HECKLER

<em>Illustration: Simon Letch</em>

Illustration: Simon Letch

BEING born four days before Christmas is a truly inconvenient event in the lives of a population which is focused on shopping, pudding, and holidays.

For years I envied my schoolfriends who had birthdays during ''normal'' times: they brought cakes to school, received flowers and presents, (sometimes a few punches on the arm), were excused bad behaviour from teachers for just that day, and often had a party the following weekend.

That day for me was always after school ended when most of my friends had left on holiday or were busy with family events, or simply forgot it was my birthday.

Mind you, I did have a party when I was eight but my younger sister spectacularly left the room via a glass door and that pretty much ended that event.

Then, well before Sixteen Candles was made, my family actually forgot my 16th birthday.

I got up and went to my holiday job without anyone saying anything. I thought they were planning a big surprise for me, and just pretending they'd forgotten. Uh huh: not pretending, definitely forgetting.

I waited till we'd finished dinner and announced, ''It's my birthday'', to which my mum snapped back ''Don't be silly, it's … oh, dear!''.

Most years there was the ''I spent a little more and bought you ONE big present for your birthday and Christmas'' routine. Bah! When you're a kid the value of the present is irrelevant, it is the quantity. Grandparents, aunts and uncles were notorious for this (when they remembered at all, that is).

As an adult, I met and married a lovely guy whose birthday was on December 19, and we have a daughter born December 17 (sorry about that, Maddie - we of all people should have planned better). So we have three birthdays to celebrate over the week before Christmas, but at least we don't forget each other's big days.

It gets worse. Not only did I miss out on all those parties and goodies as a kid, now it seems I may be preparing to celebrate my 50th just as the world is ending.

Not long ago I was emailed a link to a website warning of the pending zombie apocalypse on December 21, 2012. The Mayans apparently could only plan their calendar till then, after which the heavens would open and fire would rain down.

Oh, that's just great, that is. I actually had plans for life beyond my 50th birthday. Oh, well. Maybe there's only one way to deal with this latest black cloud over December 21. Arrange the mother of all parties, end-of-the-world theme (of course), and put it all on the credit card.

Any way you look at it, I'll come out a winner.

Jo Elliot