“YOU do know there are services for people like you?”

my mother casually asked.

“Excuse me?” I quizzed.

“You know, on the internet. You can meet people.”

As the penny dropped, my cheeks flushed.

At 29, and single at Christmas for the umpteenth year, I knew the customary awkward questions (“So have you had any dates this year?”) as much as I could guarantee the lumps in mum's gravy.

But this was a record — my parents had only just picked me up from the train station. First time they’d seen me in six months, we’d been in the car less than 10 minutes.

“It’s okay, there’s no shame in it these days, you can find whoever you want on there,” mum breezily explained. “Why don't you go out with a lawyer or a banker?”

Of course there’s no shame in internet dating — thanks mum!

“That’s not why I’m shocked,” I started to explain. But, what was the point?

Reach a certain age, and if you,re not happily co-habiting/ engaged/married or romaticallyactive in some form or other, then it’s going to be an issue — and never more so than at Christmas.

After all, the festive season was made for couples — or so it can bloomin’ seem.

First, the adverts start on TV, which appear to have two aims: to compel smug couples to buy stuff for each other, and to make single folk cry.

That’s right — labradors and children are very cute when they’re frolicking in the snow or hanging up their stockings in the wonderful living room of their wonderful home — better get my skates on and find a boyfriend eh, or might be too late for me!

And no, there isn’t an adorably clueless man making a lastminute dash around the jewellery department for me, thanks for the reminder!

The ads depicting singles are even worse.

A far-too-calm supermodel gets spruced up for a night out, then glides out of a taxi into a party where some handsome stranger, mistletoe at the ready, instantly clocks her and winks suggestively. What the hell’s that all about!? Some sort of in-joke I’m missing?

Everybody knows the line between being romantically hopeful and downright desperate is never so fine as during the festive season. If you do get lucky, it probably means you ended up snogging the idiot from IT at your work party, but more likely you go home alone feeling even more hopelessly unloved than ever.

More importantly, who has the money for all these new sparkly party frocks? I’m lucky if I can afford a mince pie by the time I’ve bought presents for everybody else’s kids and partners.

It’s fine. I actually quite enjoy watching my little sister and her husband exchange their neverending stack of gifts on Christmas morning. Sure. And after a few mulled wines, facing Aunt Batty’s interrogation at lunch about my worrying lack of suitors will be a walk in the park.

I’ve more pressing matters to focus on — like getting through the evening of movies without starting to sob and wail — “I know how Rudolph feels, an outcast!”

But, when tensions with in-laws start rising, or the kids start bickering, I’ll savour my moment of smugness and sneak off and leave them to it. (Come on, let me have this one!)