For Christmas Sake

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that last time I checked it was still October. That month slap in the middle of AUTUMN. Venture into the shops though and you’d be mistaken that you’d fallen asleep for 6 weeks and had woken up as Christmas was here. Fairy lights and baubles have started to appear. Signs  and shop windows declare the looming imminence of Christmas in a way that would make a host of angels on a hillside look subtle. In M&S I heard staff discussing the need to put a poster up of David Gandy in his pants though, so it’s not all bad.

  
But at the same time the shelves have been cleared of practical things you might actually want to buy in favour of the Christmas gift set.

Last week I was shopping with Noodles in Mothercare. (By “shopping” I actually mean following Noodles up and down the aisles until he decided we could eventually go home.) The store was festooned with festive decorations: tinsel, fake presents, clothes with Christmas puddings and snowmen on them. Simply stepping across the threshold I got Noddy Holder tinnitus: “IT’S CHRIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAAAS!!!”

And then I heard it…the sound of Jingle Bells!!! The store was already playing Christmas music!!!

“Oh my God,” I said to an assistant. “I can’t believe you’ve got Christmas music on already.”

I expected her to roll her eyes at the prospect of having cutesy kids Christmas tunes played on a loop for the next two months. Personally I was already starting to twitch on her behalf.

“Yeah, but it’s the season, innit?”

Well, here’s the thing, world of retail, it’s really not! I’m lucky to get 6 hours undisturbed sleep, not 6 weeks. I may be sleep-deprived but I’m definitely sure it’s still October and thus very much NOT the season.

  
Don’t think we see what you’re doing too. We see you sneaking rolls of Christmas wrap by the tills in late August. We realise that September brings the first sightings of the Roses selection box. We know that the second you whip the school uniforms away the day the schools go back (which is beyond annoying as it’s only then that you realise that you’ve bought the wrong size/the knees in the trousers have failed survive the playground/they’ve already lost their jumper and need a replacement) the Christmas onslaught is going to begin in earnest.

And here’s the thing, retailers, we’re not stupid. We know when Christmas is. It’s the same every year after all. Those who want to get organised can do so just as well without the decorations going up before the leaves on the trees have turned brown. We don’t need the gift sets out until December because those things are only bought as panic buys for the great aunt you only see once a year/Secret Santa purchases for the colleague you don’t know very well/donations for the school fête. None of those purchases happen until they really desperately need to, so none of that stuff needs to be given precious store space until December. Put your Racing Grannies and lavender drawer sachets away for now and let us carry on as normal.
 

I haven’t needed an inflatable hipster beard so far this year
 
Ditto the food. Are people really stock-piling frozen sausage rolls and turkey? If they are, how come Christmas Eve is a battleground of supermarket shopping. That’s when you need the abundance of Brussels sprouts. Not now.

And Mothercare…please please don’t get the kids uber excited about Christmas yet. It’s like starting a long car journey and telling them we’re nearly there as we back out of the drive.

Kids know what toys there are. They’re also greedy and fickle. We know, retailers, that you are also greedy and have a lot to gain from force-feeding images of all the wonders Christmas can bring. But have some sympathy for the parents. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re organised with gifts hidden in the loft by October only for the Number 1 Item of Desire to change on 23rd December. And if you do insist on luring our kids into really really really really really really wanting whatever’s the top of your let’s-shift-this-shit marketing campaign, for the love of God make it readily available and in plentiful supply. Toy frenzies might make good news stories, but they make for miserable Christmases.

  
It’s too late for this year. But have a thought before 2017, retailers. Let us have an autumn. We’ll still buy just as much tut by the time Christmas rolls round, but we might be less inclined to turn into the Grinch about it all. Plus, Mothercare, Noodles got so excited about your fake presents he destroyed two of them hoping to find goodies inside. Good luck having any left by Christmas.

It’s not hard: just hold back on the Jingle Bells in October. The David Gandy poster can stay though.

  

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Falling 

According to my emails, it’s official: coat season is here. 

  
At 8.01 am it was on its way; by 9.46am it was here! Ah, coat season. I always thought it was autumn, but my primary school education has failed me in other ways (The Great Fire of London didn’t wipe out the Plague, King Harold wasn’t shot in the eye with an arrow, ‘i before e, except after c’ is wrong more often than it’s right…) so it’s no surprise really that the Autumn Days, that we’d sing so passionately in assembly, should apparently have been called Coat Season Days.

Either way, I’m not a big fan of autumn. Maybe it’ll be better if is re-branded as coat season. In which case, maybe I should try to put a positive spin on it.

Crisp cooler days

  

The sun is shining, but you don’t melt in the midday sun or fail to sleep at night because it’s too goddamn hot.

Except

Those perfect fall days are few and far between. Mostly it’s wet and dark and cold. Bleugh. It’s not coat season; it’s HAIR FRIZZ season!

  
Oh, and there are all the jobs that haven’t been done to the house  over the summer (like draft-proofing, leak-sealing, central-heating installation and new windows). The prospect of another cold, draughty, damp winter looms large.

The evenings draw in

The kids will go to sleep earlier as it’ll actually be dark at bedtime, thus we can indulge in peaceful evenings, rather than convincing them that it’s reasonable to expect them to go to sleep whilst the sun is still up.

Except…

The morning’s get darker too! Rousing a sleeping child and getting them accept that it’s reasonable to have to get up for school before the sun has risen is the most depressing parental fight of them all.

Back to School

Yaaay! After six weeks of child/work juggling in extremis, combined with bankruptcy after every family day out, the kids are back to being somebody else’s problem for 6 hours a day. Family start talking to you again, free of the fear you might ask them to babysit for an eight-hour shift/entire week of the holidays. 

Except…

With school comes homework. The second most depressing parental battle of all. With added maths.

Autumn TV

As soon as the first leaf turns orange and falls to the floor it’s time for elimination TV. Yaaaay! Whether it’s a bunch of bakers in a marquee, a glittering of celebs on a dancefloor or a group of annoying twonts in a boardroom, I’m in! 

  
Except…

Did I mention the kids still won’t go to bed? Try avoiding the spoilers before you get to watch on iPlayer on your phone. Argh!

Conkers

Who doesn’t love a shiny conker? Especially kids. Move over, Pokémon – let’s collect them all!

  
Except…

You end up with a house festooned with shrivelled conkers. And all that leaf-rummaging is just going to end up in a concealed dog poo-related incident, you just know it!

No More Bikini Body 

Yay! We can finally exhale (and stop exfoliating for that matter!). We no longer have to pluck and wax and colour our white bits orange. We no longer have to exist on lettuce and stomach crunches. Oh blessed relief! Bring on the mashed potato!

  
Except…

Christmas is coming – or should that be party dress season? – and this goose is getting fat. But who wants to eat lettuce when it’s 12°c out?

Autumnal Dressing

Ah, sleeves, I’ve missed you! Free from the possibility of armpit sweat, bingo-wings are once more under wraps. Literally. And cute ankle boots – so much more comfortable than summer sandals. The end of thong-rub* has got to be a good thing.

*The flip-flop kind, obviously. It’s been a long time since I subjected myself to the other sort.

  
And let’s just take a moment to appreciate opaque tights! Concealer of stubbly legs and cellulite! Pick a high enough dernier and suddenly everyone can have a thigh gap!

There is no ‘except’ with this one. Maybe that’s why fashion has rebranded the most disappointing time of year as Coat Season. Get a great coat and it covers so many sins. Although not the frizzy hair. But we can work on that.

I wonder if anyone else will fall for it? 

Reasons To Dislike Autumn

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There’s no denying it. Summer is over. Done. Dusted. The sun is low and the air is turning crisp. Which does have a certain allure. But chill will be the default setting for the next 6 months. And let’s just say, the cold really bothers me. Which is not good.

There are some good things about the cooler months – the ability to wear opaque tights, which both ladder less easily and hold the calf and thigh wobble better for a start. But there are many many other reasons to lament the arrival of shorter days. Which include:

• The Cocoon Warmth of a Duvet

I know, surely being wrapped in a snug duvet is one of the best things about the cooler months?! I agree – it’s bliss. But since we’ve not evolved into bears* we can’t stay huddled inside all winter. Yet there the duvet is, embracing us in its downy warmth, giving us no inclination to get out of bed. Which means just getting up is a chore, thus the duvet is turned into the enemy.

(*Btw, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, next time round I’d like to come back as a bear. Surely the best animal to be, ever. 1) You get to sleep all winter and wake up skinny. 2) You have a diet of salmon…and picnics. 3) Everyone expects you to have a raging temper. What’s not to like?!)

• Spiders

The eight-legged freaks are EVERYWHERE! Yesterday Boo ran to Husband to report a damn great spider in the kitchen only for him to then point out another just hanging out on the wall behind her! Cue much screaming.

Plus the one in the kitchen managed to avoid death-by-rolled-up-newspaper, so is probably summoning it’s own spider army to exact its revenge. Bastards.

• Daddy-Long-Legs

Yet more insect-based hideousness. And these ones will just fly into your face with their spindly legs flailing everywhere. The Kamikaze pilots of the bug world, probably deployed by the evil spiders.

• Discovering There’s a Hole in Your Boot.

Boots are an autumn bonus. Gorgeous, calf-covering leather. Crunching through piles of leaves in them momentarily turns life into a real-life TV ad…

…Until, that is, you discover a hole in one. Which happens only when a) it rains or b) you tread in a steaming dog turd hidden by the dry leaves you were crunching through. (True story.)

• The Search for New Boots and the Perfect Winter Coat

Too many choices. And the perfect option is always over budget. Buy cheap though and you risk the hole + dog poo situation. Buy expensive and you WILL be found out as the bags are too bulky to sneak into the house without detection.

• Transitional Dressing

In theory, autumn wardrobe updates are gorgeous. Knitwear, heavier fabrics accessorised with scarves, the ease of looking good just by having a gorgeous coat (if you do mange to find one).

But knitwear makes me itch. I’ve never really mastered the art of scarf-tying. And I always misjudge when I need to coat and when I don’t, thus always managing to be inappropriately dressed.

• Comfort Food

Yummy. You can’t beat some stodgy as the weather turns colder. Plus you can kid yourself that you’ve not laid down excess fat so much as overdosed on layering on clothes. (Just don’t go anywhere near the scales.)

But the real swine is potatoes, specifically having to peel them in abundance. Much as I love shepherd’s pie, or creamy mash or corned beef hash, I hate peeling potatoes. Boring, messy and I always manage to grate my knuckles.

• Don’t Mention the C-Word!

No sooner has the suntan lotion been cleared from the shops’ shelves than you spot the first sign of Christmas. The countdown is on. Which is annoying at first, because it’s only freakin’ September. Then you get complacent. Festive decorations take hold, but it starts to merge into the background since, hey, it’s been out since September and that was only a minute ago. And then the next thing it’s a week before Christmas, you’re low on money and can’t find the present you really need, which everyone else bought back in September!!! How did THAT happen?! By stealth, I tell you, which is why Christmas really shouldn’t start in the autumn.

And thus autumn is, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst season of all. At least Strictly Come Dancing is back. But until it signals the start of my personal hibernation I certainly shan’t fall for Fall.