Steven Moffat's day at the January sales

JANUARY sales shopping is a tale as old as time, but there is still scope for it to get massively complicated and perilous.

Things always start off easy enough. I visit Debenhams, for their traditional blue cross sale. My aim, as ever, is to pick up a pair of alpaca blend Pringle socks on the cheap – a wee touch of luxury on the feet, I always say.

My mobile phone – or ‘plot device’ as we’ll know it from here on in – goes beep. It’s my wife asking what pattern I’ve bought this year. I reply “Low, the crows hum”, which will probably confuse her, but don’t worry – I’ll come to back to it later (I won’t though). Now it’s just a case of stonewalling everyone who asks about the socks, until we get a decent spell of Birkenstock weather in April, and then I’ll be ready to take questions.

When strolling past WH Smith, a good idea is to discreetly tap “J.M” in Morse on the window. Most people won’t notice, but one ancient old man will look up at you from behind Dennis Bergkamp’s Stillness and Speed and one tear will roll down his cheek, because he too remembers when it used to be John Menzies, and his time on this earth is nearly at an end.

My favourite part of January shopping is getting to use the self check-out. People in the queue crane their necks to see my deft fingers dance over the touch screen as I expertly decrypt the user interface in seconds. “Have you swiped your Advantage card?” it asks. The blood drains from my face and I start frantically emptying my pockets. People in the queue lose faith and start turning on me. Only now do I see the technology is better than me, and has been all along. This is the end, in the place where it all began, where no one must ever go. The place I must go immediately. They have come back. Back from being definitely dead from last time. I text the words “goodbye forever” from my plot device, then drop to my knees and weep.

But wait! My Advantage card is in my wallet, where it always is.

Turns out this is just a place like most of the other places I go. I was being a wee bit of a silly-billy to get so upset about it.

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Britain could miss out on crazy, pointless war with China, says important American

CUTS to Britain’s armed forces mean the country will be ‘left on the sidelines’ when America invades China.

Robert Gates, former US defence secretary, stressed that Britain would no longer be America’s ‘full crazy partner in war’.

He said: “Your military will be dropping food from its only helicopter while the US Marines are surging towards Shanghai for reasons that will never be fully explained.

“The war with China will be one of the craziest ever fought. You’re going to miss out on something completely mental.”

But UK defence secretary Philip Hammond insisted the cuts would make the armed forces more efficient at a wide range of utterly stupid and pointless things.

He added: “When America invades China Britain will be there with the helicopter, Tank 1 and Tank 2 and, of course, HMS Ship.

“Britain will not stand idly by while China tries to steal some tiny islands from Japan. Or is it the other way around? Or is it Taiwan?

“Actually, don’t tell me. It’s better when I have absolutely no idea.”