The season is slowly starting to change here in St. Mary on the Wold. The colours are starting to dull from the brilliant whites, blues and coloured stripes on T-shirts, shorts and linen trousers worn to great effect by many, and the early morning dog walkers are reducing in number, as the other one of the two seasons – according to the media the BBC and radio jocks – started at the end of August. You know the sort, I’m sure. They start wittering inanely on about how the weekend starts here, usually on a Wednesday afternoon in the world that they inhabit that is, and how winter starts in the first week of September, having been decreed presumably by a higher authority somebody at the BBC or a meteorology service consultant that few listen to and fewer know about; usually the one that says we are about to have another hurricane or heavy snow or the worst ever winter or summer since the last one.
The tabloids, never wanting to be left out of a good story, will soon be running full page pictures of glorious forest scenes as the leaves start to change colour and fall, in the season now known only to older people and those that don’t inhabit the media bubble as autumn (or fall if you are a devotee of Netflix and it’s almost total diet of Hollywood films).
Anyway I’ve just seen my first pair of Ugg boots, coupled with a fleece, and only yesterday did I think I caught a glimpse of a North Face rear or it may well have been a Berghaus. My friend, who is an active Countryfile watcher, says that was possible but a little early as temperatures are still in the mid-teens, more likely he thought, to be a patched shoulder Barbour blown off course – these are more often seen disappearing into an Evoque or some other four by four, usually at a National Trust country property or a garden centre.
Our local garden centre (developed to be your destination of choice) is now well into the winter season. Calling last week for a coffee we were met with wall-to-wall designer Christmas decorations, provided mostly by Chinese companies. Twinkling Christmas lights, imitation Christmas trees, poinsettias, along with a cacophony of Christmas tunes coming from a display of miniature towns and villages purporting to be some sort of winter scene from the far-off past. Well last year actually, as these models seem to be the same ones used for the last few years, and you will see these or similar ones at a centre or retail outlet near you, together with a sleigh or something covered in artificial snow and ice so that Charlotte or grandma Helen can take Dyson and Emma’s photograph for the family Facebook page.
The oohs and aahs of the shoppers (mainly middle income baby boomers and older) as they join in with the spirit of the season, watching with sparkling eyes and murmurs of appreciation (normally heard only when talking loudly to each other in the coffee shop about their other great interest Strictly Come Dancing), must have brought a tear to the eyes of the sales assistants because many of them seemed to be genuinely moved by the experience of seeing so many people enjoying Christmas in the first week of October.
Not to be outdone by all this fake seasonal cheer, the supermarkets are now advertising seasonal and Christmas desserts, having at last removed the hot cross buns from the bakery displays. This is only temporary of course, as they will return along with Easter eggs in the third week of January. Only today, our largest supermarket had someone dressed as Santa Claus outside the main entrance giving shoppers something or other. Business didn’t seem too brisk although a few did offer words of advice, maybe suggesting that Santa Claus would be better standing outside Macey’s in New York in December rather than here, two and a half months before Christmas.
There is something not quite right here and this writer is not alone as others too have commented over the years, but in the last few years this blurring of seasons and reality has become even more pronounced, when large and respected companies run Christmas from October to usually the last week in February when their post-Christmas sales finally end.
In a country that apparently sees itself as Christian when it suits, isn’t that just pushing the envelope a little? It’s not just garden centres; the whole retail and hospitality sector is at it, some have been running ‘book your Christmas event’ advertisement since July, not always mentioning Christmas though, as since the Red Cross banned using the word Christmas in shop displays and various local authorities decreed that the title may upset various people. ‘Festive Fayre’ or, as I saw recently, ‘Seasonal Entertainment’ is gaining as we say these days ‘traction’ but at least that’s an improvement on Winterval as decreed by one metropolitan council some years back.
The whole structure of the year now seems to be driven by ‘education school and college and university calendars’ or purely commercial interests, mainly those of large corporate concerns driven by the motivation of taking as much money as possible from the population in the shortest possible time.
Goodness knows how this affects children, bombarded as they are by adults who demonstrate, by their behaviour in many cases, that they have either never grown up or are suffering from a sort of derangement syndrome where the whole world is run as if its (to coin a phrase) some sort of multicultural bog standard comprehensive school. What sort of childhood did these parents of the 90s generation have, one wonders, schooled presumably by the ‘Friends’ programmes, and ‘girl power’. All very well when you are in your teens and twenties but not, I would suspect, a good model for adult life and the upbringing of children. Allowing children to be confused or upset doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea to me.
Part 2 will be published here tomorrow.