And so that was Christmas- [sorry JL]

We have now had the feverish consumer-fest that is Christmas 2014. All of that deliberating, researching, stressing, purchasing, sending back, re-purchasing, stressing again, decking the halls, stressing, preparing, wrapping, adapting, teeth-gritting, cooking, overeating, unwrapping, lying around, overeating again-all of that was about one day.

I do it all. I do the researching, purchasing, wrapping, preparing and the stressing. I also do the overeating, the lying around and the regretting. Then I look forward with a lover’s yearning for it all to be over and done with. I wait until the very last moment to festoon the house with gaudy tat and I am more than ready, by the end of Boxing Day, to tear it all down and stow it away for next time. What an extraordinary waste of time, energy and resources it all is!

But nothing beats the heady euphoria that the smooth, clean nakedness of the unadorned house presents. It induces [in me, at least] a gargantuan sigh of relief-so much so that it is almost worth the effort involved in all the preparations and clearing away to achieve the feeling.

Of course I don’t clear it all away the day after Christmas day. Don’t get me wrong-I do wait a decent interval before blitzing everything; until the last mince pie is consumed and the last guest has shuffled off to the station. But I can never stand to wait for that traditional ’12 day’ period to elapse. Nothing is more depressing than the sight of tired, dusty tinsel flapping in the drizzle and gales of a shiny new year.

In empathetic reflection, the post-Christmas news broadcasts are undergoing their own detox. There may well have been terrorist attacks, beheadings, invasions, tsunamis or Biblical-style famines but we are spared any intelligence of such events. The number one spot for news items is that of the Boxing Day sales. Whoopee! For those suffering sale-scrum withdrawal after Black Friday there is a chance to rise at 2.00am and stand in a queue for six hours with the possibility that they may purchase five or six handbags at a price of £500-a mere half of the [alleged] £1000 presale price.

Reader, I cannot think of a single item I want enough to queue up through the night in the damp and cold then plunge into a screeching, tearing pack of sale hounds for. Besides the fact that I am not a handbag person [this has been addressed in a previous post] I understand that the over-hyped prices of August are merely set lower and termed ’sale’ prices. In addition I actually want less stuff, not more[this was also addressed in a previous post]. On Black Friday one triumphant woman, flushed with the success of having snatched two flat screen, HD televisions proclaimed ‘I got two and I don’t even know if I want one’. Others were injured by falling TVs or trampled in the stampede. I’m betting these same people are in the queue for the next sale ruck. Happy Christmas one and all!

Advertisements

Agony in the Waiting Room

                I arrived a little too early for my annual dental check up, not out of enthusiasm for the ordeal to come, but an over estimation of the time I’d take to get there. This is not a disaster, as the waiting room offers a range of magazines for every taste and from almost as many eras. The table is awash with a range of periodicals -from ‘The Oldie’ and ‘Saga’ to ‘Good Housekeeping’ and ‘Woman’s Weekly’. Take ‘Hello’ magazine, for instance. It makes no difference to me whether the edition is February 2014 or July 2003. I’m still none the wiser who most of the featured celebrities are, or in which field they have achieved their notoriety. Of course I do recognise the more prominent members of the British royal family and I am aware of such tabloid royals as the Beckhams, but most of the names and the faces are a complete mystery. So it is with a sense of the surreal that I read the caption-‘Chianti Cosmetique’s bump makes a debut at the Innuendo fragrance awards party’ or ‘Krayde and Melliflua Lamprey’s engagement party at Legoland Windsor’ or ‘Lady Hermione Drake-Smatterborn settles into her new home following her split from husband Basil’.

                I wonder what it is that creates this appetite for pictures and news about ‘slebs’ and/or royalty, when their lives, actually, are not of any interest at all. Like us, they have encounters, they form relationships [albeit brief in many cases], they buy homes, they marry, they divorce, they have babies, they ‘find happiness’ again, they party, they holiday, cavort, pose in expensive outfits in exotic locations and presumably on the proceeds of the sales of the magazines.

                A cursory delve into who some of the unknowns might be generally reveals that they are known for being married to someone famous, or that they are born into a famous/rich/royal family. In other words they are not known for anything they may have achieved, but by the tenuous thread that is as an appendage dangling off the end of a ‘famous’ person. This is irritating. Not only have they benefitted from marrying/being born to a [vaguely] known person but they are then able to rake in more dosh by appearing in the magazine in this lightweight capacity, not having actually done anything themselves.

                It was a mistake to arrive early for my appointment. I then had a wait of 35 minutes while the dentist dealt with someone else’s complications. Grim! I was left to occupy myself with photos of the Ponsonby-Smythes’ garden party of summer 2010 and Victoria Beckham’s shopping trip to New York. And after all this torture, what a relief to be invited in to sit in the chair and have my teeth prodded, my gums scraped and my tongue mummified. This time next year, when I return for my annual prod I will either ensure a more accurate arrival time or take along my Kindle!

January revisited

                It is unreasonable to expect much to change within a one year time frame. When I look back at the first three posts of last year the immediate thing that strikes is that they were much shorter-by about half! So either I could not think of much to say at the time, and have become more practised at writing dross, or I have become even more verbose; or a combination of the two.

                The beginning posts were somewhat grumpy. I set out my case for disliking musicals, citing ‘Les Mis’ as a prime example of everything I did not like. This is still true; although following this diatribe I did download the novel [gloriously free for classics] and made a worthy attempt to read it. I have to say now that having tried several times to wade through this famous and admirable classic novel the musical comes across as a little less awful. Never let it be said I cannot climb down a rung or two when proved wrong. You have to admire the makers of said musical, to have constructed a universally popular, understandable tearjerker from such an incomprehensible narrative.

                The Christmas and New Year season is the only holiday period which features [for us in the Northern hemisphere, at least] reliably ghastly weather, no more so in the UK than this year, when we have been battered by gale force winds and squally downpours consisting of rain, sleet and hailstones for about a month now. It is not conducive to going out, for taking bracing walks or winter bike rides. Unless your heart’s desire is to while away the hours in the sales [see previous post, ‘Boxing Day-a Daft Party or a Bun Fight?’] you are stuck with a choice of a good book, getting on with a project [Novel 2 for me] or the dismal TV schedules. The TV planners appear to save all of their dross for the winter months, as if their only objective was to make viewers as miserable as possible. The screen guide is peppered with reality shows, manically overwrought ‘comedy’, ancient movies from the year dot [trotted out every year] and re-runs. I found the only viewable items-‘Death Comes to Pemberley’-a barmy idea but a good romp, and ‘Jane Eyre’-a new adaptation of a reliable yarn. These I recorded, only to discover that Jane Eyre’s recording had been interrupted by a signal failure fifteen minutes before the end [and was no longer available on i-player]. Great…

                It’s not all depressing. We made an overnight trip to Gloucestershire for a birthday party, travelling back through the gloomy rain and the cold today. There are already catkins covering the hazel trees and fluffy buds on the willows, the first signs that the year is turning. Light at the end of the January tunnel! Happy New Year!

Boxing Day-a daft party or a bun fight?

                When I was a child, spending my early years in the 50s, Boxing Days were passed with many of the traditional customs of the time. We’d visit relatives or have them visit us. We’d exchange gifts [the meaning of ‘Boxing’] and have tea. The visits would be to aunts, uncles and cousins and the gifts would be toys, games, puzzles or books. One of my favourite toys as a six year old was ‘Fuzzy Felt’, of which I had several sets. A set consisted of a felt board and a collection of felt characters and objects based around a theme. My preferred theme was the farmyard and I could occupy hours arranging the small figures and objects into different positions and scenarios. This, I think, was the beginning of story-telling for me. A cursory look on the web confirmed that Fuzzy Felt is still available, although now often termed ‘retro’. Invented in 1950, it was a ‘must have’ for children of the early 50s. My brothers favoured metal Meccano and occasionally allowed me to play with it, as with their train set, which occupied most of their bedroom floor.

                During the ensuing days we’d have to put in some time writing thank-you letters for all our gifts. My mother would have written a list of presents and donors, some of whom would have sent postal orders [also still available!] for an amount to be divided between the three of us. It could be tricky. One pound was not easily divisible into three, neither was ten shillings. We would receive 6 shillings and 8 pence from a pound or 3 shillings and 4 pence from ten shillings. It is not surprising that despite an innate deficiency in mathematical competency I was always able to remember what one pound, or ten shillings, divided by three was.

                It was a thrill to be allowed to stay up for a party, often held at our house. In those unsophisticated times it would consist of parlour games-in a circle or with pencils and paper. My father considered himself something of a wag and organised all of this including the ‘prizes’-items he’d fastened to the Christmas tree, including packets of indigestion tablets or a small tin of baked beans, all wrapped up.

                So what now, for Boxing Day? It seems vast numbers of people like to spend this next day of their holiday camping outside on a pavement in the cold and the howling gales waiting for a department store to open its doors, in order to join a galloping stampede into the interior and a fight to gain access to a designer handbag they cannot do without. I like a bargain as much as the next person but much as I wrack my brain I cannot think of a single object in a shop I’d wish to queue up all night in the cold for. Can you?

Don’t ring us!

                One phenomenon you notice when you are at home more during the daytime is the proliferation of unsolicited telephone calls you are subjected to. Now I know there are rafts of methods of dealing with this exasperating annoyance, and I have tried very many of them, but I have also become somewhat interested in those hapless captives who man the phones and what has forced them into the undoubtedly desperate position whereby they must telephone people all day who have no wish to speak to them, or indeed to even pick up the phone.

                I’m guessing it must be quite wonderful to even find someone at home during daytime hours. As the recipient of so many of such calls I am able to tell instantly whether it is a ‘cold’ call or not. For one thing there is almost always a delay after I’ve uttered my usual, neutral ‘hello?’ This hiatus is usually the time when I replace the receiver, curse a bit and return to whatever absorbing activity I was engaged in before.

                If the caller is quick enough to make a start on their pitch it tends to go something like this:

                CALLER: Good afternoon ma’am. How are you today? [often heavily accented].

                ME: I don’t want to buy anything, thank you.

                CALLER: No I am not selling anything ma’am. I just wondered if you-

                ME: [firmly] I am not interested. Thank you. Goodbye.

                Note how polite I am! This is partly down to habit and also because I can’t imagine many occupations more tedious and soul destroying than theirs. The conversation can vary, of course. Sometimes they will ask for ‘Mrs PreviousSurname’, a surname I had for a previous era, in which case I adopt the haughty strategy of ‘I’m sorry, there is no Mrs PreviousSurname living here’. Sometimes they ask for my son, who has not lived here for many years, and on occasions we are still asked for the previous occupier of this house, a lady who moved on nearly twenty years ago!

This begs the question, where are they getting their information from? –From an ancient archive? –From a museum? The response to my denial of identity, if they think quickly, can be to ask if I am the homeowner. Indeed, this is sometimes an opening gambit. I tell them we have double glazing, a conservatory, cladding, insulation, insurance, that we don’t want a timeshare, didn’t have payment protection insurance, have made wills, our life insurance is all sorted and we are not in debt. These assurances may or may not be true, but the truth, in these circumstances is of no consequence. The fact is, if we were seriously to want any of these items or services we would go out and find them.

Husband’s method of dealing with cold calls can, on occasions be somewhat cruel, like a small boy teasing a fly, as when he demanded a ‘password’ from the caller, eliciting an, at first confused and then an increasingly enraged response.

I suppose, since these days more people are doing without land lines in favour of mobs the irritation might one day go away? In the meantime, what methods do you employ? Answers on a postcard…