The other evening I decided I wanted to pop down to the local shopping centre (mall) to do some creative thinking kinda stuffs.
Now here’s the thing, it was about 18:45 when I arrived and, knowing that the shopping centre closed at 20:00 I was fairly adamant I was NOT going to pay for coffee, knowing that thirty minutes down the line Sammy-stickler (not their real name) would be out with his broom trying to nudge me off the premises of their well-to-average-do establishment. I was not going to splash out £3.20 for a coffee.
So I head into the shopping centre. It was pretty chill atmosphere, I think they were playing an Eternal song over the speakers (in fairness, it does often feel like Swindon is stuck in the nineties).
Pumped full of the sweet nineties tuneage, I decided to pop into one shop. Just one. A single shop to stretch my legs a bit and get me into the zone.
Yeah…that didn’t happen. Two words – ex-display clearance.
Fifteen minutes later I’m now the proud owner of some new wooden coat hangers.
It doesn’t end there! Because sure, I could have got ten for £2, I could have even walked on by (those were the only two options so we’re really talking an all or nothing opportunity here). And what is life without seizing the opportunities that come our way?
That’s right, I went and bought twenty ex-display, pink wooden coat hangers for £4. (And I didn’t even need to pay for the bag #Smooth #ThisGirlIsOnFire)
Remember how I said was determined to not spend £3.20 on coffee?
Right, so hear me out on this. That one coffee would have been finite, served, drunk and, well, let’s say “processed” in a couple of hours. These coat hangers will last me years and years and years and years. And yes, before you ask I do indeed already have a wardrobe full of the black plastic hangers I bought almost ten years ago and yes, they’re still in a decent state. But think of the bigger picture – right now it will set you back nearing £10 for just eight hangers. Eight!
SEE?! It makes complete financial sense!
So at the end of the day who’s really laughing? And please don’t say the Neon Sheep store that saw me coming, I’ve heard it already and it’s not getting any funnier.
Can I just start with the most middle-class, Cotswold drama to have occured this year at Christmas. Mumma B, setting her prized oven mits on fire, by accidentally placing them over a Yankee candle.
The best bit? Mumma B’s first reaction to my panic was to assume the vegetables were boiling over. I don’t think it quite trumps the time I dropped the Michael Buble Christmas CD in a tray of turkey fat, but it’s a close second.
Letters, Books, Pigeons: Christmas 2021
I’m going to start as we mean to go on, with this:
You know what? The more times I watch it, the more times I think there is nothing in here the great George Michael and Andrew Ridgley of Wham! would take issue with.
From the soundtrack to the casual bit of inter breed dating, I only hope, and I truly mean this from the bottom of my heart, that George Michael was able to watch this before his death in 2016.
(And if you think any of this is tragic just remember, this wasn’t even the worst thing I came across. Nowhere near.)
I’m Dreaming of a White…Pigeon
When it comes to Christmas, everyone has a different interpretation for what festivities look like. Some people have robins in snow, in Swindon we’ve got pigeons bathing in overflowing waste drains.
Beggars can’t be choosers.
While I’m not one of those who puts up decorations super early, I am a fan of Christmas when it does come along. Anything to get me over the trauma of Halloween.
Genuinely can’t be trusted to watch a 12-rated spook film without freaking out at the slightest jump-scare. Years it took me to get over Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, years.
I put up my tree…
…and proceded to smash up my beloved retro starburst clock, by attempting to hang lights off it. The entire glass dial, smashed into a trillion bitty pieces.
Mazel Tov! (Oh, wait, that’s the wrong religion.)
It’s always nice when Jesus graces you with his presence when you’re out and about shopping, even if his eyeless sockets are a little bit menacing.
We buy all these presents, yet not one of them is for him? So humble.
And I’m not going to lie, arguably the gifting has already peaked this year. That happened recently when my family teamed up to buy me a whole set of matching Next kitchenware.
My goodness, it’s so beautiful.
Huh? Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, presents.
I mean, at the same birthday I also got given this:
Honestly, the embarassment of opening this in front of my family, alongside Next kitchenware. Not just that, reading the blurb out! Trust me, it gets worse. Deary me, my cheeks were not ready for that leavel of red. (Thanks Matt, mission accomplished!)
Now this, this is the sort of tat I can get into.
(But not buy.)
Hang on a second, I’m sure I’ve seen something like this before.
My goodness, talk about nerve!
That was on sale for £2 less in 2019!
It set me up to be in a right unimpressed British emoji-type mood when my younger sister pointed this sign-board out to me.
No, just no.
Ignoring all of the random shop items, this year my best purchase has to be, without a shadow of a doubt, my new fountain pen.
I bought the pen, then proceeded to Google how to make it work.
There’s definetely something ironic in using the internet to lookup the basics of how to use a pen.
One of my favourite things I like to do every year is write Christmas cards. This year, with so many of my colleagues based overseas that meant a bit more spent on stamps but heck, they’re worth it.
I’m still at the stage of life where I don’t have five million of them to write out, and/or pressing life matters that see every night booked up from 1st August, through to 15th January. I can treat myself to the odd night of pure card-writing, jotting out personalised notes to those nearest and dearest. It gives me a kind of buzz.
What can I say? Some people have alcohol, I have cards. We both have wrecked tounges.
Terrible Christmas Films (No, Really)
When I write cards, wrap presents etc, I tend to stick on one of those terribly wonderful Hallmark-type Christmas films on. Predictable and, I used to think, unoffensive. That was, until I saw this clip:
THEY DON’T EVEN EAT THE FOOD!!
What kind of dining-out date is this? Nu-huh, I’m sorry mate, you can stop juggling those oranges, because if I’m not getting a look-in on that Tupperware box, then you ain’t getting this.
(Close friends have also pointed out countless other things that make no sense in this montage, however I’m sticking firm on the lack-of-food being the absolute worst. Three words; girl, gotta, eat.)
On that note… *returns to phone to scroll through her tailored Facebook adverts*
Serves me right for being an insomniac. And, on the topic of sleep, a late night pop to the shops to buy some milk and I spot this:
“…Does it come with a receipt?”
Oh, hey! Almost forgot. It’s December now, so that means my diet is even more whacky than other months* (*let’s be honest, my diet is hardly enviable). Did someone invite me to go around all the coffee shops, drink gingerbread lattes and not eat anything until evening, when I have a three course meal?
(Not that I ever want to have a three course meal, even two courses is an extreme for me, but because it’s December suddenly that’s a thing. Gonna get me a sweet, sweet latte, bigger than my tiny wrist can hold.)
Anyway, yes, yes that’s me. And I will read a book in there and no, you will not have a hope of kicking me out until at least two hours have passed, and not a minute before.
Unrelated note, does anyone else get life this after getting heavily involved with an emotional book?
“Walking through the dark and cold drizzel of town, after a 2+ hour coffee shop reading session. So full of mixed emotions right now, I genuinely don’t know whether to cry or feel inspired. Just me, or does anyone else have to take a lie down when the book feel get this intense?”
Turns out, it’s just me.
“Ink not coming out of fountain pen” is a niche search entry, I’ll give you that. Maybe not quite as popular as Ariana Grande but heck, you’ve gotta keep these traditions alive.
You know what? Stuff it! I’m just gonna book myself on a professionally accredited course to learn about unicorn magic…
…and go watch the Swindon Wildcats play down the local rink.
In fairness, it was such a good game.
Wait, There’s More!
Before you go, remember that video I included at the start of this post? Well, guess what? The creator only went and made an improved version and/or (to be honest I’m not entirely sure which) sequeal a few years later! Yeah, I know!
Better still, the soundtrack features the musical stylings of Cascada, covering Wham!
It’s beginning to look like a Christmas coffee-shop, evvverywhere you go…
Right, so this is a thing I do every Christmas. Granted, I’m usually doing it from the comfort of my own home or a toasty coffee shop someplace, but this year I find myself typing away amidst a heated debate over the economic and infrastructural viability of electric vehicles by 2030. What can I say, my family know to get into the festive spirit (I give it 5 minutes before Mumma B throws in the inevitable “but where will I be able to have a sit down coffee?” into the mix).
In between lockdowns, childhood-living throwbacks (I’m now 28…) and a cat that’s perpetually shoving her bum in my face, I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of socially distanced trips out and about.
Now, I wasn’t too sure if I’d find the same level of high-quality merchandise as in previous years but oh no, the British high street really has not disappointed! With shops in England not reopening until 2nd December (after a month of enforced closure), I’ve come back into a world where it literally feels like a Christmas bomb has gone off.
I’ve also been busy celebrating my annual fire and cake day.
All things considered, this 2020 Christmas post is gonna make like it’s nature-sake and try and pull together something half-decent in the face of something totally pants.
2020 Christmas, The Cobbled Together Edit
(The cat made me do it.)
First, this inspired piece:
Hmm, getting disturbing flashbacks from my childhood. Can’t begin to think why…
Anyway, with that surreal moment out of the way, the only way is up! Mind, this woman would probably disagree; in her life things in life aren’t going up at all…
…but then she’s trapped in a TV box selling screen sponges. Unsurprising spoilers, I watched her try to sell me one for far too long.
Thing is, often there’s no point in trying to pitch TV channel cr*p to me. Oh no, this lady likes her products to come via the far East. Why? Well for one significantly cheaper and two, I like the way they tell you straight exactly what it is you’re buying.
For the benefit of doubt, it’s an electrical facial cleansing device.
Still waiting on getting the same levels of satisfaction as this woman (“I’ll have what she’s having”).
Reindeers seem to be in this season (I know, proper shocker there) and with it there are plenty of very tasteful items one can buy. Take for example this ornament, with bothersome proportions.
I wondered whether it was in part due to its country of manufacture, Mumma B had a slight go at me and I shoved the ornament in her face. Now, it’s debatable whether the strength of my argument won out, or the aggression of me shoving a lump of metal into her personal space, but she caved in and agreed with me.
You can also buy his and hers reindeer decorations, with his a little more battle worn than hers.
Moral of the story? Don’t try it on with identical twins, even if you are all glitter and sparkles.
More joy for these two…
At £130 each, I think we best leave them to it. Don’t see either of them heading off anytime soon.
I decided a little while back to turn a blind eye to certain things (around the time I discovered even the social distancing signs couldn’t keep a social distance).
Either way, this guy isn’t taking any chances.
Elastic strap over the eye is a new one but can’t say I blame them. It’s a look.
If you ask me, these puddings on legs should exercise social distancing every year. They may look cute, but with faces like that you just know they’re the type to feature in a Christmas-themed slasher movie.
Whoops! Accidental selfie!
At least I’m sticking to the rules…oh hey! There’s a mystic snail over here! Tell me something insightful mystic snail.
So, unsurprisingly I’d been around the shops for a little while by this point and it was starting to show. Also no closer to discovering that special something for the ones I love (the mystic snail was no help at all).
(“Ma! They’ve got oven gloves!”)
So I decided to stop out for another hot drink. Well, it had been an hour since the last one and this coffee shop was incredibly accommodating of the need to keep people a safe distance apart.
I tell you what, I could get very used to this idea of having a whole coffee shop to myself.
Five trillion hours later, I’d consumed enough caffeine to bust moves like this:
Taking the time out reminded me the true spirit of the festive season. That’s right, religious toast.
I tried explaining the Christmas story to Squeak the cat, but again I think the sentiment was somewhat lost on her.
Still, better reaction than her sulky brother, who seems to think he’s the main present this year.
Back to present shopping, this:
Exactly, couldn’t think of a tag line either.
Also, I’m pretty sure I had a dream featuring this.
Christmas polar bear in a chimney(?), drinking flashing beer and yelling at me “SWITCH ON MY LIGHTS!”? Yep, seems pretty normal to me. About as normal as being confronted with this whilst stood in the till point queue.
Hi there…can I help you with something? (Why isn’t this queue moving quicker already?)
If there’s one thing I’ve come across in recent weeks that perfectly sums up the sentiment around this year, it’s this ornament:
Yep, it has certainly been different to the usual, but it’s time to rocket 2020 up into the clouds and into space. When all is said and done, no one will ever want to remember or revisit this year, let alone hang it on their trees. I mean, what nutter would be seen dead buying up quantities of these?
“Mum! Do you think these are included in the three for two offer?”
Cheeky Bennett Bonus!
Over the course of writing this post, Squeak the cat formed a strong liking of the Bongo Cat YouTube channel. As cute as this sounds, her wanting a front row seat created a number of challenges in terms of the whole getting anything done.
Bongo Cat Beebo (channel creator) or BTS, if you are listening my cat wanted me to say she’s a massive fan.
This isn’t a sponsored post. Support an unpaid writer like me by donating to my funding page: Buy Me A Coffee
You may wonder why my owners would give a name like Bubble to a male cat. Well, my sister is called Squeak (Bubble and Squeak, get it?) And all the stupid humans thought I was a girl until the vets confirmed differently. It’s not a name I’m particularly fond of and, as a result, I have spent my entire life in a constant sulk, excluding the times I shout at the humans to feed me.
Like a lot of men I like to work out, only I can’t get to the gym on account of being a cat so spend most of my free time doing the next best thing; sleeping in a gym bag.
And trust me ladies, it shows.
I’m sexy and I know it.
Anyway, this human thing called Christmas is coming up and while I’ve tried to hide from it…
…it has finally caught up with me. I wasn’t even going to do presents this year (thinking about the environment, y’know?) But then I walked in one day and found my sister had already started wrapping up gifts.
So really I didn’t have a choice. Luckily I don’t have many others to buy for (my advice if you’re looking to become a self-reliant, anti-social git? Become a cat). I just needed to get something for my annoying sister, even if she does always steal the best sleeping spots in the house.
I took inspiration from my humans and first went for a dig around the cupboards, see if there was anything from past year’s of Christmas shopping I could give her.
But had no joy. Then I took to the online shops but kept getting messed up suggestions like this:
There was no other option, I’d have to hit the high street. I hopped on the roof of the next family cab into town and away I went.
The first thing that struck me was the weird customs humans have for celebrating what is meant to be a happy time of year. If they’re not advertising surreal…
…Then they’re hanging and impaling little elf people in some kind of pagan ritual.
It’s no wonder you’re all fat alcoholics. You actually decorate your homes with these!
Then again, after seeing this I have a new found respect for the miracle of the Virgin birth.
And why is this woman’s face all over bags of crisps? Is this what you humans would call ‘the height of your career?’
(And if you think I’m being mean just remember, I’m a cat. It’s what we do.)
When it came to shopping for Christmas presents, I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, many of the shops displayed their wares in a way that was perfect for the average bloke applying a scatter gun/panic buy approach to gifting.
A little bit too generic female for my sister who happens to like her fur coat very much. Instead I went to the male default #2, a nice new perfume.
Or maybe not.
I popped into a book shop because I know Squeak the cat likes to read a light weight novel or two. I was instantly drawn to a title that looked like it could have been written by the human in my family who writes for that blog, the one they call Alice. It just screamed her style of writing.
And then I read the blurb and felt less convinced. I mean, the average writing quality was on par with Alice’s, but the plot development was anything but.
I mean it’s completely unbelievable…it’s obvious that Daisy is sleeping with Greg (that’s why he keeps vanishing) and the Goose is mad because it’s Greg’s jilted lover. I’m a male cat and I can see that. Humans don’t half write some rubbish when they’re trying to pull sales or views.
In the same shop there was also this book:
(One of the humans I was with said to Alice, “hey, Alice! They wrote a book about you trying to get a life!” And she said, “hey, India! They wrote a sequel where I hit you with that very book!”)
To be fair to the human called India, Alice does have a tendency to hang out in coffee shops by herself and woman-spread everywhere.
She likes to think it makes her look smart, I think it’s just to cover up the fact that she’s constantly spilling good coffee.
Like a lot of humans, she’d buy just about anything that’s coffee-branded.
(If you had to look twice before spotting it, you’ve got a problem.)
On another note, I’m not sure what image you big humans are trying to suggest to little humans when you give them dolls with drugged up eyes.
In the same way that I don’t fully get the need to take the Every Love Matters campaign to the extremes of inanimate objects.
(I did try to tell her that her companion didn’t seem interested, but she told me to tinsel off – hah, and you thought Cats have no sense of poor humour…)
And as for this…
…You humans are alright with making your spawn think they’re being spied upon but I just happen to walk in on you taking a shower and suddenly it’s completely unacceptable? Your species is seriously messed up.
But then I saw this and I restored my faith in the tat you humans gift each other:
I’ll have ten please…for myself.
And this made me laugh:
It’s a physical chocolate replica of Bitcoin, but Bitcoin isn’t physical, it’s a virtual currency! Sadly however no one in the store seemed to get the joke. It’s as if people shopping in Poundland for Christmas presents don’t dwell on that level of humour.
God, you humans don’t have produce some weird looking babies? At least kittens are fluffy, but you guys decide to put the strangest looking ones on jigsaw puzzles! Why?
And what the hell is this?!
Have people literally turned to gifting c**p to each other? No wonder people have started donating money to the Slippers for Donkeys campaign or whatever far out animal charities exist nowadays.
When did the Grinch get sold into human-creature trafficking? Asking on behalf of a friend.
It’s a niche market, granted, but humanity really has lost its heart if it can’t cough up £1 to help.
Jesus Christ! What is this?!
Why would you even entertain the thought of inviting this into your house? It’s flipping scary!
It was around this time that I gave up with Christmas shopping. The final straw came when, after hours of searching, the one and only thing I thought I could gift my feline sister, a nice new outfit, well it turned out to be out of stock in her size. Typical!
I give up. I knew I should have picked something from the National Trust’s Christmas store when I had the chance.
All this shopping for Christmas presents just takes too much time!
Sod it, this year I’ll just wrap myself up and be my sister’s Christmas pressie, because lets be honest, family is the best damn thing you can have.
Great, so that’s Christmas settled. Now I can crack on with watching some high-quality festive films, ones which in my view were robbed of Oscar nominations…
…And deal with more pressing matters. How do I get this human to move out of my spot?
Meowy pawmas everyone!
(Special thanks to the members of my immediate family for making this post possible by constantly spamming my WhatsApp feed with cat photos.)
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(Wait, you’re telling me this wasn’t top of your playlist?)
As we enter into the final furlough of Christmas shopping it felt only right I put fingers to keyboard and compose a seasonal post of what the UK consumer markets are trying to flog this year. And boy, has the High Street really invested a lot this year into our well-being.
Kicking off with that point, designers and retail buyers across the land have made a sterling effort to make us more aware of our health this season. It’s good to see decision makers moving away from chocolate and fast food related puns and products. That’s because this year there’s a new fad in town; alcoholism.
(You get the idea.)
Course, if gin isn’t your bag there are still a scattering of animal puns to be found in shops, however they haven’t charted so well so have found themselves relegated to the tea towel isles of TK Maxx.
And if tea towels or traditional animal puns aren’t your bag then there’s always toilet paper that features a rabid rabbit that looks like an extra from Watership Down.
(All I’m saying is that it’s a couple of Bright Eyes plays from…)
And that’s available all year round folks! (The loo roll, not Woundwart.)
Marketers struggling for new and original way to market often take a step back and return to the basic principles. Red is good, bells are better or if either aren’t possible from a branding perspective just stick a hat on it.
Even better though, you could always put a hat to something that’s already a symbol of Christmas. Because if you stuff up the colouring of a traditionally seasonal bird in the factory, chances are a comical hat (that said bird would never wear), well that will entirely baffle and charm consumers into a needless purchase.
I’ll take ten.
Now although a number of High Street stores have been making an active effort to advert public attention from certain political disruption (chiefly a UK event beginning with “Brex” and ending with “It”), unfortunately some shops just couldn’t overlook it. I found one bargain outlet stocking what I can only assume to be the retailer’s prediction of what a Post-Brexit banana will look like.
Speaking of China, I don’t find this assumption that British people only wear one sock funny either.
What are we paying our taxes for if not to have Foreign Ministers dispel these ridiculous rumours?
You know what, come to think of it I think Europe and the wider world want done with us. I mean, even Denmark (Denmark!) are flooding our stores with what look like neck crackers.
Ok, ok, enough political stuff. Lets get back to the high quality gift giving, such as these fish slippers.
Or an overpriced toothbrush?
Course, many people struggle to buy presents who those who may have been somewhat challenging throughout the year. When it comes to particularly ‘difficult’ presentees then I’d always recommend purchasing something that seeks to improve relations between the two parties. Something to subtly tell the recipient to lighten up or shut up.
Just be prepared for backlash from the recipient and their crew.
You know what, this year I think I’m going to revert back to the basics. It’ll be chocolate gift giving all the way with me. At least with festive chocolates everyone knows where they stand.
I’m going to stay in, have a glass of wine and watch a festive classic on TV.
A soundbite into my mind via a true story from today (15/10/18)…
The other day I bought myself a loaf of bread. Standard. At the self service checkout I noticed a slight tear (about 2cm long) in the plastic wrap of the bread which naturally put me off a little. I mean a tear equals air exposure which will enviably result in my bread going stale quicker. But then I’d already scanned the product and didn’t fancy hassling Mr “I hate my life as a self service check out assistant, I dare you to ask me for assistance” so I purchased said loaf regardless.
Today I went to the cupboard to make some toast (FYI I now have jam on my toast as well as butter, because since moving to London I live life on the edge) and I spent a good two minutes trying to find the tear in the wrap for reasons that’ll never be fully understood. Couldn’t find it so came to the very rational and balanced conclusion that my life is The Truman Show and/or the Matrix and I’m quite possibly a female version of Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey (although not at the same time, that would be weird). This resulted in a very normal reaction…I panicked.
Anyway, after worrying that my life was completely staged I suddenly discovered the original rip in the packaging and gave a small sigh of relief. On reflection my I worry a) why I was contemplating my existence over a rip in the packaging of some averagely priced bread from Tesco’s and b) why my pulse rate dropped when I found it.
And the worst bit? As I put my bread in the toaster I actually felt disappointed that my life wasn’t staged and thereby frustrated that found the rip. Honestly.
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to every minute of every blinking day in my mind.
woke up this morning to find God had bestowed a belated birthday/early Christmas present on me…
Now I know most normal people would look at this with utter delight, but because I am basically the love child of David Mitchell and Richard Ayoade I naturally am disgruntled by this sight. If God had four Christmas parties to attend to and several board meetings lined up I’m sure He’d feel the same.
So my day started with that, followed by the world’s most middle class Christmas argument, fuelled by the family having too many Christmas lights:
“We’re not putting multiple sets of lights on the tree.”
“But look, these are similar.”
“The clue is in the word ‘similar’. They’re not the same.”
“We can make it work. Lets lie them out first and turn them on…”
“Oh just turn the frigging lights off. Look, I’m having to get off my backside now to do something.”
“Wow, that language is a bit strong.”
“Dad, if you’re going to judge Mum’s use of the word ‘backside’ then seriously we’ve got issues. Also, I’ve just found another box of lights…”
I kid you not, Times Square has nothing on the Bennett household right now.
The evening has now drawn to a close with four adults heckling The Snowman (35 years later and I still think it’s nothing on the 1998 often overlooked classic The Bear)
(Why did you take the bear from his home! Then the girl loses her toy and starts crying even though her Mum gets her a replacement and then…well it’s about then that I start to lose my faith in humanity and become an emotional wreck. It’s a rapid spiral I grant you.)
Anyway, I digress (and have had multiple Christmas parties and realise I should really get this post written before Mariah gets put back into her festive cave with Michael Buble and half of Band Aid).
Ah Christmas, that wonderful time of year where decorations cover the shops, festive TV adverts fill our little homes and language that in any other context would be weird and mildly uncomfortable is apparently acceptable.
It’s also a time for those working in marketing to don their “how far can we push this?” hat in a bid to convince consumers that very uninspiring, essential, items are really amazing things.
That said, I did wonder if we were approaching the end of the world and/or Christianity when, before Advent had even begun, I saw this in Wilko…
(Naturally I stock piled a lot of thermal leggings and chocolate in preparation for what would happen on the 14th December. Spoiler – my boss still expected me to be in work and double spoiler the Devil didn’t make an appearance. Let down.)
As for me this is the first Christmas in my new house (would be smug but have no money), I set out on the very new experience of buying decorations for one’s own home. Typically the conversation in my childhood around buying festive ornaments has gone something like this:
Alice: “Mum can we buy this bauble?”
Mumma Bennett: “How much is it?”
Mumma Bennett: “No.”
(Still better dialogue than Twilight.)
And, to be fair, one must be watchful because if you’re not careful the big retailers can run rings around you. Take these decorations for example. Now although they’ve been reduced in price, if you look very closely you notice there’s actually nothing ruddy well there.
(Don’t worry, it took a while to spot it myself.)
This year however the conversation on my purchase of decorations was altogether different…
Mumma Bennett: “You must buy lights.”
Alice: “Ok. Here, what about these?”
Mumma Bennett: “Oh no! That many will not do, you need more. Here, get the next box up.”
Mumma Bennett: “Trust me, a tree with too few lights is worse than one with too many. They’re worth paying the price for.”
Alice: “Hey Mum, it’s Alice. So what you were saying about lights the other day…yeah, I have too many. Decided to put them around the large canvas and hope they don’t burn the house down. How flammable is oil paint? In other news, Georgi has never seen mulled wine in a bottle and the other Alice thinks Tree Skirts are the work of black magic. Gotta dash, speak soon!”
When I returned home next I returned the favour of giving bad advice by getting them to play this awful, awful song:
Other than the minor health and safety issue of LEDs and poorly labelled products, I’ve discovered that there are also a great wonder of WTF goods out there to be bought. E.g. when it comes to buying Christmas interiors I draw the line at pooping into an elf.
I mean, this girl has standards.
And as for this craze which randomly appeared overnight and now is at every Christmas market…what?
I know a way to radically reduce your costs and overheads. You get a stick and sell it – it’s called a stick man. Even better, get a few and you have this wonderful thing called kindling which you can set on fire and use to keep warm. No need to thank me.
But then I see a pair of punny socks and my blood pressure drops a little.
Then I see this sign and I hope to goodness that the designer drew their inspiration from Friends.
If not than this whole hipster craze really needs to calm the shizz down.
Oh, and for anyone buying me presents this year, don’t get me this:
And women, if you really want to please your man, may I recommend you take him to this stand and leave him whilst you do the present shopping?
So there you have it, another Christmas edition of Alice Bennett’s inner warped, deeply sarcastic, but wonderfully enlightening mind. Things to take away from this piece:
The Bear is amazing, snow on roads is not
Christmas lights were sent by God to test us, just like a number of stupid products being sold under the umbrella terms “festive” and “Christmassy”
Thermal leggings are NOT a suitable present.
So Merry Christmas to all, and to all may your gingerbread lattes be overflowing and your heads forever covered by wolf hats.
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:
The impact of a particularly bad cold virus.
Excitable children on school holidays, pumped up on sugar and in want of Halloween ‘stuff’.
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.
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:
(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:
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.
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:
Hmmmmm. Well even if you dispute the message, always, always make sure your pants match your jumper:
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.
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.
Sometimes no amount of reductions can ever justify the product:
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:
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:
Other stores may shrink the portion sizes:
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:
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!
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):
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.
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:
Shopping done. If you’re not already like this…:
…Then it’s time to get your glad rags on and hit the town to celebrate. Don’t forget ladies, accessorise, accessorise, accessorise!
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:
To looking like this:
(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:
(And if other people can’t see that? Well, there’s a scatter cushion for that too:)
You’ll know if the night out is a good one for two reasons. a) your shoes will look like this:
And you will feel like this:
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?
BONUS PICTURES: Life Choices – Christmas Shopping Special
(Disclaimer: all items in this post were taken on location, photographer did not alter or move items.)