Why Do They Do It?

It’s like the traditional spot the first cuckoo in spring competition but a lot more irritating — coming across the first ‘Book Early for Christmas’ outside a pub or restaurant.

Driving up to the Bucks County Show on Friday I spotted the first offending banner of the season hung outside the Horse and Jockey in Aylesbury. This was 26th August — fully four months before Boxing Day — that’s what I calculate to be a mere 131 days before the event itself.

I thought it was bad enough that I saw Trick or Treat pieces of junk on sale at John Lewis in Oxford Street on Monday — though that may be worse in some ways as those imported American Hallowe’en ‘customs’ are just a consumerist abomination — what’s wrong with Guy Fawkes night.

If I were a pub or restuarant owner I’d calculate that hanging prominent ‘reminders’ (does anyone need reminding about Christmas) outside the establishment before the August Bank Holiday is out would lose more customer by annoying people rather than generating bookings — surely only those organising large work celebrations book so early and they’d either have done it months beforehand, not in the middle of the school holidays.

Even though the likes of B&Q and Homebase seem to start hawking their Christmas decorations in September (to the extent they’ve usually sold out by December) I prefer to try and banish all thoughts of Christmas until after 5th November — despite being an unashamed enthusiast for all things seasonal.

Mind you, the weather last week, particularly the deluges on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, were more fitting for November (the thermometer outside my house read 12C yesterday afternoon). Perhaps someone at the Horse and Jockey woke up, took a look out of the window and hung the banner out in panic that they’d overslept by three months?

Mars and Sexists?

I must side with my friends the feminists and express outrage, shock and horror at the latest Marks and Spencers TV advertisement. (See it on the Guardian site here.) Let’s recruit Stephen Fry (oh, we can’t as he’s in the advert himself) and organise a mass Tweet of outrage at the sight of a French underwear model appearing in a television advert for a shop that sells, er, 25% of all women’s lingerie in the UK. Or is it the corrosive sight of Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt threatening to lure all men back to Neanderthal 70s sexism — his line ‘That girl prancing around in her underwear’ is incredibly demeaning to women, isn’t it? Ah, but he was at a bar drinking. We’ve already got bans on young people enjoying themselves drinking in adverts — maybe we need to ban washed-up, semi-alcoholic seventies throwbacks from endorsing products too? The funny thing is that companies like M&S spend thousands on focus groups to find out what television actors and celebrities their customers empathise with (‘Our research shows that his on-screen character in Ashes to Ashes is extremely popular with our customers and his lines in the ad are in keeping with that role’). It’s difficult to believe that M&S would pay Glenister’s no doubt large fee without being fairly sure about his popularity with their core customer base, which is principally women.

I’ll Be Popular This Christmas

I’ve just ensured my enduring popularity this Christmas — or perhaps guaranteed myself some exile from others’ jollity — as Amazon have just told me my copy of ‘Christmas from the Heart’ by Bob Dylan is on the way. I look forward to inflicting it on whoever I can.

If Dylan’s croaking, out of tune versions of ‘Winter Wonderland’ or ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ was used as backing music on the procession of television adverts crossing our screens at the moment then perhaps I’d feel more charitable towards the retailers who try and convince us it’s the season of peace and goodwill to all men already (when will they realise that’s for one day only?).

Bah Humbug. Lock Up The Irritating Hamster.

It’s only 7th November and there have been two consecutive adverts on ITV featuring a Christmas roast turkey. It’s nowhere near Christmas. Global capital is obviously trying to burn a hole in consumers’ pockets and trying to get them out to spend cash they don’t have at the moment on rubbish they don’t need. Maybe there’s a case for buying presents ahead but certainly not turkey. I think advertising those kind of Christmas goods is completely counterproductive and will annoy people intensely.

Chirpy Richard Hammond was doing a Morrison’s advert where he pushed a trolley through a variety of Christmas scenes (ice rink, carol singing, church service). Isn’t this a bit odd. Normally only hooded chavs and students push trolleys down roads away from the supermarket car park and abandoned trolleys are a sure to make middle-class housebuyers run a mile from a neighbourhood. Yet here is the lovable hamster setting a thoroughly bad example (there’s not even any shopping in his trolley). Perhaps he’s taking it to his public school mates on Top Gear to blow up or something? Either way he should be locked up. However, there is something quite authentic in using a shopping trolley as a representation of Christmas present because, as far as most business is concerned, Christmas is just an orgy of consumerism.

Weirdest Album of the Year

Among the myriad things that Charlie doesn’t like are (in general) Bob Dylan’s music and discussing anything related to Christmas until we’ve had Guy Fawkes night (and preferably not until we’ve opened our advent calendars). But the new album released by Bob Dylan seems so bizarre that it’s worth a mention at the end of October. The reviewer in The Independent referred to it as “a… musical atrocity committed in the names of Christmas and charity;” and “downright weird”. I heard something from it on the radio and it sounded a complete joke — like someone doing their worst impression of Bob Dylan’s appalling singing voice and setting it to the most unlikely material — such as ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. I read another review in Time magazine that said it should be viewed in the context of Dylan paying homage to what most Americans of his age regarded as vernacular folk music — the easy listening crooners of the 40s and 50s, such as Bing Crosby and early 60s. It’s also possible that some of the stick the album is getting is from the miltant Dawkins types — one wonders whether Dylan would have been treated with reverence had he sung songs based on another religious tradition. Whatever, I might buy it for the novelty value and to enjoy inflicting it on over-jolly people over the festive period.