'Tis The Season To Be...Grumpy
Grumpy, ill-tempered, wound up, bothered, petulant, peevish' that's me' and it's not my fault. Nonetheless, I am annoyed.
I'll begin with gifts. Sometime between August Bank Holiday and the Euro Qualifier every year magazines, newspaper supplements, morning TV shows, chain and department stores display all the presents your pets, partner, mate, masseuse, mother, father, family, friends, ad infinitum are colluding to motivate you to punch in your pin number.
'50-75 stocking fillers displayed page after page, counter after counter, feature after feature. 'We are merely trying to make Christmas shopping less stressful for you'.' Really. '50-75? If those trinkets are meant as pre-present giving, what is a proper present then?
Consider. A stocking hung by the chimney with care clearly seems to grow longer and wider with every year. Several hundred pounds simply to fill it two-thirds full. And here I am with a fireplace begging for metre long stockings: 'fill me, fill me, fill me to the top' ' with all the bits and pieces that find their way to Oxfam before you can say 'thank you for the bright yellow 95% merino wool, 10% cashmere foot warmers'.
A few modest items to entice: a pink pet passport from Smythson for '80, cashmere knickers at '115, a cashmere scarf to complete the outfit at '195, a furry orange fedora for little Finlay at '83. And now moving on to the 'real' gifts to stack under the '125 Nordman needle-dropping, drooping Christmas tree: Mikimoto pearls for a mere '17,310'a (hideous) Saskia white handbag by Chloe a bargain at '889'or perhaps a (hmmm) crocodile tote touched by John Galliano for Dior '8,145'yet another '395 espresso machine for the breakfast counter or another timeless timepiece on the other wrist for '3,595, '7,800, '14,258, or perhaps '77,020. Does that last watch come with its own bodyguard?
To peruse the shops and purchase these crucial accoutrements, you have to subject yourself to shopper jostling, crowd crushes and handbag abuse. Whacked and smacked with oversized pricey purses from Santa's visit last year. 'Excuse me. Am I in your line of attack? That was my head you thwacked with that massive dead cow decorated with studs and buckles.' I do so love a lack of acknowledgement. 'I'm developing a migraine.'
Looking at how the stores and councils have decorated: only just' it's more pathetic than minimal. A bit more Christmas cheer wouldn't go amiss. Even a swig of sherry in Marks & Spencer's foodhall may be fortifying and facilitate, but so would inspiring d'cor. It's Christmas. If you can't go over the top now, when can you? Guy Faulkes' Day? I think not. The local councils have banned it as well as all other possible fun. Health and safety you know'.
Stunning Regent Street is celebrating the festive season with ecologically designed bunched spheres a la 1960's. Possibly for The Design Museum. But where are all the trees, tinsel, baubles, beads, ribbon, wreathes, lights, garland? I know they exist; they are available in the shops. I'm losing my Christmas keenness' without having finished my shopping.
Speaking of over the top and in the shops - there are all those Christmas provisions piled high. Temptation at every turn with packets, puffs, parcels, wraps, bundles, tartlets filled, packed, stuffed, crammed, jammed with hints of prawn, chicken, cheese, ham, eggs, veggies and all sorts of exotic fillings. Pies, cakes, fairy cakes, biscuits icing-ed, decorated, sugar-dusted in boxes, tins, canisters, jams, marmalades, honey, dates, figs, nuts, ginger, Belgian/Swiss white, milk, plain chocolates, fudge, marzipan, mints, Turkish delight wrapped up in ribbons. Now why can't we replicate this spirit outside the shop?
I've had the wool of a jumper pulled over my eyes. Everything I have bought has been discounted within days of purchase. 3 for 2, 4 for '100, 25% off, vouchers, free postage. Next year I am going to do what men do; shop Christmas Eve and buy everyone the same thing. 'Observe Darling. Everybody looks so lovely in their '29.99 red cashmere cardigans. Even the dog.'
Retailers salivate as they expect to take in more money than last year''12 billion. Festive foods may reach '10.7b, generous gift giving may hit '435 per adult, an increase of 12%. Hang on. How does the mere '435 square with all those must-haves? That '345 Quad bike, '395 Scottish weaved Horse & Hound tweed carry-on, '1,300 Ballantyne beige jumper? According to stylists, retailers, fashionistas the '435 annual indulgence buys a single present'and that might well be for the gift-giver. 'How could I resist? It was discounted 10% for one day only.'
Prices are on the increase as I tick off my to-do list: order free-range turkey for 20, embroider tablecloth and napkins, order blow-up bed, measure room first; gas up 30%, rail tickets up 15%, flour, milk, eggs on the rise. Consumers are splashing out on Christmas crackers - with expectations a startling '25m up 30%''42m on turkeys'no mention of puds. The average present purchaser owes '33,000 ' pre-Christmas sales.
Oh, spend the mortgage. It's Christmas.
Maggie is from Manhattan, where she was a painter, then designer of clothing, objects, textiles, interiors while writing for various publications and her own webzine. She is permanently based in London, the city of irony, from where she writes regularly to her gal pal Lulu in New York.
You can read her amusing tales about London's daily life, people, current events, politics, fashion and culture at her website www.lettersfromlondon.com.
You can also read more of Maggie's letters to Lulu at Letters from London on this site.