Jan 01 2010

Happy New Year!

Category: Generalfootlight @ 12:19

Another new year. Welcome to 2010! As a species, we have wallowed in the booze, eaten far too many chocolates and cakes, and said things to people we see once a year that we have already regretted. We have been to parties that were just noisy accompaniments to silly dancing. We have worn clothes that will live in the depths of the wardrobe until next year, when you hope no-one will remember them.

Christmas is a time for getting together with your family (check), eating too much (check) and drinking too much (check). It is a time for the card makers to rub their hands with glee, shares in wrapping paper to rocket and the turkey farmers to sit back and listen to the 'chink, chink' sound of money hitting their bank accounts. Surfeits are essential and the wave of regret and self-loathing that follows as inevitable as night following day.

This year, we didn't send any Christmas cards. Apart from the fact that they don't say what we want to say, the cost of sending them is greater than the original purchase! Consequently, we turned to a less tree-destroying, money-eating method and emailed our greetings around the world. In some ways, I have been resisting this turn for quite a while. I am saddened by the passing of letter writing and wish I did more of it. Unfortunately, it is much easier and quicker to contact people via the Internet – and a damned sight more reliable than most postal services! I'm thinking – you're still making contact.

Then there's the age-old chestnut. Any of you made any resolutions? Of course you did! All those plans to lose weight, save more money, be kinder to your friends and family. Those are common resolutions. They are always broken. We know that when we make them. Anything that requires the slightest sustained effort doesn't stand a chance. Giving more to charity – that's another one. That goes well until the gas bill is due or the car needs some repairs. Then, the money is always better in your own pocket.  Did you realise that buying something you actually need in a charity shop constitutes giving to charity? No-one is expecting you to furnish your house there, or renew your wardrobe, but the small gestures mount up. You don't have to take your elderly parent to live with you.  Popping in for an hour or two once every week or so has a lasting effect, too. There is no need to join Weight-Watchers and Slimming World to lose two thirds of your body mass in three weeks. Smaller portions on a smaller plate (psychology!) and lay off the biscuits will make a huge difference.

Wait a minute. These all sound like good, common sense. Why don't I do it? Because I'm human. It's a sad fact that good ol' human nature will get in the way all the time. It would be heartening to think that, one day, people will celebrate Christmas in the way it should be. Even if you're not Christian, the sentiments bear a second look. It would be great if we could manage to stick to a least one of our resolutions. If we don't give ourselves too hard a task, it might just work. Maybe I'll pick one and see if I can do it. Now – which one will it be …?

Happy New Year!

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Aug 11 2008

So this is Christmas. Already?

Category: GeneralLee @ 12:03

Not that Harrods is still the benchmark of the London shopping world it used to be, having been largely reduced to plying names instead of quality, but I was shocked to discover that, last weekend, they opened their Christmas hall. In August. Christmas. In August. What the hell? Have they lost it completely?

Christmas for me is a complicated thing. As an absolute atheist it’s religious significance is 0. As a realist and, ok, cynic, the idea of 'Christmas spirit' - that you should be nice to people just because it's a certain time of year - is not only ridiculous but darn right offensive. To begin with, if I am a bastard then I shall be a bastard whenever the mood strikes me, as such things do not take a holiday in December like a City worker. Additionally, the idea of being good to one another because a religion - which has caused more pain, persecution and suffering than pretty much any other single thing in history - says to is hypocritical in extremis. Worse yet, if one is in fact good and charitable and decent all the time, are such rare virtues diluted at year's end because everyone else is briefly doing it too?

But I go along with it, nonetheless. Truth is, if people are nice to each other for a while, for whatever reason, then it's a marked improvement on the traditional antagonistic attitudes prevalent on the streets of London. And, well, people may have corrupted the message to the point of making it dangerously unintelligible today, but the original idea of Christianity was, at it's core, to be good to one another.

But... the consumerism. It's not about the message any more. It's not even about the random displays of good nature (which apparently have to be saved up for a whole year and squirted out all at once, all together. Do people not have enough to ration throughout the year?). It's about the money.

Ho ho ho indeed: Christmas has been prostituted and seems to be loving it. I can just about go along with the more etherial concepts behind it, but some families virtually bankrupt themselves buying presents for everyone they've ever met. True, in such cases these families are clearly Darwinian dead ends and therefore potentially a living anthropological experiment and, as such, worthy of observation (though still damn stupid). Many will actually place themselves into heavy debt, abusing their credit cards and nervously tending lean bank accounts for a good few months after the event whilst coping with the aftermath.

So why?

Well, in a society where money rules all the answer is simple: it's a business. Good naturedness, charitable feelings, happiness - no matter how falsely induced - and relentless pressure to buy from both companies and people expecting presents work wonders on loosening the purse strings.

So, like with Christmas as a whole, I am somewhat conflicted: might Harrods actually have the right idea after all? If some people are going to spend all this money regardless, perhaps being able to spread the costs over a good 5 months is no bad thing. Just so long as they don't then complain that they lack the money for silly things like medicine, food or a holiday.

Christmas is being rammed down our throats from an unacceptably early time in the year. If it is indeed being prostituted, it seems those perverts pimping it like to make it younger and younger each year. August is the time for beach holidays, sun and picnics - if not here in London, then somewhere else. And anyway, the expensive part of Christmas is the presents, which you can buy at any time. Anyone who goes to Harrods and buys a single Christmas cracker for £1000 is, frankly, demented (not even kidding: check out http://styledlife.excite.co.uk/news/1087/Our-pick-of-the-best-luxury-Christmas-crackers). Even if you could easily afford it, it's Christmas... give the money to charity. As for all the rest, it's just cards and wrapping paper.

As for me, the reason I accept Christmas despite all my reservations about it is simple: my girlfriend loves it, for reasons of her own, and anything which makes her that happy is, for me, clearly worth celebrating.

I just wish I didn't have to start doing it so soon.

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