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'Essential' buys at Christmas lose their sparkle soon enough.

I AM suddenly seized by a wild desire to make thousands of sparkly and pointless purchases, all in the name of Christmas.

There, said it. I've tried not to think about it, tried to rise above it, but find I am a marketing man's dream.

Well, at least I'm fulfilling someone's fantasy.

I've attempted to ignore the merry Santas appearing in every shop I pass, and even managed to walk past the butcher imploring me to order a turkey NOW.

This week I give in. The white flag is up.

The festive season is here and, as I live in a city, I cannot ignore it any more than the Big Issue seller who stalks me like a spectre.

Christmas is that dread word which empties the wallet just after Hallowe'en and Guy Fawkes are safely out of the way. In my local corner shop, they don't even wait for things to be out of the way.

There the religious, pagan and political celebrations of Britain seem to have merged into one. The shelves are in a constant state of Christmaseen - an eerie mix of tinsel, ghost masks and sparklers all on sale at once throughout the winter.

Down the road in Woolworths, miniature chocolate oranges wrapped in orange foil look suspiciously related to last month's chocolate pumpkins wrapped in orange foil.

We leap, as if by the magic bleep of the cashpoint machine, from one spendfest to the next. Sadly the cashpoint machine is not magic, except on those occasions when it suddenly shuts down and announces it no longer wants to know you or your kin until you find funds with which to refresh its voracious appetite.

It's such fun though, shopping. We all pretend to hate it. So crowded and hot, streets full of psychotic market researchers and charity collectors attempting to lay guilt on in spades.

Then the rush of nipping into a clothes shop and spending obscene amounts on a pair of tights. Can't beat it. Especially if it's raining.

Price, size and quantity get all muddled up at this time of year. Shops cajole us into buying glittery objects too big for our houses and too small for our bodies.

Who buys all those 3-ft-high festive candlesticks? Surely not that many people can live in manor houses and castles?

Burn one in most homes and you get black stains on the ceiling or a full-out fire.

Something similar is wrong with the teensy little tops all glimmering with sequins and shiney things which no one over 17 can wear without looking too big, too cheap or too cold.

Both items, easily avoidable for a good 11 months of the year, suddenly become essential buys between November 6 and December 24.

When the sun is going down at 3.30pm and you won't see light again until after breakfast, it is hard to keep a grip on reality.

The gloom also makes it easier to slip into those ludicrously small sparkly things and imagine they fit as the dark obscures tasteful vision.

Come March, when some semblance of sensible weather returns, the glimmering items will be seen for what they are and marched smartly down to the nearest charity shop.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 25, 2003
Words:535
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