Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's beginning to smell a lot like Xmas...

So I'm wondering around today with a big Linda Perhacs fixation on the IPOD - irrations are numerous and lasting, even without the minor irritation of a poorly prepared sandwich settling on my stomach, mostly because it's Xmas and no shelf can merely be browsed without either the application of serious sales pressure or a trolley shoved into your leg by an errantly wandering and befuddled father. There's a lady in Big W, she's on her mobile phone, she's loud enough to scare the blue shirted staff away from her, and she's all denim and slightly desperate attempts through trendiness and hair style to reclaim her youth. On a shelf somewhere near her there sits a solitary and lonely Valentines Day Bear, the most terrifying reminder of commerce and the march of time a chain store can muster. She's talking on her mobile phone in loud boisterous sentences about which book she should buy her son, positing between a selection of those tedious sporting titles that tell you nothing or a cook book written by a celebrity chef of the moment who's brandishing a smug smile on the cover. As she talks a little too loudly on the phone about her sons many accomplishments, needless to say a proud mix of academic, sporting and community awards, a girl I hadn't seen before working there who was neither the fat exhausted girl nor panda eyed girl looks at me and rolls her eyes. I shrug indifferently as I try to negotiate my way around mother of the year to get a look at a book by a sportsman that will pass the time one day and hopefully rekindle the love of reading that Toby Young has killed in mee, but I can't shift her and her continuing list of questions to the person on the other end of the phone about exactly what her son would want for Xmas seems a little depressing to me - like she doesn't really know her son at all, just his list of accomplishments. Even my Mum in the midst of my mid 90s unresponsive grunting phase could quickly pick up two or three items she knew I could at least partially feign interest in. I leave her caught between a Schumacer book and a hard place, talking even more loudly and more irritably on the phone, just as she's about to be trapped by an eager beaver helper in a blue shirt. As I walk, a woman who fits the classic Glaswegian nickname of 1690 (she looke 16 from the back but 90 from the front) sweeps past me at a million miles an hour with her strangely patterned grey and black streaked hair, just as Linda gets to the end of If You Were My Man, muttering something about a customer who can't tell the difference between one price tag or another, and she swears about it. She looks to me almost apologetically, but over my shoulder, is the customer she's swearing about, who only doesn't hear her because she's muttering about the same thing but from a different perspective. Caught between the two ends of the argument, I briefly think that I've been embroiled in this what's on special and what isn't fiasco and may be required to adjudicate, but just as fate seems destined to make me pick a side, an inattentive child clatters into my legs trying to get a Violet Crumble, and I lose all track of where I am, blinded by rage as I always am when small children annoy me...the rage is ultimately impotent however, as the child runs away, excited by the possibilites of Xmas, and I shrug, turn up Linda and wander off into the distance, just glad someone still cares December is coming...

No one seems excited by Xmas this year, the exhortations of how many days there are til Xmas replaced by flat outright complaining about the tedium of everything and the re-release of the same Xmas albums as ever. No one is making an effort, except one of the girls in the florist. It's not the girl who doesn't know everyone can see down her top when you go down the escalator, but the older woman with the black hair who seems to be the only one who does any work. By choice she's dressed as a cross between an elf and a pot plant, and at first I had no idea what she was supposed to be. Closer inspection revealed she was meant to be an elf, but the only reason I knew that was because she had elf written in white letters on her chest, and I probably looked like a dirty pervert trying to figure out what it said there. Other than that, the only other people on a Xmas footing are the staff at Sanity. I'm scared of Sanity, it's an aggressive CD store with narrow shelves down which they can trap you with their wily sales techniques and American style smiles. I know they are on a Xmas footing because two steps inside the store are staff pretending to stock the shelves, just ready to make sure that if you pick up Weeds on DVD you buy it. I take a step inside the store, forgetting myself, trying to ideally get a quick look at the tracklisting of Circus, and a neutered male in tight trousers with a Zac Efron smile turns his bodyweight subtly towards me, ready to infuse my experience with as much manual taught charm as possible. Luckily I see him and get out just in time and he turns his attention to some American tourists who have made the fatal mistake of picking up a Hamish and Andy CD to assess who's cuter. Last Xmas I purchased some blank CDs from Sanity, and the girl inside the store took it upon herself to look at them as if I was personally responsible for the decline of the importance of the singles charts and was really dismissive of my purchase, snarkily asking if I was going to burn some CDs. Her supervisor was really offended at her rudeness and chewed her out quite publically, while a queue of people shuffled awkwardly behind me - I was just wondering why I got bagged out for buying blank CDs while the guy behind me was buying an Akhmal Saleh DVD and got off scot free. Just as I left their day in tatters, and shuffled off embarrassed, the same bloke from today jumped out of the shadows to tell me all about a special edition of Die Hard, so I'm onto him and his line of patter...the Americans though are falling for his charms, and are hanging on every word, and don't realise they are being shamelessly pressured. They think the nice man has come to help them with their Hamish and/or Andy dispute...

It's a far cry from the festive preparations of Burnie. Then there was no expectations anyone would buy anything, no sales pressure, just a collection of poorly selected Santas, limited decorations on the street that seemed to have as much to do with Xmas as the local transport museum, and of course, the radical transformation that would come over our resident busker, Fat Bob. I saw Fat Bob being asked to move along by the Toyworld purple bear once, and I was screaming at people for a camera. Yes, Fat Bob, who looked a bit like Roger Whittaker if he took up smack, could be found outside a variety of local stores, usually Chickenfeed, slumped up against the wall moving only sporadically as he busted out a series of downbeat downtempo numbers with all the excitement of...well, Roger Whittaker on smack really. He would sing these songs with a small cardboard sign propped up against his legs that said in badly scrawled black marker "For The Kids"...the implication being that he might he shit, he might not be moving, but you'd have a heart of stone not to donate funds because he was busking for charity. However, local legend suggested that the kids in question weren't bewildered poor orphans but actually his own kids who, Screaming Jay Hawkins style, were too numerous and dispersed to keep count of. It didn't do much for my self esteem that Fat Bob pulled the ladies and I...well anyway, at Xmas, he would completely change. Well, by completely change, I mean he put on a Santa Hat and did downbeat downtempo versions of Xmas songs...entire schools of children would be bussed in just to hear his magical version of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and the particularly wonderful way he'd do that "loike a loightbulb" line...you always knew it Xmas in Burnie when the response to the question "Mummy what's that smell" asked by a kid forced to chuck 10 cents in Bobs box o'fun was "eggnog" and not "gin"...it was like the gentle passing of the tides when Bobs distinctive scent went all Xmassy...get the advent calendars out kids, Santas a coming...wait, is that Santa, isn't that Doug from the hardware store? Get in the car kids, you are being grounded for you lack of a sense of wonder and mystery...

They haven't forced Blue Eye Shadow girl to wear anything Xmassy yet, but I'm sure she would wear it with great style and dignity if asked. Soon there will be an installed Santa to wander around on my daily walk, obviously heavily supervised by a female elf because we can't have Santa going nuts on cheeky kids like the ones at Fitzgeralds used to do. About three steps away from me as I walk and stalk, a kid is being told they are going to put straight in the car and driven home instead of going to Grandmas for a present because they'd been cheeky. The girl, who seems cute for her age didn't appear to do much wrong - she's got Hi-5 deely boppers on and little chubby cheeks, and her crime appears to be a little too much whining about the present she wants for Xmas. I don't think it registers on her face that she's done something wrong, as at her age all she's done is see something she wants and ask for it. A lot. Her bewildered face as she trails into the distance is quite sad, and in time she will associate Xmas with disappointment by the stern example of parenting her mother seems keen to set. I begrudge no one the right to a happy Xmas - I know that I am often upset by the way that a fat family in matching leggings will park themselves in front of me, shoving me out of the way in the pursuit of the latest Adam Sandler DVD, and I know that when I have to roll out of bed for a cheap jumper and a book about cricket and then sit with a family that isn't quite mine, I'll be whingy, but I know that one Xmas, 95, I was genuinely alone, adrift in a Scottish snowstorm while the people I was staying with had a massive fight, and I was caught in the middle of it. When I spent Xmas day slumped in an armchair, having been given a soccer top of one of St Mirrens mortal enemies (the loathsome Airdrie) as a hilarious mix up involving my Gran, completely drunk and shattered and exhausted, so self aware that the world I'd spent two years idolising "back home" actually was kind of rubbish, I remember thinking Xmas really had to be better than this...luckily, the years since have been better than that. As I walk back to work, there's a little kid in the card shop, who's screaming about a Lance Franklin poster and spilling bits of his sandwich everywhere, and he's so happy, his father celebrates his wonderful moment by...completely missing it, in a pointless attempt to flirt with the Austar sales lady...

If Xmas is all about family, the Dads mind is definitely on the January sales...and his eyes are, well, not on his kid...

12 comments:

Evan Johnson said...

I think the reason no one is excited this year is because of the worries about the global economy, everyone is hurting a little.

I'm in the Christmas spirit though.

- Evan

Jannie said...

A cross between an elf and a pot plant, you know in North America what a pot plant is eh? We have those ane "potted" plants which I believe equates to your pot plant.

I freaking love violet crumbles, or moreover large squares of sponge toffee, best if a year or two old to really take yer fillings out!

Jamie Krause said...

I love Christmas music!!!!!!!!

squib said...

My mum always used to say 'If you ask for something then I won't buy it for you.' It was a hell of a catch 22

Kris said...

If I were king of the world I'd cancel X-mas.

Kath Lockett said...

Nice one. We have a dodgy butcher's shop near us that has had 'Order Your Turkeys In Time for Christmas' painted in fluoro on his windows for eight years. Not sure if it's quite the advertisement for fresh meat that's going to appeal to the savvy shopper.

Miles McClagan said...

Yeah I think your right - I know I'm broke as at the moment...so Xmas isn't a happy time of year! I can imagine it's just another stress on the family trying to find money for a PSP for little Timmy...I got no Xmas spirit...yet!

Yeah, meaning a potted plant, nothing summat grown in a greenhouse...Violet Crumbles are absolutely delicious...the ice cream version not so much...

The only Xmas album I ever bought was Hilary Duffs Santa Claus Lane to wind someone up...boss version of Last Christmas mind...

Your Mum was a hard arse...you'd have to get your friends or something to ask for you...

I'd cancel Boxing Day...not the public holiday, but Boxing Day...no one cares!

And obviously it was really bad for the turkey...having to be on guard for eight straight years...

Megan said...

Offspring knows that all he is getting for Christmas is trips to the library for more Pratchett. But he's good with that...we have to pay to park, and all.

Miladysa said...

I think I might name you WAFK - World Ambassador For Kids.

"who looked a bit like Roger Whittaker if he took up smack"

roflmao! MINT!!! ;D

Jack Dorf said...

Our Mr 3 is looking forward to xmas. In fact he wakes up most mornings lately and asks if it's xmas yet? He wants a monster truck and a gun.

Ms 7 is less enthusiastic but has curiously started exploring the Judeo-Christian aspects of the season and asking tricky questions about the 3 wise men and mangers. She has requested an upgrade of her mp3 player and a unicorn to add some diversity to her nativity scene.

Baino said...

I'm excited! (Then I have a passion for shiny things) You're not talking about Christmas, you're just talking about shopping. It's always like that minus the tinsel and women dressed as pot plants! I LOVE Christmas. The Tree goes up on Thursday and the house lights the weekend after. I'm half done with my uber budget gifts (that probably nobody will like cos they were cheap as!) . . the only thing I hate is the friggin shopping centre music. Mariah Carey comes out but once a year thank God! I'm taking a leaf out of your book and shopping with my iPod firmly planted in each ear hole! Haha your capture says 'Festi'

Miles McClagan said...

It'd be a wonderful change of pace if instead of pretending we liked the family around the corner we all got to go the library! That'd be boss! Obviously we'd have to stand outside the library, since it's shut...maybe Video City! Free parking too...

There's not enough blogging devoted to people who look like Roger Whittaker on drugs...I'm happy to be King Of The Kids...as long as they don't knock me over...

I can't remember Xmas when I was 3, but when I was 7 I got a trampoline...I was 9 before I realised Santa was a difficult proposition and religion was a bit mince, but to be honest, I kept quiet for one more Xmas...I ended up with a Walkman out of it...an upgrade on my record player!

I think in our case Xmas sort of ends up being a ten minute thing, it doesn't feel like a special day anymore - oh well, there's the joys of shopping around school leavers! Our shopping centre hasn't started on the music yet, but I wouldn't notice yet, I've got a lot of music to get through yet, so if they play Sasha Fierce Xmas over the PA, I'm not gonna notice...Festi, nice to see my words are related!