The chairman shrugs off suggestions that he was offered membership to an ’online service’ for the sexually incontinent - as well as expressing his revulsion at a trend for seasonal parsimony.

“Did you know last-minute Christmas shopping was expected to generate £2.1 billion of unwanted presents?” I asked the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we enjoyed a couple of pints of A Car Of Some Unpleasant Construction at The Swingbin Of History.

“How almost interesting,” he replied. “But why are we talking about Christmas in the middle of January?” “Because I had mistakenly thought we were due to meet one more time before Christmas, so I had saved up all my best seasonal facts and I don’t intend to waste them.”

“It just doesn’t seem very timely,” the chairman shrugged. “But if you must, you must – what else have you got?” “Well, that first fact was from the good people of Western Union, who suggested 15.2m last-minute shoppers would have bought 36m unwanted gifts in the final days before Christmas following some hasty, panicked and less-than perfect decisions,” I replied.

”They reckon this strongly suggests higher incomes equal a heightened desire to stray”

“Meanwhile, according to research from Santander Credit Cards, British shoppers would have just spent an estimated £16.7 billion on Christmas gifts, but only about three-fifths of that would have been in high street stores, while Ell-Vee-Equalses’ Cost of a Child study revealed parents would have spent £2.2 billion on presents for their children.”

“That’s quite a lot of ’would-haves’,” the chairman observed. “Don’t you think these predictions lose some of their power when reported in the past tense?” “Well, if you put it like that, of course it’s going to sound a bit negative,” I said. “But surely I am performing a service – albeit a somewhat delayed service – in reporting that households were being a bit more careful than usual last month? (Scam continues below)

“So, for example, Legal & General’s MoneyMood research found eight out 10 UK households budgeting to spend the same or less on Christmas festivities than in 2009 while NS&I’s ­Savings Survey found Britons getting creative with their Christmas spending – with three-fifths saying they would be more resourceful to save money or make it go further.

“Thus, a third were planning to make presents, decorations and cards themselves, two-thirds had agreed with their family to buy fewer gifts, 13% were not planning to buy any presents, decorations or cards and a fifth were going to use money earned from their hobbies to supplement the cost of Christmas.

“For some indefinable reason, that last fact disturbs me the most – though not as much as NS&I’s revelation that almost a third of the people interviewed said they did not care what presents they received as seeing family and friends is a sufficient Christmas celebration.”

“Are we done with the Christmas factfest now?” said the chairman. “Just one more,” I said. “And it is not so much a fact as a question – were you one of the ’top City professionals’, who last month received an invitation to cheat online?”

“What are you talking about?” asked the chairman, not answering the question. “In a pre-Christmas stunt billed as ’Top CEOs receive mistress for Christmas’, several executives of various large companies were chosen to receive free membership of, the UK’s largest and longest-established dating site for people seeking affairs,” I said.

“More than 40,000 executives and financial professionals in Britain are cheating on the site and released statistics showing the average annual income on their site is £39,000 after tax – £10,000 higher than the national average. They reckon this strongly suggests higher incomes equal a heightened desire to stray.

“According to those running the site, ’Men and women who strive for perfection in their professional life are unlikely to endure anything less in other areas of their life – including their relationships’ and several profiles have already been upgraded using the unique code supplied to the CEOs.” “Merry Christmas,” sighed the chairman. “Now you’re just being unkind,” I replied.