If you are full of the joys of the forthcoming Christmas season; if you have just finished wrapping the last on your list of Christmas gifts and fixing home-made little Hobbycraft holly leaves and berries to it; if you have all your Christmas cards written and in a wobbly pile on the sideboard waiting to be posted, please don’t read on. You won’t like it. You really won’t.
Thing is, I used to like Christmas and I probably still do. In our house I was the spirit of Christmas – especially after a couple of glasses of good champagne or – wistful memories coming up….brandy and babychams – but only from about the week before.
Yes, I concede that you have to think about the nearest and dearest abroad in advance lest they receive their Yule tidings of great joy at Easter but generally speaking Christmas comes too bloody early.
I resent it. I resent being exploited and made to feel I’m supposed to spend ridiculous amounts on stuff people don’t really want just to keep the sales figures up. I resent the horrible blue Christmas lights in the high streets. I resent all the tacky and rubbishy celebrity books piled high. Three for two? BOGOF!!!
It’s bad enough the pedestrianised bit of Cheltenham’s broad and leafy Promenade being cluttered with dozens of little wooden cabins like little temples of tat but in Birmingham city centre on Saturday it was a thousand times worse.
The whole of fecking Frankfurt Market seemed to have decamped to New Street. There were fairground rides and wall to wall crap that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to receive, let alone buy.
Plastic stones that light up? Big paper stars that don’t even illuminate but just look slightly hippyish and gather dust? Ultra-smelly grease-laden doughnuts and peculiar deep-fried foreign foods – tiny individual pancakes that cost as much as usual size pancakes. Why? Ah must be because they are so special, such a Frankfurter delicacy.
Not being very familiar with Birmingham we had just passed something similar to the Acropolis (but without the pollution haze) when we found ourselves in a complete hubbub of people and kids. It was a fresh kind of hell composed of milling crowds of people looking a bit blank and uncontrolled hyperactive children clutching sticky cakes full of E numbers which they waved about and rubbed against your clothes as you passed. Lots of noise and colour and cheap horrible fairground rides for the kiddies. Fun for all the family. Yeah right.
It was a total abomination and obliterated my usually dependable direction finding instinct. In my haste to escape the Frankfurt Christmas Market, we strolled along several deserted streets where there wasn’t a soul to be seen. It was quite pleasant for the first mile or so but increasingly reminded me of the time we found ourselves in the banking district of Paris at 11.30pm, so starving hungry I thought we might have to start raiding bins.
DT man had lost all his confidence in my navigational abilities. Doesn’t take much.
“It’s fine,” I said. “If we take the next right and then right again. Anyway, all this exercise will mean lunch will taste even better…”
We turned the corner to be faced with wall of traffic on a deafening and fast section of dual carriageway. A hefty barrier down the middle was high enough and robust enough to keep pantechnicons from hurtling into the on-coming traffic on the other carriageway. Impossible for pedestrians without ropes and petons.
“Ah don’t worry. We don’t have to cross here. These Google maps. Quite out of date” I lied through my teeth.
“We go up to the end of this road here and then over the green by the Cathedral and we’re there. I’ll recognise everything. Seriously! I promise!”
I’ve been fond of that meaningless phrase since Jack Bauer used it to good effect in 24.
Anyway lunch, eventually, in San Marco, was long and leisurely and warm and relaxing and it wasn’t meant to last until the evening but we left – even then kind of reluctantly – when it was almost dark. I supposed there might be some shopping and lo, a stone’s throw away from the restaurant was Evans Cycles!
We couldn’t pass an Evans Cycles without going in and having a browse but it was disappointingly teeny basement affair with none of the super-duper road bikes I intended to sit on in a dreamy, “Could I possibly afford this baby?” kind of way.
And so into New Street again. It was like one of those measles hallucinations. Honestly, if I had been high on some mind-altering drug it could scarcely have been worse.
It was the other end of the F-f-f-f-f-fecking Frankfurt Christmas Market – a seemingly endless parade of noise and confusion taking up the entire middle section of the pedestrianised street. Those people who felt like I did and just wanted to pass the whole horrible shebang as quickly as possible were forced to shuffle slowly, packed like sardines, wearing the same expressions as prisoners on their way to the salt mines of Droitwich. (Historically not very accurate. So shoot me)
Why do councils think we should have this stuff foisted upon our City and town centres?
Who are these people? Are they really Frankfurters or Neachells saveloys masquerading as traditional German sausages?
I wondered what, if any effect a stentorian “Raus! Rause!” might have on the teeming masses but I didn’t venture an outburst. It wasn’t their fault – all those other blank-faced poltroons. It was just that I didn’t want Christmas stuffed in my face, in my eyes and in my ears quite yet. It’s too soon. I’ve got other things to do. Give me another month and then tell me it’s Christmas. And give me a bigger Evans’ Cycles.
In another month, I’ll be making mince pies, wrapping presents (just don’t expect Hobbycraft holly leaves), decking the hall, wondering how to keep the kittens from climbing the Christmas tree and warbling along with the i-touch “All I want for Christmas is yoooooooooooo” while bopping around the kitchen and stirring mulled wine, steaming gently on the hob.
Forget ze travesty of ze German markets invading our High Streets. That’s not the real Christmas. The real Christmas is home with everybody that matters.
Tacky, tacky tacky….
and who decided that blue was remotely Christmassy???