The Perils of Retail Therapy

A memo to the wise; if you do too much of this:

…you’ll end up with an ankle looking like this:

Ok, granted I wasn’t posing in that exact same fashion when my ankle went, but when it started to ache during a shopping trip I decided to ignore the pain and carry on walking on it. I’d decided to venture to the fair Welsh capital of Cardiff and I didn’t want to turn back before I’d even got properly stuck into my needed dose of retail therapy.

As well as the blinking obvious (walking on a duff ankle) there were other things I didn’t fully factor in whilst hobbling around the city centre on a Sunday in mid-late October. These ‘things’ feel into three categories:

  1. The impact of a particularly bad cold virus.
  2. Excitable children on school holidays, pumped up on sugar and in want of Halloween ‘stuff’.
  3. Super eager women, pumped up on caffeine and hell-bent on obtaining Christmas wares before anyone else.

The result was pure shopping chaos, particularly when I became caught up in the shopping centre at peak time. Quickly I found myself bent and morphed into shapes usually reserved only for the most brutal of Twister games. Grunting the pain away like a reindeer on Christmas Eve, I kept my eyes straight and aimed my cold-filled, Rudolf Red, nose towards the nearest exit.

Out of nowhere they came. Turning out of a shop and charging toward me at speed came a group of teenage girls. Dressed in clothes that liberated their pre-pubescent figures, the young women clutched their semi-empty milkshakes in one hand with a firmness that was nearly as strong as their grip on the pre-ripped, bloodied, shirts that were slung over their backs.

“We’ve got the dead look covered this year girls!” One of the party exclaimed triumphantly, as she pored over a small bag of purchased make up. The others nodded in mild agreement, slupping on their milkshakes and scrolling through void blocks of information. At the command of their leader, the group circulated around a black screen to appease the tiny dot before them. The first snap failing to satisfy, they posed for another photo, and another. The look of death had a time and a place, and as far as the camera holder was concerned Snapchat wasn’t one of them.

Upon realising that my collision with the party was both inevitable and likely to write off my foot (for which I felt quite sure the girls lacked any sympathetic insurance), I decided to change my path. Like a Shakespearian character my persona as flipped into a Hellish beast as I gritted my teeth and turned on the sore ankle to walk around the female cluster.

As I hobbled on, dragging my bad leg behind me, I saw bitter sweet irony reflected in the eyes of all the ghoul clad staff who regarded me with confusion and unease. Coffee stands decorated with bloodied bandages and skulls, shops festooned with beaming figurines and tinsel, each environment looked down at me with a soulless attitude that clung onto those who dwelled beneath. Of all the shopper types it was only the husbands and boyfriends that took the crown for being more out of place than I. Loaded like a Biblical Donkey, acting like a Hollywood Zombie, the men of the city took pity and avoided my half dead shape, whilst their respective partners walked in window-display bedazzlement across my path. I gave a half smile of encouragement to these brave men and pressed onwards.

It was a circular pattern of discomfort and disinterest that punctuated the day. The simple pleasures; the reading of a book undisturbed, discovering a nicely styled boot, these glimmers of joy were hard won and so easily lost. A noisy patron in the neighbouring seat, a swollen foot rebelling against a test environment. A reminder perhaps that no one can be a God in the world of the Godless. This thought whispered around my brain in mockery as I slowly staggered towards the bus station. A hissing that ended with the slamming of doors and screeching of the brakes as I departed the capital once again for English soil.

Life, sore ankles and seasonal shoppers; nothing lasts forever.

Christmas Shopping and Parties 2016: A ‘How To’ Guide

Well, who’d have thought it, Christmas has come around yet again. It’s the J man’s birthday (well, sort-of birthday. It’s really just a ceremonial event, you know, a bit like the Queen’s birthday or Dannii Minogue’s degree from the University of Southampton Solent).

Despite Christmas day occurring on the same day, in the same month, every, single, year, the Western world seems to go into mental and commercial meltdown from about October onwards. I say October, when I was younger it was November and in ten years’ time it’ll be January. Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ will be an awful reality, playing out over a rusting tannoy as mothers fight in a Hunger Games/Battle Royale blood bath to obtain the last potato to dress up with cabbage leaves. Outside, gang warfare breaks out yet again due to a shortage of indigestion tablets and mulled wine. Oh, and Borris Johnson is ruler of the not-so-free world. What a terrible, terrible world.

Still, we’re nine years away from that escalation so in the meantime here are some of the wonderful purchases one can make in Britain if still in need of a last minute, high quality purchase to give to your dog, sorry, nephew.

A good place to start is to let your nearest and dearest know what you want. You can drop them hints here and there, or maybe leave them a note. Or, you could get it written across the front of a shop window:

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(Just remember to keep the wording polite and British.)

If you know what the latest fashion trends are clothing is always a good option. Festive jumpers that state the obvious or depict animals from the homeless pet adverts never fail to lighten one’s mood:

Socks, too, remain a classic gift purchase. This season it’s all about food puns:

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But be warned, spouts were so 2015. Sales of sprout-ware have subsequently seen a massive decline as people realise that vegetables in hats on socks is neither hilarious or witty. It’s weird.

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Hang on, I’m sure I’ve seen this before…

Of course, if you’re of the grown up variety you could splash out on underwear:

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Hmmmmm. Well even if you dispute the message, always, always make sure your pants match your jumper:

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With more and more people turning to online retailers, the high street has over recent years seen a change in its pricing policy. For the thrifty buyer this can result in great shopping deals. Unless you want orange juice, in which case you can jog on.

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Because the high street wants consumers to spend money in their stores, you’ll often find high levels of investment and intelligence factored into stock layout and price labels. This ensures you, the consumer, know exactly how much an item is at a glance.

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Sometimes no amount of reductions can ever justify the product:

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And please, for the love of God do not buy presents from pound shops, especially those who make out this is a reasonable gift to give someone:

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There are very few giftware items that embody the term ‘crapware’ better than the above.

Be aware of the stores that take to magical allusions to convince you to buy a non-existent item. It’s an easy enough trap to fall into, in the below example you may need to take a second look to establish what’s missing:

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Other stores may shrink the portion sizes:

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Speaking of food, it’s always best to stock up on the non/less perishable items as and when you can. Failing that, stock up on products that cover all bases. After all, why pay more to buy cookies and milk separately when Father Christmas could munch on these instead:

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A product with natural AND artificial flavourings? Well count me in!

And who needs a traditional Christmas lunch with all the meat and trimmings when you could buy yourself a massive tray of sushi? Not just any sushi mind, no, no, jelly sweet sushi!

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And if that is even too much then look no further than your local bar or restaurant to cater to your feeding needs. National pub chains such as Wetherspoons pride themselves on a variety of Christmas dishes (just so long as it contains cranberry or turkey):

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After all that shopping you’re probably ready for a sit down and coffee. By this point you’ll spent all your money on inappropriate underwear and Pop Tarts (if not, then hit the shops again). Drink of choice therefore? Americano with half a cereal bar you stashed away in your bag for this very moment.

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As you look out of the window you start to see the shops around you close and the natural light fade to e replaced by an altogether different sort of luminosity. The town centre Christmas lights. Take a moment to marvel at the decorations, see how awe inspiring they are. More importantly, don’t make eye contact with the crazy lady:

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Shopping done. If you’re not already like this…:

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…Then it’s time to get your glad rags on and hit the town to celebrate. Don’t forget ladies, accessorise, accessorise, accessorise!

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And let’s not forget the make up/dress choice. Jazz it up, spritz and glitz yourself so that you go from looking like this:

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To looking like this:

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(Cor, isn’t she a stunner?)

If make up/clothing fail you in this mission, ply yourself with merry liqueur to make you feel like the latter. Just remember though, it isn’t all about what the boys in the club think. In the immortal words of the great philosopher Justin of Bieber:

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(And if other people can’t see that? Well, there’s a scatter cushion for that too:)

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You’ll know if the night out is a good one for two reasons. a) your shoes will look like this:

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And you will feel like this:

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And hey presto! Christmas is sorted and now all you need to do is gear yourself up for the next big event, the Boxing Day/Winter Sales. Oh wait, you actually have to wrap up presents don’t you?

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Dammit!

BONUS PICTURES: Life Choices – Christmas Shopping Special

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(Disclaimer: all items in this post were taken on location, photographer did not alter or move items.)

Nablopomo Day 20: Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas

Apparently it’s no longer enough to put up freaky and scary decorations once a year on Halloween, now it’s happening for Christmas too. Take this ornament for example. For 25 of your hard earned pounds you can buy this monstrous piece of decorative tat:

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It’s big, it’s clunky, but those eyes. Who decided that painting those eyes on in that way was ok? If that wasn’t enough though, it gets worse. You press a button on the side and it does this:

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Because gold glitter and bright lights makes everything better. Especially in a darkened space.

Seriously, who is commissioning these items? Who is buying them? Both sets of people need to sit down in a room and take a good, long, look at themselves.

 

 

Nablopomo Day 10: The John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 – Who’s Cleaning up the Animal Poop?

In the UK, the John Lewis Christmas ad is kinda a big deal. In recent years it’s created a tadition of being the most finically invested, beautifully created and, therefore, most anticipated television advert of the year. It’s not acceptable to eat a mince pie until the John Lewis Christmas advert has broadcast on television sets.

Based on that, I present to you the John Lewis Christmas advert 2016 – #BusterTheBoxer.

You’re going to need to watch this for context to the below:

 

Now I’ve/you’ve seen the full advert, here are a few thoughts. My very British thoughts.

  • #BusterTheBoxer is not an acceptable title for a beautiful and/or Christmas advert. You guys spent £1 million on production and you couldn’t produce a better title than a hashtag? You guys charged per word or somthing?
  • That dog isn’t cute.
  • Whatever happened to nodding dogs?
  • That girl is going to destroy her bed.
  • I’m sorry, what decent parenting allows their kid to get away with that much bouncing?
  • Anyone who has ever been a kid/parent (i.e. everyone) knows that expecting a child to sleep on Christmas eve and not react to clattering in the garden is expecting way too much.
  • Goodbye to your chances of getting Alan Titchmarsh to redesign your garden. That thing is a beast and is going to kill off your grass to buggery.
  • Also – good luck mowing around that mate.
  • Ok, I’m going to have to suspend reality for a bit here I can see.
  • That is cute.
  • Oh no, don’t invite the hedgehog on, with his spikes that is a minor injury waiting to happen. I hope the dad kept the receipt, spike damage on a trampoline is going to be pret-ty noticable.
  • Mate, I wouldn’t be too down about it, with that many animals on there you wouldn’t reach optinmum bounce anyway.
  • Never snows on Christmas.
  • That trampoline is far too clean. You’re expecting me to believe that the animals of Farthing wood all came down and had a massive garden party on that thing and there’s no foot prints, scratches or poop on that thing? That thing should be reaking of ferral animal right now. Unless we skipped the scene where Peter Rabbish and Jemima Puddle-Duck came down and cleaned it up?
  • Real unattractive dog gets upstarted by CGI unattaractive dog.
  • Ok, I guess it is kida cute though.
  • Why do all the humans look so confused/stoned? Given their reaction shouldn’t the overall message be “Christmas is for sharing, idiots”?
  • Well that was nice, I actually needed that. Oh wait, Trump is still going to be president, better get back to screaming into a pillow and ditching Christmas presents for stocking up on tinned goods!

Gotta love the John Lewis Christmas advert.

Alice’s Guide to a Mediocre Christmas

La la la, la la la-la-la, la la la-la-la, laaaaa

La la la, la la la-la-la, la da-de la-la, laaaaa

And it was on hearing this Christmas call that Michael Bublé did forth arise from his slumber.

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Michael 22:10 (the Bublé Bible)

It’s taken over 2000 years, but I think we can finally say Coca Cola do not own the rights to announce when the ‘holidays are coming’. Bublé does.

Christmas is a time of caring, family and the birth of a child who’s name translates as ‘Son of God’ (not a name to be recommended if you’re only 50% sure of the paternity). Of course Christmas is also a time of chaos, family quarrels and naff gifts. At such a time it can be difficult to plan your Christmas shopping and know what to get those you love and those you really do not see the point of. You’re not looking for a perfect ‘how to’ guide, because you don’t want to be lectured on this (also because it would cost you £25.00 and by this stage of the month you’re stuffed for getting it delivered in time). You need something to cover the absolute basics but also inspire you for any last minute gift buying you need to do over the next few days. Welcome my friends to Alice’s Mediocre Guide to Christmas. Enjoy it now, next year I’ll be sticking Michael’s face on it and charging you to read it.

Introduction (the Definition of “Shopping” in this Context)

For the basis of this post we’re going to assume you’re actually going to shop. No, online shopping is not shopping, it’s online shopping. Lets be clear on that. You deserve no credit for getting the last dress in your size because you hit ‘checkout’ first. Did you have to fight other women in Range Rovers for parking spaces? Did you have to wrestle and scream at other shoppers? No? Then that’s not shopping my friend.

Preparation

Before you shop it’s important to have a good breakfast. My personal preference is to go for two extremes, a bowel of porridge made of oats and water (referred to in the good ol’ days as gruel) and a caramel latte.

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That way you have that slight feeling of hunger later on, but the hit of caffeine and sugar. Both will help bring out any suppressed animal instincts when you get into a busy town centre.

How you dress is often important. If you wear normal clothes you are bound to be overlooked and have people bump and crush into you. However by dressing like you have a unnatural obsession with Christmas you will find 99% of adults* will stay well away from you.

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Bonus points if your sibling also adopts this approach.

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Now you have double the weirdness and also a handy way of finding each other in a crowded space.

(*99% of children will stare at you with a level of awe and admiration. Be warned, for those vital seconds you will become God to them).

Shopping – What to look out for

So you’re in town, what next? Well, don’t be hooked in by sky high prices, often they are for goods that are not worth a biscuit (gift sets are the creation of the Devil, trying to tempt us to pay a small fortune for cruddy packaging). The odd shop will warn you of this before you enter their store. For instance, the clothing in Jack Wills is so over priced you will not be able to afford shoes or socks once you have made your purchase.

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Keep an eye out for stores putting on sales before Christmas. As I discovered in one shop, you can really get yourself some amazing deals:

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Other places will throw a lot of their time and money into Christmas displays. Sometimes these can be low budget and have a nice effect:

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Others will create displays that have nothing to do with Christmas at all (for no explained reason):

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And then others will seriously make you question the sanity of those who designed and agreed to it:

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(Ted Baker)

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(Struggling to pick up the Christmas message in this poster found in Boots. Certainly not the Nativity scene I grew up with.)

Spare a thought for those retail/food outlets that can’t afford such displays. Some of these outlets can’t even afford grammatically correct signage.

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(I do see the pun there, but it should be man‘s lunch!)

To encourage you to spend money, shops will more often than not play the same Christmas pop. If not a bit of MB, it will be this type of thing:

Although everyone love a bit of Wizzard, it can get very repetitive. Top tip: invest in an MP3 devise and plug yourself into whatever music you fancy. Even if you do enjoy the Christmas music being played in shops, having some headphones in gives you the perfect excuse to ignore market sellers shouting at you to look at their various wooden craft items. We all have a musical wooden frog with mini baton at home, we do not need another.

Secret Santa/Generic Giving

We all like to put a bit of extra thought into special gifts for people, but then we don’t always have the luxury of time, money and knowledge for others. The High Street is the one-stop place to solve our Secret Santa woes. Whatever can I get Sally in accounts? How about some hilariously packaged hand wash from Debenhams?

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It’s so funny they won’t realise that you’re insulting their levels of cleanliness.

But what about Lily who always buys the round because she’s so nice (and loaded)?

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(As seen in Peacocks)

Dean is into Star Wars, but I have no concept of what Star Wars is about or what happens in it. All I know is that it’s in space. What do I get him?

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(As seen in Marks and Spencer)

We have someone new in the office who is from France, but her English is still a little shaky and our French is terrible. It would good to get her something  that we both understand. Something that transcends language barriers.

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(As seen in New Look)

What do I get someone who is mad on dogs?

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(As seen in Cotswold Trading, Broadway)

My friends you are welcome.

General Observations/Trend Spotting

This year there has seen the welcome return of the food pun/phrase (a personal favourite last seen in the Winter/Spring of 2015: )

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(As seen in Primark)

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(“Jennie, I just can’t live without him, he meant so much to me. Worse still, the bailiffs are coming round tomorrow and Spot has run away.”

“Here, have a bourbon.”

“Oh wow! Life is amazing again!”)

Really Tesco, really?

There are also some questionable puns out there, some are acceptable after a glass of wine:

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Others though…

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(As seen in H&M)

 There are also items shaped like food to look out for. But don’t be deceived, it isn’t actually food.

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If you fancy something more animal based, New Look sells dead pug slippers:

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(FYI before people get distressed, that’s just because of how New Look have displayed them.)

Ultimately, there is a lot of random items out there for gifting. But if you’re still struggling my personal recommendation is a mildly amusing glasses case which you do this with, reinforcing the notion that you are hilarious:

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That or a top quality, one of a kind, original mug:

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If you really dislike them, get them a CD from a pound shop.

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“Oh how lovely, a CD of Christmas hits!”

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Good luck enjoying that.

Food

The notion of Christmas food shopping makes me feel like the right cat on this cushion.

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I mean, I look fabulously adorable, but it’s still scary. Packed-out shops, queues at tills, bread sauce shortages, it’s a very British nightmare.

First off, remember which religious festival you are celebrating. In some circles it could get very awkward if you get it wrong.

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There are some mild joys to be gained though from random food items which are presented differently to convince you to buy them for no reason other than it being Christmas. For instance, do I like crumpets and iced doughnuts? No, not really, more of a tea cake girl myself. But do I want these?

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Yes. Yes I do.

There are also creepy food items which should be avoided.

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He’s watching you kids.

Food items with stories are to also to be given a wide berth. They are overpriced and waste your time. E.g.:

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Wow. That was a great story Linda and Andrew. Glad I took the time to read that.

By this stage of Christmas shopping you’re likely to want to give up. But, fed up with the traditional you start searching online for something different to inspire you. Something more hipster.

(Fun fact: the year this song was released we actually had a white Christmas. So wonderfully ironic.)

Christmas Trees/Decorations

Your local garden centre will be able to provide a wealth of choice and options when it comes to choosing your Christmas tree.

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Pound shops also stock various Christmas decorations, and you will often find the store will go out of their way to make sure you can find everything you need.

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Life Choices

By this point in your Christmas planning/shopping the likelihood is you’ll be reaching the end of your tether. Kids are screaming, friends can’t decide what dresses to buy and all your money has been spent on high quality decorations from Poundland. Something has to go. In this predicament dear readers you are not alone. Below are a selection of photos taken where shoppers have ditched one product randomly in order to buy something more essential.

Chocolate over wool.

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A watch over clothing (lucky/unlucky neighbours).

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The old “I need this to look good wearing these.”

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And finally, the middle class dilemma of medication vs. a nice boxing day casserole.

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The casserole always wins.

Conclusions

So, there we have it. My quick-ish guide to the Christmas basics. With this guide you should now be fully inspired to go out there and take on Christmas with both hands and a rucksack full of used bags (cool kids never pay 5p for a bag. That’s 5p that could go towards this wonderful dish you’ll be eating on New Year’s Day…)

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(I remember when they used to be only 11p. We live in a false economy.)

To play you out, I have the Bennett family song which we listen to every year. Back in 2010 (or thereabouts) India and I came across this song and history was made. Without doubt the worst Christmas song and video you’ll ever see, yet a song that summarises a lot about the British run up to and Christmas day itself. Messy, confusing, but deep down there’s a message there. Merry Christmas everyone, have a good one on me.