Tag Archives: consumerism

Christmas Presence

Barons

Happy Tuesday, you lovely thing!  Boy, am I glad to see you.  Have a seat, I’ve got a rant to get through.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting outside a coffee shop in Camden, waiting for a friend and quietly minding my own business.  As anyone who lives in an urban area will know, sometimes when you’re out and about you have to talk to strangers.  Most people approach you to ask for the time, directions or to hand you a flyer, but the guy I encountered yesterday was a whole new breed of weird stranger (even by Camden’s gloriously bizarre standards).  He approached me to ask for my opinion on his hand-made Christmas cards, which were the most horrific, disturbing and unsettling images I have seen in a very long time.  Genuine excerpt from our conversation:

Stranger: “So, which one do you prefer?  There’s this one, which is the masses of sheep – the consumers, you get me? – bowing down to a tree made of bloodstained iPods, the one of Jesus shooting Ronald McDonald in the face, or the creepy Santa with a bag of kids’ faces.  What do you think?”
Me: “…I think you should talk to someone.”
Stranger: “So you don’t want to buy one?”
Me: “No, thank you.  I really like Christmas.”

And I do, I love Christmas.  I love the carols, parties, decorations, lovely food, sparkling drinks, shiny wrapping paper and rubbish cracker jokes.  (I would love the silly hats too, but they don’t fit over my ridiculous hair.  True story.)  I also love presents, as of course we all do.   I understand that the consumer-driven chaos of Christmas is what the guy in Camden was angry about, and I can respect that.  I also realise that most of the things I’ve just listed as ‘reasons to love Christmas’ are consumerist and non-essential.  I’m not going to apologise for liking things that don’t really matter, because I don’t think that crackers and all that stuff are more important than being with my family, or showing my friends how much I love and appreciate them.

Last year we Brits gobbled approximately 10 million turkeys, spent nearly £600 each on gifts, and probably splashed out thousands of pounds on stamps for our Christmas cards.  This is all in keeping with the Camden guy’s anti-establishment rage, but I don’t believe that the way to fix that is to send grotesque greeting cards.  Don’t get me wrong: I am not disputing this man’s right to express his opinion or use his creativity – fair play to him for coming up with such striking/memorable images – but I personally will not be swayed by his view.  (Although I will concede that this year’s Christmas advert war is starting to grate just a bit.)

Not to get all Tiny Tim about it, but the most important thing about Christmas is the people we spend it with: friends, family and loved ones.  (For instance, the photograph at the top of this post is courtesy of my dad, who captured this lovely moment of typical sibling silliness on Christmas day last year.)  We are allowed to enjoy the consumer stuff like food, drink and presents because they are much less important, but more controllable.  You can hope and pray that your parents won’t get into a row over dinner, or that your granddad won’t get drunk and be loudly racist, or that your sister will cheer up even though she got dumped a week ago, but you cannot make these things happen.  You can make nice food and an effort to find thoughtful gifts.

Even if you don’t have a completely harmonious, sober or exuberant Christmas, the consumer crap is a way of saying to people “I love you, and I want us to have a special day together.”  If we burn the turkey and get terrible presents, it doesn’t matter because it is just stuff and at least we tried.  I know that that’s not why the festive season is so financially spectacular, but if we’ve got this cultural phenomenon we might as well find the positive aspects of it.

Right, rant over.  I’m going to make some mince pies.  You go and have a marvellous day, whatever you’re up to.

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All You Need is Love (and Cheese)

As a single girl, there are three sure-fire ways to deal with Valentine’s Day:

  • Dismiss the entire day as a consumerist charade that turns love into a grotesque corporate pantomime.
  • Take the opportunity to celebrate love in all of its forms, even though EVERYONE else seems to be focusing on the romantic aspect.
  • Pull a full-on Bridget Jones: slump on the sofa, wear pyjamas, drink wine and sob uncontrollably, preferably whilst watching Bridget Jones.

I have tried all three in my time (let’s be honest – we all have), but these days I tend to go with the second method.  Love is love.  Ok yes, it would be nice to be able to share this day with a man who likes the fact that I’m incredibly sarcastic and unable to boil an egg, but if you don’t have a love life to celebrate, celebrate the love in your life.  I may be single, but I have a lot of love in my life that I’m very grateful for.  Here are a few examples:

1) Towards the end of 2013, my brother was very ill and in hospital.  My brother is one of my favourite people in the world, and him being ill is the stuff of my worst nightmares.  This was a very hard time for me and my entire family (who all dealt with the situation amazingly well, as did my brother’s girlfriend and closest friends.  Super proud of and grateful for them all).  I knew for certain that he was going to get better on a particular day about two weeks into the nightmare, when he’d been sort of awake for a couple of days, and had just about started talking again.  I had bought him this postcard: i love you more than cheese-500x500

and when I gave it to him, he looked at it, looked at me, looked back at the postcard and then said “I love you more than cheezex?  What the hell is cheezex?!”  My first instinct was to call him a git, but actually I felt so relieved that he was capable of being a cheeky little sod that I nearly cried.  I think he knew, even though he was so unwell, that I needed to hear him say something silly.

2) When I was in my third year of university, I had a very unfortunate and slightly scary situation with a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone.  One night, after a particularly unsettling conversation with this guy, I called my oldest friend Evelyn and literally sobbed down the phone at her.  I couldn’t even form the words to being to explain what had happened.  The conversation went something like this:
Ev: “Vicks, what’s wrong?”
Me: “He…I..aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”
Ev: “What happened??”
Me: “He…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”

And so on and so forth.  No sense was made.  What did Evelyn do?  She put down the phone, got into her car in Surrey, drove to where I was in Canterbury, put me in her car and drove me back to her flat, where she fed me and hugged me and let me cry out the problem.

3) Yesterday, knowing what a tough week I’d had, my friend Julia drove down from her university in Northampton to surprise me at my flat.  She is incredibly stressed and busy right now, what with being in her final year and having a gazillion things to do, but she found the time to visit me, go out for dinner with me and some of our friends AND have a boogie in the kitchen to Robin Thicke.

4) My lovely house mate Ais is the most wonderful friend anyone could ask for.  She is the best person to have around when you need looking after (Irish genes, obviously), and also the most fun person to go on adventures with.  She thinks of ways to show people that she loves them all the livelong day.  For example,when I woke up this morning I found this outside my room:

2014-02-14 09.37.07

5) When I lost my job on Tuesday, several people called me to tell me how sorry they were, how angry they were on my behalf, and how much they loved me and believed in me.  It is overwhelming to feel so cared for by so many people, and if this day is about love then it should really about them, because they all took the time to show love to someone who was truly in need of it.

Thanks for reading; I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day, regardless of your marital status.  You deserve to be loved no matter how single/married/divorced/prefer not to say you are.