Thursday, December 8, 2011
Who stole my glitter?
I mentioned previously that one of the things I really enjoyed about living in Australia was that Christmas was a much more low-key affair than in the UK. Then I got a bit whipped up with the magic of dark nights and Christmas lights, endless renditions of 'Fairytale in New York' and the aroma of a newly acquired Norwegian Spruce hanging in the air. Yesterday the littlest hobo and I had a ball of an afternoon with a few rolls of wrapping paper and a roll of sellotape, wrapping up gifts.
Today was a reality check. We started off well enough. In fact, as we were sitting in the car this morning I heard the words "A little part of me can see an argument for living back in the UK' tumbling from my mouth. I am enjoying being close to friends and family again after a few weeks away, it had awakened this new notion in me.
We decided to 'pop' into Tesco/M&S this morning, so that the littlest hobo could chose a couple of presents to give on Christmas day, to replenish our wrapping paper supplies, and to pick up a dessert for me to take when I visited some old school friends this afternoon. We found one gift in Tesco before giving up thanks to the sheer weight of traffic. It took us a good 10 minutes, and constant demands for cuddles (understandable given the amount of knees she must've been walking into) to get to the M&S coffee shop, only to find a queue, as long as Santa's list, of pensioners jostling to keep their places and beat their peers to the last seat in the cafe.
We gave up and headed to the food section to get the dessert and get out of there. I'm not entirely sure whether there were more staff (one who was frantically running around screaming to his colleagues about only having 3000 of these left, while brandishing a shiny gold box of I don't know what - biscuits?) or dithering customers tripping us up, but let's just say the overall experience intensified at this point. I made my selection and we high-tailed to the self-pay area, only to get held up again while a clearly 'here to help' employee told the elderly couple in front of us that they wouldn't be able to use these check outs with a trolley. They only had 3 items in their trolley, and I'm sure said trolley was doing a fine substitution for a zimmer frame, but she made them swap it for a basket and replace the trolley before she'd let them, or any of us standing behind them, through, wasting far more time than they would have done putting their 'trolleyful' of shopping through the checkout.
When we'd finally paid we headed towards the car, a process which took a total of ten minutes of ankle ramming trolley and dawdling daytripper hell, followed by almost being lifted right off our feet with the biting cold high winds. By the time we got back in our seats I was practically on the phone to trailfinders begging for the next available tickets 'home'.
What is it that sends people into this hair pulling consumer frenzy? And why is it that it seems to be happening earlier and earlier every year. I dread to think what that place will be like this weekend, 11am on a Thursday was quite enough of a stressful elbow fight for me. I'm so glad that I did 80% of my Christmas shopping online and I won't have to endure this scene, which somehow distinguished a degree of the spirit of Christmas in me, too much more.
I was so relieved once i got to my friend's house; there is something so comforting about people who you have known forever and always, and it was so nice to be in their company and catch up on the latest goings on. I love the way we can all do things so differently as adults (parenting, careers, lifestyle choices etc etc), yet i still feel so at peace in their company.
I did however feel a little embarrassed when they handed me Christmas cards and I had to admit I'm not sending them. I decided to stop a couple of years ago - no longer able to justify the time and cost that goes into it for a piece of card which sits on display before going at best to be recycled or at worst into landfill. In Australia, I don't think that would be a big deal, but in England I feel like I'm opting out of one of the important elements that contribute to the pomp and ceremony that is Christmas. I feel like the Grinch!
Christmas in England and Christmas in Australia are such very different experiences, and I'm starting to learn that there are parts of each that I relish and appreciate, and parts that I would rather not partake in. It's flustering me a bit, I want to shake myself, stop worrying, and get back into the Christmas spirit. I suppose that as both places are 'home' of sorts to us, I expect them to fit perfectly, like a well worn glove, when in reality, we are to some extent visitors to each. I wonder whether if I approached Christmas in the UK in the same way as I would if I were in a completely different and new to me country, I would have different expectations.
What is Christmas like where you are, and what do you love about it? Are there parts that you're less keen on?