Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas is coming ...

As I approach the time when I will really be a ‘Grumpy Old Man’ (my 65th birthday is now less than two months away), I find myself feeling more and more out of step with the world in which I live.

When I was a child, I remember an old nursery rhyme that we used to sing at school during the last weeks of the autumn term. It marked that fact that Christmas was almost upon us … and we could begin to prepare for it. The words were as follows:
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please do put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!
Earlier this week Sue and I spent several hours at our local shopping mall, and I was struck by several thoughts as we tried to do our shopping:
  • People seem to be spending money like it was water. (‘Recession; what recession?’ was the general impression I was left with.)
  • People are buying huge amounts of food, far more than most families will need to tide them over the two-day holiday … especially as most of the shops are going to be open on the day after Christmas Day!
  • This buying ‘frenzy’ began back in October, and seemed to reach a maniacal peak when we hit the latest import from the US, ‘Black Friday’. (The near riots in some shops were worse than any previous ‘shopping rage’ that I have ever seen.) Things have calmed down slightly since then, but the tempo is gradually racking up again.
  • There were children everywhere … and it is not yet the school holidays! (Either school attendance in the local area is hitting a low spot or parents are disregarding the possible fines they will face for not sending the children to school. Either way, the children are out shopping with their parents … and generally supervising the purchase of the high-end goods they expect to receive as ‘presents’ for Christmas.)
  • The approach of Christmas seems to make people so bad tempered. I have seem so many arguments, and everyone seems to walk around with a grim look of determination of their face that conveys the message that they are going to get what they want, when they want it, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.
Sue and I discussed our childhood memories of Christmas, and we both agreed that the preparations generally did not start until the beginning of December, and were usually marked by the arrival of Santa Claus/Uncle Holly/Father Christmas in the local department store. (The name varied between stores, but the arrival was usually accompanied by a short parade through the town centre and Christmas displays in the department store’s windows.) Most shops did not begin stocking Christmas items before this, and many did not do so until the last fortnight before the holiday. Neither of us could remember being taken to choose our Christmas presents nor having time off school to go shopping with our parents. The whole thing seemed to be much gentler, less fraught, less pressured, and much more fun.

Perhaps we should introduce a ‘new’ version of that old nursery rhyme:
Christmas is coming, the tills are ringing out
Spend all your money, or you’ll get left out
If you haven't got some money, what will you do?
If you haven't got some money, then God help you!
(I know that it does not quite scan or rhyme properly … but I hope that you get the general idea.)

22 comments:

  1. I will be (officially) a grumpy old man just two months after you Bob.

    I've already got the T-shirt as I think I graduated early.

    My family certainly think so.

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  2. Jim Duncan,

    According to my wife I have been a GOM for at least the last twenty years! All that will happen in February is that it will be official.

    By the way, does the T-shirt come ready stained or do you have to splash egg yoke, tomato ketchup, and paint on it yourself?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Amen brother. The 'spirit of Christmas' is, sadly, long dead.

    Its the same here in the States...people spending money, no wait, CREDIT like its unlimited; Grumpy people who dont have time any more; Christmas candy started making its appearance BEFORE Halloween for God's sake!!!

    Im 'only' 41, but I guess Im heading for GOM status as well....

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  4. It was an appalling sight but two weeks before Halloween one of the large discount stores had its Christmas display up and running! What is truly annoying is that thee is another major US holiday in the way - THanksgiving. When I was a boy you would never see Christmas decorations until that was past history.
    It's not a case of being a GOM - I am almost two years older than you - but of just honoring the fact that Holidays (and holy days, BTW) are not all about things. But we in the west have lost our way on that one, it seems.
    Have a wonderful holiday season and Merry Christmas!
    Jerry

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  5. WarRaptor,

    I know that it isn't possible to turn the clock back ... but it would be nice to return to a less commercialised Christmas where the important things are family, friends, goodwill, and charity, and not over-eating, spending money, expensive presents, and self-indulgence.

    Have a good Christmas ... and enjoy being a GOM.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. CelticCurmudgeon (Jerry),

    As soon as Christmas is over, we have the January sales, then preparations for Easter. Before the school Summer holidays start there are 'Back to school' sales in shops, then (in the UK) Firework Night (in early November), followed by Halloween ... with its attendant 'trick or treat'.

    We now have 'Black Friday' (but no Thanksgiving ... as yet) and then Christmas ... and then we start the whole thing over again.

    You are right about people forgetting that holidays began as something spiritual ... and it is a great pity that that aspect of our lives has been lost.

    Have a great Christmas.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Some of this change is down to Margaret Thatcher's legacy of TINA – there is no alternative, as in free-market laissez-faire economics leading to out of town supermarkets, Sunday trading and the rest. The thing is that the only constant in life is change, but things don't always get better, they just become different. As for the rest of it, it being life the universe and everything, follow the money and all will be revealed.

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  8. I'm trying to keep my GOM T-shirt like new unlike all my other T-shirts which have a variety of paint, jam, glue, cider and saliva dribbled down them. I even found one with static grass nicely glued in clumps on one the other day.

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  9. Bob, I don't disagree with anything you've written in this post but its worth remembering that it was in 1957 that "Dr Seus" had the Grinch learn that "maybe Christmas didn't come from a store".

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  10. Ashley,

    As an unreconstructed One-Nation Tory, I tend to agree with a lot of what you have written. Thatcherism did bring some positive changes ... but a lot of negative and devisive things as well. Britain needed to change ... but relying solely on private enterprise and ownership to make that possible was essentially flawed. Nowadays public ownership seems to be a dirty word ... except when it comes to bailing out the banks!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Jim Duncan,

    Clumps of static grass stuck on your T-shirt? You are a true wargamer in my eyes ... myopic though they might be!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. Johntheone,

    Isn't that what payday loans are there to pay off? (I'm not being serious by the way.)

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Ross Mac,

    I must admit to have never having read any of the Dr Seuss books ... but it sounds as if I should.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  14. Definitely sounding like a bunch of "grumpy old men"! lol

    I was at the post office yesterday to ship off a bunch of packages (cookies I mad and other gifts to family in various parts of the country, and old games I was giving away to people I only know online). The patrons and the workers at the post office were all pleasant, helpful and courteous, and I left there with feelings of warmth. I guess I'm not ready for my "GOM" card or shirt yet! ha ha

    I'll be spending the holidays alone, and most of the gifts I get will be ones I bought for myself. But I have the joy of having given to others. And free time to do things I enjoy, reading, gaming, movies, and such.

    Happy Solstice, Merry Yule, to all! :D

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  15. Fitz-Badger,

    I envy your experience in the post office, although I must admit that the small sub-post office that I usually use (it is located at the back of a small general store) is always a very welcoming place ... unlike the local bank branch that I have to use.

    I went to the latter yesterday, and after queuing for 20 minutes to use the automatic telling machines, they all went offline together due to a computer problem. I then joined the queue to see the counter clerk (another 20 minutes wait) and found myself in the centre of a major argument between several customers after a Somali woman tried to go to the front of the queue of 40 or so people.

    She said that she should be given preference (i.e. not have to queue) because she was disabled. Unfortunately several of the other customers who were in the queue were also disabled, and it was them who took her to task. She cried, wailed, and generally cursed everyone in sight. In the end she reluctantly agreed to wait her turn. The silly thing is that most of us would have given the disabled people in the queue preference ... had they asked. It was the assumption that it was a right that annoyed people.

    A quite Christmas on your own doing what you want to do at your own pace seems like a wonderful thing to me. Time to think and to indulge your personal interests sounds like my idea of heaven … just as long as you don’t feel lonely.

    I hope that you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. I am surrounded by GOM, GOW and even a GOD (grumpy old dog!)so I intentionally try to swim against the tide.

    I went to collect my father from kent and just as we were leaving I saw a layby with a bunch of travellers selling real Christmas trees for a fraction of what they go for round here. So put the dog on my fathers lap in the front and stuffed a tree into the car and then drove back along the M25 with him moaning all the way. The dog then turned against the tree and has been attacking it ever since.

    Last weekend was the panto. we take 5 children (eg god children) as their present. That night my brother was also staying overnight with his tribe and he was forced into taking his lot as well. Miserable old sod has never taken them before and moaned all the way.

    Work is no better. I have no problem with secret santas and the office Christmas lunch next week. The secretaries voted against secret santas until we vetoed that. Its very simple - don't drink too much (the wine is usually filthy anyway) and stay too long.

    So this weekend the first of the waifs and strays of our assorted family start arriving from all over the country as we offer asylum. I have no problem with this. Far better than being alone. They can eat and drink as much as they like so long as no one argues.

    So from me here a cheerful Christmas to you and your wife and many thanks for such an entertaining blog.

    yours,
    Guy

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  17. Guy,

    I suspect that your dog was quite a good judge of your tree as there have been reports of stolen Christmas trees being sold around outer London!

    At least your trip to the panto with your recalcitrant relations is behind you. (Oh no it's not! Oh yes it is!: Apologies, I just could not resist it!) I saw a terrible - and very funny - one last year, I enjoyed the jokes a lot, mainly because most of them were older than I am.

    I don't miss the Christmas office do at all ... and have never taken part in a secret Santa. I think that the last time I went to a party with my workmates must have been fifteen years before I retired ... and my memories are not particularly good ones. Too many desperate drunks, awful food, and music that was far too loud.

    I hope that you and your family have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  18. Bob,

    I just hit 64 last week. My wife kept trying to sing the Beatles' song, but couldn't remember the lyrics. I do, but I wasn't about to admit it. Besides, I had other lyrics in mind:

    Now that I'm older
    (Still got my hair)
    Zero years from now;
    Nobody's been sending me a valentine,
    Birthday greetings or bottles of wine.
    I can't stay out 'til quarter to 3
    (I couldn't find the door)
    Although I am older,
    I still play with soldiers
    Though I'm 64!

    I'll try to come up with suitable lyrics when you hit the big 6-5.

    Happy holidays,

    Chris

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  19. Chris,

    Congratulations on your recent birthday!

    I like the new lyrics you have written for that old Beatles classic, and hope to be wargaming until I am disgustingly old and grumpy!

    I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    All the best,

    Bob

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