Monitor hates to be the bearer of bad tidings. But growing evidence confirming the burgeoning sense of humour at Denham Towers gave Monitor an idea.

How better to celebrate the season of goodwill, merriment and general hoho-ho-ness than with a message from our minister of mirth? A minion was quickly dispatched to put the notion to the most genial one, in a process that entailed endless scurrying back and forth and hectic phone calls, to see if Mr Denham would take his place as guest Monitor. Johnitor in fact, tee hee. At first the voice-pieces for the DoH's finest one sounded sceptical. One was heard to ask: 'Is this a joke?' Further assurances were given that thousands of HSJ readers wanted to experience the hilarity machine first hand. An increasingly tense 10 days went by. 'Mr Denham is still considering the matter, ' was the repeated phrase. But this week brought the bad news. In sombre, almost Chamberlainian tones, a DoH spokesman said: 'Mr Denham will be unable to take up your gracious offer.' The minister has 'too many work commitments over the next few weeks'. Ah well, hardly surprising, what with the party season kicking off, eh?

Meanwhile, fantastic news in from the malnutrition advisory group, a standing committee of something called BAPEN. No, really. The group offers pioneering guidelines aimed at 'stopping the malnutrition carousel'. Whatever next? Riding the roller coaster of bulimia?

Hiding from the helterskelter of hunger? Ducking the dodgem car of drink? Or could it be the hoop-la stall of global famine?

'How a student march inflamed my gout.' What a headline! And what a corker of a piece by Dr Thomas Stuttaford for The Times last month. Dr Stuttaford unfortunately does little to explain how the young ruffians were to blame, other than that the extra traffic delayed him so badly he had to skip lunch. Dr Stuttaford also admits that he had not had breakfast before he set out for the day - and skipped tea too. Luckily he had a good feed for dinner, he reassures us, in a lengthy and detailed piece. Monitor wonders if those of you with medical know-how perusing this page could offer advice as to whether Dr Stuttaford's sufferings were the direct result of one missed meal, or whether they betray a deeper sense that the man has run out of things to say.

As Christmas rears its bearded head, time to whip out Addiction Today: For Everyone Interested in Addiction, where 'top experts guide you through this notorious time of relapse'. Ooh, Monitor can remember girls like that.

Still, for those trying to knock back booze and drugs while still enjoying a lambada at low cost, a number of tips are provided to tide you through. Pauline Bissett, chief exec of Broadway Lodge residential centre, advises recovering addicts to avoid 'wet' places.

Presumably that's for those whose addictions are of a carnal variation. Plenty more advice, though. Go carolling is one particular fave, from therapist Rebecca Dunlap, while senior therapist Gordon Hogg shows how he earned his stripes by suggesting 'a Christmas tree and decorations can lift the spirit no end'. Okay addicts, got that? Prepare for xmas by putting up cheap decorations, singing carols and avoiding hanky panky.

Business as usual, then.

Not that Monitor is mocking the afflicted. Christmas is a tricky time, especially for service use type people with mental health issue type problems. So it's not the best time for the Mental Health Foundation to offer 'new approaches' for suicide and self-harm. Innovation is all very well, muses Monitor, but suggesting new ways to do the deed is hardly in keeping with the festive spirit.

A picture is worth a thousand words. A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, especially when the pic in question shows Stuart Hall, formerly of It's a Knockout, being chased by a giant running nose with boxing gloves on (see left). 'Look out for the nose, which may be coming to your area soon as part of a series of local events.' Local events like what? Nose diving? Nasal gazing? How terrifying. But that's not all. Oh no! The campaign is also being supported by 'Betty Driver, the well loved Coronation Street character Betty Williams', says Manchester health authority. The press release gives little idea of what form of support Betty will bring to the campaign. Hot pot, anyone?