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?
Spotted near Baker Street tube station — the vegetable incarnation of Charlie’s favourite autumn celebration. The box suggests that these were produced by the country which currently likes to antagonise or cock a snook at the spirtitual home of Pumpkin Pie. It shows that, perhaps, ideology bows to commerciality.
Wherever in America that the idea for trick and treating came from must have been a very innocent place. Suggesting
that children be sent out in the dark to knock on strangers’ doors to ask for sweets would probably get the average British person banged up in jail these days. These days the little children are shaparoned by parents to a few friendly houses early in the evening and then leave the streets to be menaced by gangs of feral teenagers who think this ludicrous ‘custom’ obliges them to commit vandalism, intimidation and all other manner of anti-social behaviour. One step in the right direction is this poster that Thames Valley Police have produced to tell these obnoxious oiks that they’re unwelcome before they even get to the door. It’s a shame there’s no legal sanction that automatically comes with ignoring it. In our current police state it would be unsurprising if these posters came with their own CCTV camera that filmed any idiot who ignored it and issued them with an automatic ASBO as soon as they knocked on a door. I doubt the poster will do much good apart from provide more work for the police poster making department — this seems to be the busiest part of the police force at the moment with all the signs around saying ‘Thieves will take your sat nav’, ‘Don’t leave valuables in your car’, ‘Pickpockets at work’. The next thing might be signs at the end of every street saying ‘Burglars around. Don’t leave anything in your house’ or ‘Muggers have been known in this town. Don’t get out of your car.’
Going back to Hallowe’en, which I think is the most banal, tasteless, over-commercialised, crass, money-grabbing, cynical marketing exercise that has emerged from the United States — and that’s saying something as there’s plenty of competition. I don’t particularly object to the underlying idea of Hallowe’en itself — a few ghost stories, maybe even a party with a ghoulish theme is ok. However, the shops have been desperate since the end of August to peddle complete over-priced rubbish: Marks and Spencers sell outrageously expensive tiny chocolates themed with some pathetic horror element. Some cake companies are churning out blood-themed sponge bars. It’s all just gimmickry designed to rip people off. The worst thing is that these products are mainly aimed at children — using pester power profiteering out of parents’ pockets.
And before all this commercial Hallowe’en rubbish we had a perfectly good autumn event with fireworks, bonfires and so on. Fortunately Guy Fawkes night is resolutely holding on to its popularity, although increasingly anal retentive health and safety concerns (often totally unfounded) have meant many communities have dropped the bonfire aspect. The thing global capital doesn’t like about 5th November is that there is limited scope to flog us overpriced tat to go with the fireworks — apart from parkin and black peas (for good northerners) there’s not much else for capital’s profiteering. The bonfire can’t be picked up in a supermarket although it’s the most appropriate destination for most of their Hallowe’en merchandise.