The older gent on the next table had been drinking coffee while looking around at the crowded cafe at ten o‘clock in the morning on Wednesday last week. ‘What on earth is going on?’ he said looking at me, ’doesn’t anybody work these days, the retired seem to be in the minority here, these are all either ‘young mums’ with babies or toddlers or people of working age with older kids, kids of school age too, school must be optional then if they can come here on a Wednesday morning.’ – ‘They are here for the Christmas skating rink’ I said, ‘it’s cheaper during off-peak hours, so that’s why it’s so busy. It’s very popular with families.’ – ‘Must be’ he said, ‘if you want to blow forty odd quid for half an hour staggering around on ice with all the other families, and there was I thinking that there was no money about. There must be dozens of families here you would think it’s a Saturday.’ – ‘Ah well’, I replied, ‘it’s Christmas’
It must be Christmas every day for the company that owns it, what a great business model, flogging expensive drinks and cakes, two pounds fifty for a mass produced mince pie and three pounds for a pastry and – judging by the rate of sales – to a willing and captive audience. Mom, Dad and two kids on a family ticket could easily spend fifty pounds for just 45 minutes of entertainment, although judging by the number of people taking what used to be called a ‘right purler’ they would have the bruises to show for it for some time .
Good job it’s only just once a year, goes the old saying – actually it’s not that old and comes from a 1936 Hollywood animated movie, which just shows the power of those cartoons – but back to the present times, it’s a good job it only comes once a year as it started in October in this particular establishment, complete with animated polar bears, reindeer, snowmen and model villages belting out the usual Ho Ho Ho stuff, which to be honest gets a bit wearing after you’ve heard it for the umpteenth time two months before the ‘Big Day’. Have you noticed how that has spread to all sorts of stores, it’s like being in that movie Sleepless in Seattle, you almost expect Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks to walk around the Christmas tree display.
It’s also noticeable that the demographic of the shoppers and families appears not to be what the advertising media moguls would have you believe. Quite the opposite actually, but maybe that advertising is only aimed at the middle-income earners who have kids that don’t have to go to or refuse to attend school, like that kid from Sweden, maybe she’s the new model for middle income families now that the Spice Girls have become middle aged and the Beckhams seem not to be the hot property they once were.
Talking of advertising, there doesn’t seem to be the usual hullabaloo about mega store Christmas productions this year, perhaps they are all saving money trying to find ways of selling products that people actually want to buy? There’s a thought, how about reasonable quality products at a reasonable price, rather than cheap rubbish at inflated prices, spun by million pound advertising budgets, giving bland food items, usually endorsed by some ‘chef’ most people have never heard of, or some latest must-have technology that is going to transform the way you live your life or clothing imported from some cheap labour country which you can wear once or maybe twice before it looks only good enough for the recycle bin. Sweaters, which used to be known as pullovers as older readers may remember, a snip at twenty five pounds or a packet of micro dusters to keep in the car for fifteen pounds, take your choice on quality or value, although I suppose you could always use the cheap fall-apart everyday valueT-shirt for the same purpose.
At the other end of the scale, I passed by what used to be called a gents outfitters before the world went gender-specific mad but is now known by some futuristic name that only a celebrity would remember and perhaps call their offspring, and noticed in their pre-Black Friday sale – as opposed to this week’s pre-Christmas sale – puffa jackets reduced to £450!
Hey! way to go you guys, maybe one of those truck drivers who turn their vehicles into a cross between a Coca-Cola articulated truck as once used in the commercial that featured Chris Rea singing the still popular Christmas song and a mobile light festival, will pop in and buy one or two. Although why somebody wants to do that to a vehicle and create a moving traffic hazard – of which we are certainly not short – is beyond me.
As is paying £50 plus car parking to walk around a light show situated in the middle of what is left of the countryside. Perhaps all these people are so sick of watching the endless drivel on TV they are desperate to get out and see something supposedly different so they can upload the results of their fantastic day out onto their publicly viewable FaceBook or Instagram pages.
(… to be continued tomorrow)