

But in our family, the arrival of Christmas is heralded by the seasonal snore. Too many client functions, rich dinners and endless cocktail parties where guests stand around trying to balance a cosmopolitan, a napkin and mini-duck pancake without spilling anything on themselves or the floor. The difficulty of the task increases exponentially with successive cocktails.

The consequence of all this celebrating (in my husband's case) is a bout of guttural, rasping, choking snoring for the duration of the silly season. Snoring fit to shake the baubles off the Christmas tree; snoring loud enough to be heard by Santa's reindeer flying at 6000 metres; snoring so strident the neighbours beg us to have a party so they can listen to our collection of '80s pop instead.

''You can even play Wham! if you like!'' they plead.

I lie in bed fantasising about piercing my eardrums with a needle. Anything for silence. I move to the guest bed, the lounge, the bathtub, to avoid the noise. But there is no escape. Even the cat abandons his favourite position in the centre of our bed, taking his chances with the neighbourhood tabbies.

''You're snoring!'' I say, accompanied by a swift poke in the ribs.

''Bwharf?''

''Roll over!'' I hiss with as much venom as I can muster at 2am.

I can't face the drudgery of stumbling through crowded shops, working my way through a list as long as Santa's beard. With a flagrant disregard for the impact on Gerry Harvey's millions, I resolve that this year we're having an internet Christmas.

Within days I hear the merry sound of parcels dropping onto the doorstep. I sip coffee, file my nails and choose toys, books and clothes online. It's quite remarkable what you can find - I even get the perfect gift for me.

Soon my present arrives. Like all the best gifts, it is small, so small it fits into the letterbox. I hug the padded envelope, smiling. That night, breathing gusts of beer breath, my husband stares uncomprehendingly at the tiny pink tubes nestled in their clear plastic case on my bedside table.

''What are they?''

I roll them in my hands and insert them into my ear canals.

''My Christmas cures,'' I explain. ''Earplugs!''

Vanessa McKinley