Last week, I bought a homeless bloke and his dog some food.
I'd previously seen them both around town but that day, the beautiful 10-year-old dog looked particularly unhappy. So I wandered over and let bossy Shazzy loose: had the dog eaten today (yes), had she had her shots (not sure), did he look after her (yes) and where were they going to sleep that night (in a hostel). I offered to buy them both something hot from the nearby chippie and as the guy chowed down on a greasy sausage, he told me all about his demons, his addiction to Class As and his struggle to be shot of both.
The sub-text of this story is that any of us could quite easily have taken a wrong turn and ended up with this guy's back-story. I'm outrageously thankful that my addiction is not to drugs, alcohol or gambling but, rather more innocently, to vast amounts of Christmas mince pies.
At this time of the year, most people are obsessed with spending stupid amounts of money on stuff no-one really wants or needs, getting lairy and channelling their inner slappers at the office party, or wondering how they'll survive spending time with their families. Yet my head is filled only with thoughts of inhaling enough mince pies to feed my serious addiction.
Perhaps its the frighteningly high sugar-to-butter ratio, or maybe it's the chunks of glossy dark fruit and occasional guest appearance of brandy or orange zest. Whatever the reason, these small, rich and sweet morsels of mouth happiness fit neatly into all sorts of gaps. The obvious one is as a welcome gift for Santa, but they're also the ideal accompaniment for present wrapping sessions, killer hangovers, to enliven the tenth cuppa of the day, or for comfort-eating after 48 fraught hours in a house that isn't your own.
Apparently, mince pies were originally filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than a dried fruit mix as they are today. They were first made in an oval shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby, with the top representing his swaddling clothes. Legend also has it that Queen Victoria would only have sex if she had a couple of mince pies first (actually, I made that last bit up. My mind tends to wander between pies).
One custom that isn't fabricated – and of which I completely approve – comes from the Middle Ages where it was believed that consuming a mince pie every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (6th January) would promise happiness for the next 12 months.
Yesterday a guy in Sainsbury's convinced me to buy 12 mince pies for the incredible price of two quid (wages may be shite over here but groceries are ridiculously cheap). And no, they weren't dried up hunks of rubbish either – they were deep, crumbly and everything a good pie should be. Just over 24 hours later, only one box remains.
If I'm not careful, my Size Eight licence may soon be revoked.