Why I Wish It Was Always Winter And Never Christmas

NarniaWhen I was a child Christmas was uncomplicated. It started on Christmas Eve when we spent the day making and hanging paper chains and putting up the Christmas tree. On Christmas Day there were presents and turkey and it was wonderful.

As a teenager Christmas began to gain new complexity. There was the weekend in November when I would help my mother make the Christmas pudding and the added bonus of helping to finish up the bottle of Guinness that had gone into it. Then there were presents to buy for my parents and siblings and a pack of Christmas cards for my form at school. Christmas Eve expanded to include helping to make bacon rolls, dividing sausages and peeling parsnips. Christmas Day included the task of laying the table for dinner. All still good fun.

These days, as a grown up, the responsibilities and the time needed have increased enormously, even though I am lucky enough to have someone else to take on the responsibility for the dinner itself.

Christmas cards need writing early enough to send abroad rather than waiting until the end of term. The list of presents I am responsible for thinking up, buying, wrapping and sending has expanded from my immediate family to include their partners and children, and my own, and to the similarly expanded list of my partner’s family too, plus a few special friends. Now six times as many presents as in my teenage years! Some of those presents also need sending abroad, so I spend November torn between planning for Christmas, stressed that I’m running out of time and cursing that it is far too early to be doing any of this.

Really by this point, I’m looking to 25th December when I can relax with no more responsibilities until twelfth night (when the decorations come down).

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love carols, tinsel, roast goose (I’ve moved on from turkey) and huge piles of discarded wrapping paper. Most of all I love all the people that I send cards to and buy presents for and I sincerely hope that they will get joy and pleasure from opening whatever it is I send them (if only I knew what that should be). I just can’t help wishing that I didn’t have to love them all at once with such an immovable deadline.

As far as I know I’m the only person who feels this way. Everyone else is happy preparing for Christmas without feeling stressed out by the expectations it causes. So, please tell me, what’s your secret?

Actually I’d prefer always summer if possible. Surely that would have been a more sensible spell for the White Witch?

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What The Supermarkets Are Telling Me

Voucher For Fifteen PenceI don’t shop in supermarkets often. I’m not responsible for the ‘weekly shop’ in our house and even that is often delivered by Ocado. However I do intermittently shop in a variety of supermarkets and even possess loyalty cards for some of them. Recently however I’ve noticed a trend that I do not like.

You see there are a variety of supermarkets available and I’m well aware that they stock very similar items at often very different prices. I’ve become well accustomed to the random shopping trolley at the entrance and the sign proclaiming that this week they are cheaper than [insert any supermarket here] for [insert some random selection of items]. I’ve always imagined that this data was acquired by sending some poor [supermarket A] employee out in the cold to [supermarket B] to compare and note down prices of [some random selection of items]. So the data was inaccurate, out of date, but at least they were trying to provide the best value for money they could*.

Imagine my surprise when shopping at Tesco (and here I’m prepared to name and shame) when upon completing my shopping the till spat out, along with my receipt, a voucher which said “Today your comparable grocery shopping would have been cheaper elsewhere. So here’s the difference back”. Er, no, actually here is a voucher which will now clutter up my purse and/or my house until I can do something with it.

Still irritated at this, only a few days later, I happened to pass a Sainsbury’s store and needing a few items for a picnic I decided to pop in. On completing my shopping I was again astounded to receive a voucher which said that I would have paid less at Asda or Tesco and so here was a voucher for fifteen pence off my next shop.

So let me get this straight, at the till these supermarkets can tell that I could have got my shopping more cheaply elsewhere and instead of saying:

“This shopping would have been fifteen pence cheaper in another supermarket so we’re discounting it right here to ensure that you get the best value you can.”

They are saying:

“We have ripped you off to the tune of fifteen pence, so here is a voucher that we think makes it look like we care about this while simultaneously knowing that this voucher will end up lost, forgotten, expired or eaten by the dog and that you will therefore be unable to reclaim the fifteen pence we have stolen from you today. Thank you for your custom.”

Now I’m sure that they have accountants who have assured them that this policy will make them money and possibly even market researchers who have told them that this policy will be well received but here’s the thing, from now on I’m going to make a deliberate attempt to go to supermarkets that don’t do this to me. Morrison’s perhaps, or Waitrose who don’t pretend to be the cheapest and even better will give me free coffee.

No, I don’t for an instant think the supermarkets will care or even notice but it will make me a lot less irritated at the till and avoid the need for me to carry scraps of paper endlessly around with me.
After all, every little helps.

*I’m not actually naive enough to believe this but wouldn’t it be nice if this were true?