Jayne Dawson: Crying all the way to the bank with those festive ads

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Dear Lord, please transport me back to simpler times.

I’ll cope with anything. I’ll have my hair cut into an ‘80s mullet, I’ll wear those giant ‘70s flares.

Just get me back to when adverts were about selling stuff and not about slicing and splicing our emotions with a surgeon’s precision.

The weekend was a killer, wasn’t it? Right in the middle of Downton too.

It’s my favourite hour of the week, the time when I can suspend all rational thought.

It’s when I can choose to believe that servants sorted out mortgages, bought buy-to-let properties and inherited nest eggs. It’s a hoot and no emotions other than sheer pleasure are ever engaged.

But then on Sunday came the first glut of Christmas adverts.

And, Heavens to Betsy, did they hammer us. Those adverts were designed to reach inside our hearts and pull the very tears from our eyes.

We might not have cried at the wedding of Lady Rose and Atticus but we were definitely meant to howl in the breaks.

One after the other they went for our higher selves, tugging and tweaking here, there and everywhere inside our heads.

John Lewis, as ever, is The Big One. This year it’s Monty the Penguin.

Lots of people who should know better have tweeted that the story of how a boy finds a mate for lonely Monty has moved them to sobs. It is sentimentality at its most sugar-coated but, hey, it works.

Marks & Spencer, that other big gun, has put its faith in fairies this year. And not just on screen.

The company has revealed it is behind the social media campaign @TheTwoFairies which, in a confusing crossover with real life, has seen “fairies” visit a number of places across the country, carrying out real acts of random kindness.

They delivered snow to Britain’s most southerly school, and handed out treats to over-worked hospital staff in Birmingham. Nice.

But probably both institutions would, you know, actually prefer a world in which government gave them enough resources to do a good job for clients and staff, rather than be the focus of a stunt by a company trying to boost its profits for the benefit of its shareholders. Just saying.

Boots has joined in the tear-fest too with a little heartstrings-tugger about a family who all travel through the night to be there for a nurse as she comes off her Christmas night shift.

Meanwhile, Waitrose asked for volunteers to sing the soundtrack to its festive advert. A hundred thousand people visited its Donate Your Voice website and in the end 75 were selected to create a virtual choir.

Those supermarkets who haven’t played the emotive card, like Tesco who feature a Christmas lights switch on, and like Aldi and Lidl, who actually put some focus on what they sell, have been left looking a bit - unfeeling.

Because Christmas is all about caring and sharing, isn’t it?

Except it isn’t, not for retailers. It’s about making money. They might not be giving us much clue about what’s for sale, but the desire to empty our pockets, to make Christmas a till-jingling, cash-creating bonanza is there all the same.

So wouldn’t it be lovely to go back to a time when an advert was ...an advert.

An obvious , straightforward creation that emptied our pockets and not our tear ducts.

To those days when a man with a cheesy smile shouted at you the unbelievably low price of the item in camera shot with him.

It wasn’t sophisticated advertising: it wasn’t big, it wasn’t clever, but at least it wasn’t trying to make us cry all Christmas.

And finally, vaping has arrived on a screen near you

In other news... another type of advert has been making us sit up and take notice this week.

On Monday night the first cigarette advert for almost 50 years was shown, promoting e-cigarettes.

A woman was shown “vaping” as it has come to be known, after the 9pm watershed, during an episode of the 1950s-based Grantchester - a time when everybody and his dog puffed merrily away.

E-cigarettes have become a huge industry with two and a half million people using them, though they are still controversial with some scientists saying more research needs to be done on their effects on users and those around them.

I’m not among those millions but my guilty secret is that, if they could be proved to be definitely not harmful to health, I would be.

I am that rare thing, a non-smoker all my life who finds cigarettes strangely attractive. I like their paraphernalia, I like the smell of the smoke and I think they can look very cool.

On the other hand, I know that real cigarettes can be killers and the jury is still out on e-cigarettes.

So I am not encouraging anyone to smoke anything.

Instead I will just enjoy watching those old films where all the glamorous women are holding a cigarette between elegant, manicured hands at all times.

Bette Davis was the best of the lot - she made her cigarettes actually act.

I enjoy watching her every time - but with a safe cup of tea and a biscuit between my fingers.

Country air gives everyone the complexion of Keira Knightley

Yet more bad news for we city dwellers.

Already we are pitied by those lucky enough to live in more rural areas.

They look out at big skies and distant, bare horizons at this time of year while we become moles.

We scurrying into our workplaces in the dark, and scurry out of them into the same dark at the opposite end of the day.

That’s bad, but prepare for more.

Now research suggests that as well as making us stressed, anxious and grumpy, city life also makes us look old.

While the country people are gambolling around looking like Keira Knightley with soft skin and unlined faces, enjoying their Aga cookers and shabby chic homes, we in the city are looking more prune-like by the day.

Cosmetic company Procter and Gamble says city dwellers age ten per cent faster than those outside the cities, blaming it on the 224 pollutants they have identified in city air.

It’s dispiriting to know that, for we townies, the only successful shabby chic item we have is our faces.

Diana, Princess of Wales. PIC: PA

Jayne Dawson: The curious case of Diana and the national grief storm