This week in Mash history: Norway panic buys last-minute gift for Britain, 1947

EVERY Christmas, Norway gifts Britain a 20-metre tall spruce in thanks for our air during World War Two, in a tradition the country is unable to stop without looking a dick.

But did you know that the gesture also marks the beginning of the festive tradition of grabbing a random present at the last moment and hoping for the best?

Norwegian King Haakon VII, sheltering in Britain after his country was invaded by Nazi Germany, knew he owed his hosts a gift. He was also painfully aware that he had no money, no country and was frankly busy.

In his personal diaries the King wrote: “One was, as the locals here in the East End charmingly say, shit out of ideas.

“We took the carriage on a great pilgrimage to the Marks & Spencer, the Selfridges, the Debenhams. My footmen suggested various items, but no pair of novelty socks quite encapsulated ‘thank you for the political amnesty and apologies for causing you to lose an aircraft carrier.’

“Another member of the royal party suggested we try Fortnum & Mason. It was pointed out to her that while one is royalty, one is not made of money.

“It was my educated opinion that the five years spent here in exile would be enough time for something to simply come to me. I thought maybe something iconically Norwegian, but fjords or the aurora borealis are hard to wrap.

“During afternoon tea with His Majesty I was still coming up blank, when I happened to catch sight of a card bearing an image of a Christmas tree. That’s what we could send! Trees are one of my country’s great natural resources, alongside alcoholism.

“That, along with a few meaningful words about evergreens and branches and Christmas spirit, will be perfect. We will look deep and thoughtful and not cheap and lazy. And as the trees are free, I’ll promise to send one every year. I imagine they’ll get bored of it by about 1953 anyway.”

And so the festive tradition began, and King Haakon VII became the first man to discover unexpected December postage and packaging costs.

Next week: to 1960, when the Stasi in East Germany invented Secret Santa as a form of divisive psychological warfare.

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Your astrological week ahead, with Psychic Bob

Aries, March 21st–April 19th

People keep saying you’re punching above your weight, so you’ve put on four stone.

Taurus, April 20th–May 20th

“The uncrossed ‘t’ suggests procrastination, while the looped ‘h’ indicates a tempestuous streak. But why is it written in blood?”

Gemini, May 21st–June 21st

You’re never too young to start claiming things were better in your day. My six-month-old cries constantly and I know it’s because of woke newborns.

Cancer, June 22nd–July 22nd

But if that court ruling is correct it means Piers Morgan’s some kind of lying arsehole. That can’t possibly be right.

Leo, July 23rd–August 22nd

If the driver of the bus you are on is behaving in a rude and aggressive fashion, demand he stop. He represents you all and you can’t have your name attached to this.

Virgo, August 23rd–September 22nd

A leopard can’t change his spots, but he can change his car insurance if he’d just bother to look into it instead of renewing automatically. Lazy cat twat.

Libra, September 23rd–October 22nd

Drivers do not like you standing by the side of the road and giving a thumbs up to express how much you like their car. Sometimes they even pull over in rage.

Scorpio, October 23rd–November 22nd

‘Look, if I’ve got a gun, I’m going to fucking shoot someone with it.’ Anton Chekhov, writer and playwright, 1860-1904.

Sagittarius, November 22nd–December 21st

Drink-driving in the 1970s: explain to the police you’ve only had eight pints, pay a shilling fine, then off to the next pub in your Austin Maxi.

Capricorn, December 22nd–January 19th

Buy your wife 100 boxes of tampons to prove how unembarrassed about it you are.

Aquarius, January 20th–February 18th

Dua Lipa’s new song is called Houdini because you can punch her in the stomach as hard as you like and she won’t even feel it.

Pisces, February 19th–March 20th

It’s time to order mulled wine, scald your tongue on mulled wine, and sue the primary school Christmas fete for trying to kill you with mulled fucking wine.