'Tis the season to be jolly, and the good folks of Thameside Community Healthcare trust are putting a brave front on the public health perils of charred turkey, intimacy between blood relations and Only Fools and Horses. The feisty communications team flags up the health benefits of 'traditional British Christmas foods such as . . . Brussels sprouts and cabbage'. Full of vitamins, antioxidents and what not, apparently. But while we tuck in, our MPs go hungry. An early day motion saw three of the bravest cast aside party politics on an issue of singular importance - House of Commons grub. 'This house is concerned, ' they thundered, 'that for the same price, two ice cream scoops of mashed potato is far less tempting than a massive portion of chips.' Their motion went further to demand 'equality of treatment for both mash and chips lovers'.

Meanwhile, in the Lords the government's war on smoking comes under fire. A debate on tobacco consumption saw Lord Hunt of Monitor confess to his '25th attempt to give up smoking'. Which drove former health minister Baroness Trumpington (Conservative) to plead: 'Will the noble Lord excuse this old girl if she leaves as soon as he finishes his response in order to have a fag?'

Christmas cheer and love of humanity is for one and all - even junior health ministers like Gisela Stuart, gawd bless her. So Monitor can only sympathise with the plucky DoH frontbencher to whom befell the task of responding to a letter clearly addressed to her boss. Well, Mid Downs community health council wasn't going to take that lying down. CHC member Michael Dennis raged: 'It is obvious Alan Milburn didn't see our letter. It has been caught by a minion who has missed the thrust of our representations. She is clearly hoping the problem will go away.'

Rather like the millennium. Not to worry, the NHS Executive has it all in hand. A recent circular outlines helpful instructions for the big night. In the event of a telecommunications breakdown you have several ways to report the defect: by e-mail (address on the NHS Estates website), fax or phone. Of course, you might have more luck bribing a carrier pigeon. Season's greetings!