… and when it comes it lasts three months.
All September it lurks in the shadows, fearful, almost, to show its face. Advertising suggests delicately that if we want to avail ourselves of any pre-Christmas bargains, now is the time. Those sharpest of eye might catch a glimpse of the advertisers ‘campaign animations limbering up in the wings; a cute little dragon, a charismatic cat, a carrot…a carrot?
Down in their dark fetid dungeons union convenors are preparing their respective marches to personal glory, competing with each other for the best headline, the direst threat. They are eager to let you know either their members get their twenty-five percent pay increase or you’ll spend your Christmas in airline departures, or waiting on the station platform, or…
October, and the carrot is christened Kevin! In despair of getting a flight or a train, you learn the ferries are likely to be on strike, and France has downed tools until the New Year. You decide your best option will be to celebrate closer to home, so you attempt to book a Christmas break at a hotel. The sound of derisive laughter on the ‘phone is not pleasant. Now if you’d booked in July…
As October spills over into November you notice how wolves are beginning to gather around street corners, taking experimental nips at the heels of more harassed-looking shoppers as they struggle beneath their panniers of expensive toys. Throwing up the barricades you elect to have a traditional Christmas, and the die is cast. The following day is the optimum time for news of shortages: shortages of turkeys, shortages of Brussels sprouts, et al.
November into December and out there in tele-ad world personalities have slimmed themselves to wafer elegance. Luxury baths, swimming pools and tropical beaches await their perfumed presence – why do advertisements for perfumes always involve so much water? The scent would wash off, surely? Kevin the Carrot now has a circle of friends, including a love interest and a middle-aged pop idol. The cute little dragon no longer breathes fire on everything, but is reduced to gazing longingly at various ‘special offers’ – including a mobile phone. What’s a dragon going to do with a mobile phone? He looks rather sad, and lost.
The wolves are fiercer by far. You can barely elbow your way into Marks and Spencers, and the smell of hot plastic at the Supermarket is all but intolerable. By the end of the third Black Friday in a row and just before the last Cyber Monday you will have realized the goods you were counseled to buy in September are now on sale fifty percent cheaper than the price you paid. This is the time to remember the smug look you gave your neighbor as you told her you ‘had all your Christmas shopping done’ and how she confessed she’d ‘done nothing yet’.
Personally, I try to regard Christmas Day as a period for quiet reflection, so to speak; the eye of the hurricane. It is a time for families to be together, discussing their issues openly. Last year, for example, Cousin Hubert chose the occasion to ‘come out’ (we all had to try and look surprised – we’ve known for years) and once explanations have been offered to children why the expensive games console they have been given is obviously totally the wrong games console and apologies offered for our hopeless present buying there is an opportunity to relax, indulging fond memories of times past. On this one day of the year, at least, we are given the chance to watch once more movies the entire cast of which have been dead for half a century (which helps).
And then, quite suddenly, January will dawn and it will all be over. The world will return to work, which should be a relief if only the banking community could remain on holiday, but alas, no.
The credit card statements will hit the doormat, delivered personally by the most insistent of the wolves. They will be transferred from doormat to desk, where they will sit unopened and we shall try to stare them out for maybe a week, then bury them under other ‘more urgent business’ for a further two. All the while the wolves will be ranging around our door, scratching and baying, until at last, unable to outface them any longer, we pick up the paper-knife.
Bad? Not too bad. We should have paid it all off by next September.
Happy Christmas, everybody, and a stonking New Year!