A belated Happy Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers – well, it is still Christmas Week… And an excuse for a cat picture.
When I was young Halloween was 31st October, regardless of the day it fell on, even if it was a school night, the same with November 5th. I was never bothered about Halloween, in fact I think I’m allergic to fancy dress of any kind, being averse to any kind of school play too – I couldn’t even be persuaded to play the dead Mr Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” and instead taking part in the choir, I much preferred singing – still do – I do wish there was a good local Karaoke.
Anyway, when I originally wrote this I couldn’t see the keyboard quite so well as I was almost in the dark to avoid the inevitable “Trick or Treaters.” My last home’s front door was up two floors and hidden in such a way as I’d often had to go downstairs to meet delivery drivers bringing parcels and take-aways. My new house’s front door is again hidden under a dark archway and it looks like my home is part of the neighbour’s house but I wasn’t taking any chances. The thing is it was a Saturday night, the 28th of October, three days before All Hallows Eve. Today is the third of November and my writing and the Jazz on the radio is being disturbed by fireworks. The same being increasingly true of other such days; in the UK we have what used to be called Guy Fawkes Night, remembering the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament which is now more usually called Fireworks Night, or more accurately Fireworks Week now as again it can cover two weekends, particularly if the 5th of November happens to fall mid-week. This year it’s on a Friday yet it’s started tonight.
Valentine’s Day used to be just that – a day. A day when people would send a card, anonymously once upon a time, but now it’s part of the selling season and regardless of what day of the week the 14th of February falls on the nearest weekend has become “Valentine’s Weekend” when people are encouraged to buy expensive gifts and go out for an expensive meal or have an M&S meal for two at home, it has even extended to encompass cars – a dealership’s radio advert suggesting that “this Valentine’s weekend” you might want to take your loved one to look at a new car.
Easter seems to vary in length as well as its religiously defined date and the eggs go on sale sometime in January while Christmas is similarly a week now and begins sometime in August and parents are encouraged by some companies to buy their kids Christmas Eve presents. Stag and Hen nights became weekends or even weeks depending on how far from home the event is, having moved from a few drinks in the local pubs, humiliating outfits and “bride to be” sashes, being tied to a lamppost and onto trips to Ibiza etc – mostly due to the inevitable modern phenomena of showing off on social media – having the most extravagant, expensive, event.
New Year’s Eve seems to have escaped extension, so far, if only because it’s so close to Christmas that many wouldn’t have recovered from the latter in time for the former.
Even Black Friday which spread to Britain a few years back has become Black Friday Week. I think the greatest example of Mission Creep I’ve seen so far was Wren Kitchens’ Black November sale…
I’ve just finished work for the holidays, Nat King Cole is on the radio wishing me Merry Christmas yet I’ve just been stood outside on the balcony, drinking tea in the sunshine and I didn’t need a winter coat.
Now in reality it hasn’t regularly snowed at Christmas in this part of Britain for many, many decades – the idea of snow on Christmas day comes in part from Charles Dickens’ whose childhood, at the end of the Little Ice Age, was a time of much snow and where even the Thames would freeze solid – but even so this feels bizarre.
These days I look forward to snow on my birthday, that happens regularly as can be seen in my Christmassy picture above taken on that day in February 2012 .
Anyway, despite the lack of the white stuff here in mid-England I will wish all my readers a Happy Christmas and a wonderful new year.
I’m told that the current fashion at this time of year is to, at a New Years party for example, respond to the question of “what’s your new year’s resolution?” by smiling smugly, nonchalantly waving your hand (the one without the glass of bubbly in it, preferably) and proclaiming so as many people can hear “my new year’s resolution is to not make any new year’s resolutions.” Leaving the part-pissed audience trying to wrangle with the paradoxical implications of what you’ve just said.
To be honest I never bother anyway, the change of year and feeling that something will change is purely psychological and all that happens is you look at the calendar and start thinking how long it is until your next week off, summer and when to start buying christmas presents.
For those of you who do make resolutions there are now a whole raft of 21st Century options to choose from. Buzzfeed has a selection of resolutions aimed at twenty-somethings which includes a large number involving social networks – oversharing on Facebook, stalking your ex on Facebook, too many Snapchats, too many mundane Tweets, posting incriminating pictures on Instagram, overuse of Emojis, overspending, eating junk food and of course procrastination.
It’s just after eight in the morning and I’m eating Pork Pie for breakfast. Which means but one thing. So I’ll simply say
Well, it’s that time of year again, dark evenings, warm fires, mince pies. Yes, it’s Christmas.
What? Christmas is still in December? Really, because I swear last week I bought some mince pies, all wrapped in Christmassy packaging and the best-before date was in November.
By now we all know that shops start selling Christmas paraphernalia around August and pubs have a little Christmas tree in the corner to advertise their Christmas lunches in September but why are they selling mince pies in November? Yes, I suppose you could freeze them to get round the two-week best before limit but really, are we at risk of a shortage, are we facing a mincemeat deficit?
And yes I bought some, as you can see above, and have eaten them well before the big day. Naturally, well it is (nearly) Christmas and I still have half a tub of ice cream to use up.
When I was younger Valentines Day involved giving an anonymous card to someone you kinda liked. Easter involved a gift of chocolate eggs. At the end of the school term your teachers said “right that’s it, piss off, see you all in September” and everyone gave a sigh of relief and went for a smoke – often both the teachers and pupils.
Now though before Christmas is fully over we get adverts flogging “that perfect Valentines gift for someone special” and it’s not just expensive jewelery but DVDs, Tablet computers and phones. Now I’m not unromantic but I don’t confine my displays of affection to blingy jewelry in February.
Next there’s Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day which has also moved beyond flowers or chocolate, handmade gifts and cards to similar flogging of expensive electronics, and the card aisle also now includes cards for husbands to send to their wives and vice-versa on these days and even Mother’s Day cards for Aunties. The inevitable next step is the largely informal Grandparents’ Day, not that I have a clue when that is as I haven’t seen the adverts for it yet.
Today I’ve seen an advert for a remote control BMW toy headed with “struggling to find that perfect Easter gift”. What, we now have to buy actual toys and expensive electronics for Easter too?
Finally, just when you think the gifting season is over the kids are breaking up from school and are encouraged by marketers to take a parting gift for their teacher(s), to remind them of all the little darlings they’ll be missing dearly over the six weeks holiday. This year has even seen an advert of choice items teachers can buy for the pupils.
Now I love giving gifts to people, I’m able to, but these additional gift-giving times apply increasing pressure on people to give increasingly expensive presents or risk appearing to not care, or being left out. With all these days seen as just another marketing opportunity its easy to believe that today the thought no longer counts. I like to think though that that’s not true.
By the way, remember there’s still five shopping days ’til Easter.
From the random multi-purpose accessories department.
In a shop that sells a variety of items I saw a USB hub for 99p, now as I wanted a powered hub anyway I thought I’d get one. On the box I noticed it had a disc on top marked with Open and Close. Was this cable storage, batteries?
The cover was difficult to open but when it eventually gave in beneath it was a cotton pad in a holder screwed into the centre of the hub with no apparent means of removing it.
Stranger and stranger.
The box text was all in German, as were the instructions in the box. So to find out what this strange device’s special feature was I turned to other technology. I scanned the instruction sheet, used OCR software that came with the scanner to turn it into text for me then copied that into Google Translate. Less than a second later I had my answer.
“USER GUIDE – USB Hub with Scented Oil Distribution”
I’ve seen USB drinks warmers, fans, reading lights, dancing flowers and Christmas trees but now I’d inadvertently found a USB hub that was also an air freshener. Sweet.
You can buy your Christmas decorations in August, mince pies in October (with Best Before dates of November) and now what used to be January sales begin before Christmas day.
Research and data from online and bricks-and-mortar stores has revealed that the rush for online sales bargains began in the evening of Christmas day and peaked on Boxing Day – well, there’s not much on TV these days. Luxury items seemed popular apparently.
Analysts say that there is beginning to be more confidence in spending, as this 71% increase in Christmas day spending shows, which is a good sign.