In Frasers department store on Glasgow's Buchanan Street, they're making the most of the pre-Christmas retail slump with a rather unhinged One Day Spectacular sale. A hunky man is wandering around in a tiny pair of underpants trying to entice the ladies to the Mac cosmetics counter. Outside, a motley bunch of buskers, who look like they've crawled out of a dustbin, play a pitch-perfect, sax-driven version of "Take Your Mama" by the Scissor Sisters, which is met with riotous applause. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Santa sneaking off for a fag break.
This is Glasgow at Christmas, one of the best places in the world to celebrate the festive season. Never let it be said that Glaswegians don't know how to have a good time - nightlife verges on mayhem, and a quick drink is very likely to turn into a pie-eyed visit to A&E. As the Lonely Planet Scotland guide puts it: "If you don't have fun in Glasgow, we'd suggest therapy."
But it isn't just the stereotypical combination of drink and those (mythical) battered Mars Bars that make Glasgow my favourite place. Recent attempts at gentrification have replaced the dark industrial sprawl of the Seventies and Eighties with European stylishness. Everything is illu minated, from the refurbished Kelvingrove Museum, which pulses red, to the new ice-blue "squinty bridge". Princes Square has the festive glamour of a Hollywood movie. And in this city of extremes, there is always a sense of the unexpected. The high street might still be a seething cauldron of screaming children and trackie- bottomed teen mums, but the new German Christmas market in St Enoch Square gives way to a more relaxed, refined atmosphere. Lulled into a temporary stupor by mulled wine, stressed shoppers start acting as if they're in the Sound of Music. I overhear a classic Glasgow hard man gush as he bends over one of the twee wooden stalls: "Stem ginger!" But there are some things that will always remain as earthy as Rab C Nesbitt's vest. Back in George Square, the true meaning of the season is firmly installed in a reinforced glass case. Someone nicked the Nativity sculpture a few years ago, so in 2006, the Baby Jesus has more than just shepherds watching over him. He's got His very own security guard and a CCTV camera trained on His crib.
Heart-warming, isn't it? Merry Christmas from Glasgow, and God bless.