Firstof all, let’s get this straight. Early next year we’ll be taking a look at how to enjoy a weekend away in London on a shoestring (if you still have a shoestring left, that is).

Because, let’s face it, who wants to live it up during February?

So for now, forget all those prophets of doom, put on a party hat, blow a popper, and accept that whatever the economy may be lining up for the New Year, you at least owe it to yourself to make the most of THIS Christmas.

And on a local basis, frankly there’s no better way to get into the Christmas spirit than by making your way to London – and yes, it is local; it’s about an hour up the road which, if you’re a motorist, you’ll know makes it quicker to get to than Botley some mornings.

Of course, in order to make the whole experience super extra special (as people in PR say) , why not consider staying overnight and catch a show as well? But just remember it’s sometimes a false economy to stay in the cheaper hotels – they’re normally located well out of the centre and can be horribly plain (even at more than £100 a night).

Better to try to stay somewhere that at least is central (if you have to travel for more than 30 minutes from the West End to get to your hotel, you might as well come straight home instead).

And on that subject, while many of you may want to drive up, my advice is to take the Oxford Tube ( – a coach service that runs every 15 minutes both from Oxford and London.

The service actually drops you on the edge of Oxford Street, at Marble Arch, and then whisks you home again from the same location. Alternately, get out at Shepherd’s Bush, Notting Hill or Victoria.

Which means that even if you miss one coach, or one is full, you won’t have to wait long until the next one comes along (a return fare for an adult is £16, a student or young person £13, and over-60s or under-16s pay £8).

I’ve tried the train but, at this time of year – OK, any time of year – it’s a nightmare.

In addition, it’s worth bearing in mind that on Saturday, Shop West End VIP Day (Very Important Pedestrians), is back.

Hugely successful since its launch three years ago, the West End is once again becoming traffic-free. And on Sunday, while the traffic will be allowed back, the West End is hosting a ‘family day’ that promises ‘fun-packed entertainment and games for kids of all ages’. At least, that’s what its organisers are claiming.

And don’t forget the Christmas lights. Right now, Oxford Street and Regent Street look fantastic, and from about 4pm onwards, the West End is enveloped in an old-fashioned feel-good blaze of radiance (even aged 47, it still left me feeling excited).

Just one tip. If you want to snap the lights, don’t use a flash – it just leaves you with a white glare and little else.

My advice – and it’s purely personal – is to head for Selfridges, possibly the greatest store in Great Britain (Harrods may have the ‘name,’ but as a destination shopping experience it lacks flair).

Selfridges on the other hand oozes chic and it’s easy – especially with all its restaurants, bistros and cafes – to spend the whole day within its walls.

On the other hand, if you’ve got kids, you’ll – or rather, they’ll – want to visit Hamleys, the toy emporium in Regent Street.

It is fantastic, but come lunchtime when the world and his younger, snot-nosed sister is also there, it can be a bit of a trial. So put that first on your must-see list.

Plus, if you want to swagger a bit, or be a bit of a Del Boy, wander (no, make that promenade) along Bond Street (just off Oxford Street) and look knowingly at the diamonds in the windows of Cartier, Van Cleef and Tiffany & Co.

What does it matter that you can’t afford a diamond waistcoated napkin ring (£4,000)? No-one else peering in the windows can either. But just stare past the door at those who can – they normally prove that money can’t buy style.

And remember, there will be crowds.

But if you mentally prepare yourself for that from the beginning, it can be quite exhilerating as you go head-to-head with a tide of humantity that always seems to be sweeping past you in the opposite direction.

Happy shopping.