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TV review: Delivering Christmas: What’s in store, and Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our family and autism

10 December 2021

BBC

Panorama: Delivering Christmas: What’s in store (BBC1, Wednesday of last week) drew attention to the shortage of HGV drivers

Panorama: Delivering Christmas: What’s in store (BBC1, Wednesday of last week) drew attention to the shortage of HGV drivers

WHAT activity could be more central to the Church of England than delivering Christmas? The one time of the year when Christian imagery and concepts — in however bowdlerised and commercialised a form — swamp the media and flood every supermarket and high street: the season, above all, when people might just consider turning up to a church service. Surely the delivery of Christmas is that which we spend the rest of the year girding ourselves up for? Surely we should sense a clear fellowship with, and learn from, all those who, in more or less direct ways, assist our nation to celebrate the mystery of the incarnation?

Panorama: Delivering Christmas: What’s in store (BBC1, Wednesday of last week) told the story of those whose livelihoods depend on getting to our shops all the materials — food, drink, presents, toys, decorations — now deemed utterly essential to keeping the feast. One of the few good things about the pandemic has been its bringing into plain view the army of people who fill our lives with necessities, variety, and choice: in this case, the HGV drivers and their supply companies.

We should now be utterly aware of the hidden 24/7 network making modern life possible — and how hard it works. Nothing could seem more robust and unfeeling than the juggernauts thundering down the motorways: we now realise that it is, in fact, a fragile web scattered with potential breaking points.

There is a universal shortage of HGV drivers. Brexit sent the foreigners packing: now the Government seeks to woo them back, but almost none want to come: we have Europe’s worst facilities, the most disgusting overnight stops. The industry warned about the looming crisis in April/May; Whitehall began to take notice months later.

What is in store will be many empty shelves, while, on our farms, food rots for lack of pickers, and pigs are dispatched for want of butchers. Whole sectors face ruin and closure. Most powerfully, we realised that all these managers and workers care about what they do: their work is not simply an unfeeling financial transaction. As they spoke, we heard the unmistakable note of commitment — even vocation.

Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our family and autism (BBC1, Wednesday of last week) followed an unexpected trajectory. Ostensibly on a journey to face up to his three young children’s condition, we followed Paddy McGuinness as he gained greater personal depth, humility, willingness to develop public awareness, and acceptance of autism. But then the focus turned to Christine. Bit by bit, she acknowledged what she had always suspected: she, like her children, lives with autism.

Far more common in girls than boys, but girls are cleverer at copying non-autistic patterns and behaviour to mask the difference that they are only too aware of. Her concluding words bear quotation: “I’ve faked a lifetime, mimicking everyone. I feel better, knowing that I’m not mad.”

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