Tag Archives: christmas

A time of torment

I, like most people I’m sure, like to have a routine. It’s what keeps society ticking round. Whether it’s planning what to read next, or working out how to store my books, it all boils down to routine. I have the signed books on the top shelf, those to be read on the next one down, and the rest wherever they can fit. That’s my routine and it works well. Even purchasing books I have a routine. Into Waterstones, straight to the crime section at the back of the store, quick browse of the books on the middle tables, a scoot round new releases and then the main shelves from Z to A (I like to go against the flow)

Whilst I understand the need for routines I do find many people’s routines just odd.   There is a woman who goes swimming every lunchtime. She’ll swim for half an hour, she then gets out, blow dries her hair and then has a shower. Surely that’s just the wrong way round? I imagine the older people get the more they hang on to their routines. After all if The Chopper (see here for explanation) didn’t stick to his routine, bodies would soon start piling up and the whole streets business could fold.

However surely people should change their routines when they are not working? Supermarket shopping for example. As someone who works full time the only options for me shopping for food is either to go at 6.30am as I did Monday, or to go on a Saturday. This is not my idea of fun but it’s a necessity. If I was retired however I’d never go shopping on a Saturday. I’d pick the quietest day I could find. For some reason though old people still clog up the aisles on a Saturday blocking the path whilst they debate the best tin of spam to buy.

The whole  thing just gets worse in the run up to Christmas. Christmas shopping is like torture to me. Everywhere you go there are shops belting out Christmas songs over the loud speakers, groups of idiots in Christmas jumpers pretending they are having a good time and old people dithering around in Waterstones doorway. There should be dedicated days for people to shop. Retired people on a Thursday, those who work Saturdays could shop on a Friday, normal people on a Saturday and then people who like to aimlessly browse the shops for no real purpose other than to waste time could go on a Sunday.

In fact this system could be extended out not just to shopping but all sorts of activities. Swimming is a good example, I like to go if possible before work. Yet this is one of the busiest times with old (older!) women who stand around blocking the hair dryers whilst discussing the latest round of golf they have played. Pubs is another idea. I like a nice quiet drink on an evening, not to be surrounded by screaming kids. I have no problem with well behaved children in a pub at 5 pm, but surely they should all be in bed by 8? No pub ever survived by purchases of fruit shoots alone.

I actually think I’ve hit on something here. A little change in everyone’s routines and then everyone would be happy. Plus it would make my journey to the crime section a lot easier without the doorway ditherers.

 

 

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A Christmas Tragedy

Its Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. A classic line sung first by Paul Young and then latterly on the much ignored Band Aid II by Kylie Minogue. However judging by my trip into town yesterday I would disagree and say there is much to be scared of, and not just the fact I seem to have been forced to listen to that song every time I’ve set foot inside a shop since mid September.

Never mind the fact that at this time of the year the world goes mad and suddenly everyone is buying up brandy snaps as though their life depended on it. There is another recently discovered scary issue around. Namely the tragedy that is the complete destruction of the humble colouring book. I braced the mad rush of final shoppers yesterday to try and find two colouring books for presents. A simple task you might think? Well you’d be wrong.

Firstly all I wanted was a normal standard picture book for young children to colour in. Just the normal colouring books I had as a child with pictures of dogs and cats and houses. I didn’t want stickers or activities or doodles (that must be the cleverest money making idea since the shampoo companies started putting the words rince and repeat on the bottles, just put some blank paper together, call it a doodle book on the cover and charge twenty times the cost of the paper)

Secondly and most scary of all, when did colouring become a gender specific activity? Everywhere I looked the only colouring books I could find were labelled either girls colouring books and were full of pictures of princesses and castles, or boys colouring books full of cars and tractors. Talk about pushing gender stereotyping. Why do simple activities such as colouring need to be ruined? I realise it is a money making scam and people will unconsciously fall for it. I also know that in the scheme of things it’s quite a minor issue but it really bugged me. It is as stupid as the pink lego thing (read about them here) Well it didn’t work on me, and I walked away without purchasing any of them.

I realise that people have to try and reinvent the wheel. Essentially that’s what crime writers do all the time. There are a finite number of ways to kill someone and also motives for doing so, yet writers are able to take this idea and revamp it thousands and thousands of times. That’s a good thing for someone like me, who wants to read this revamped idea over and over again. Yet surely this revamping wasn’t needed for colouring books, to a six year old a picture to colour is about the actual act of colouring rather than the picture itself. I don’t think they really care how it is packaged. I bought a gift for a friend’s daughter this weekend and she was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the actual gift. (It was very nice wrapping paper though) There is certainly no need to give children different pictures to colour depending on whether they are a boy or girl.

Anyway despite my mini strop with the woman in Waterstones who asked if I’d found everything I wanted. All is not lost and the receivers of the colouring books are not to miss out. Luckily the sister works for a large retail brand (in the interest of not advertising let’s just say, think of a posh pound shop where you can buy a full size dancing Father Christmas and you’ll know where I mean) and she saved the day with some nice general colouring books with no stickers or activities in sight. She can therefore now be known as the Sister who saved Christmas. Of course is she could also work out a way of banning shops from playing Christmas music before the 23rd December then she really would be a superhero.

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Lazy Bones

Happy New Year to all, I hope you have had a good festive break.

As always the start of another New Year brings with it the inevitable question of ‘What are your New Year’s resolutions?’ Personally I don’t make them, mainly as I don’t believe in them. Just because the year is one number higher, why does that suddenly mean you are going to stop being lazy and actually do the things you’ve talked about?

I’m a great procrastinator (at work anyway), and nowadays blame the internet. I suspect that there is a direct correlation between people who say they don’t have enough time to do things, and those who spend the most time surfing the net and playing on facebook. Maybe everyone should make a New Year’s resolution to go cold turkey and give up the internet one day a week for 2013. If we all did that, and then spent that time buying and reading books, we would make James Daunt and Waterstones very happy!

Apparently (well according to Wikipedia, the font of most of my knowledge) resolutions originally stem from the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Well that sounds like a silly resolution to me, returning all the books I’ve borrowed and accidently forgotten to give back would take me til 2015 to do.

Of course sometimes resolutions do have their place. Take the Hilda’s for example (for new readers this should explain them) Hilda1 is having teeth implants next week to straighten her wonky teeth. After this she is going full out for a makeover with a new hair style and some new clothes. Whilst Hilda2 was talking about going on holiday to somewhere snowy so she could go bottom boarding whatever that is. Never mind that 1 is in their 80s and 2 is in their 60s, its a new year and they are going do something. As  Du Plessis says in Wild at Heart ‘Its how you live your life, not how long you live it for that counts’ which the Hilda’s would obviously agree with (although they seem to be going for both how and how long).

Whilst I don’t do resolutions, I do like ‘to do’ lists which I suppose in a way are mini resolutions. Lists of things to do over the holiday, lists of housework that needs doing, lists of tv programmes I’d like to watch. My favourite list is my list of books to read, which is a list I’ve never yet completed. For every one I finish I usually add four more. Maybe I should make a New Year’s resolution to actually finish one reading list before starting another. But thats the thing with resolutions apparently 88% of them fail anyway, so why waste time making them!

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Christmas is Murder

Christmas is coming and I’m pleased to say that I have just completed all my Christmas shopping without even leaving the house! Absolutely the best and most worthwhile use of the internet in my opinion is the world of online shopping. No crowds, no rain and no carrying heavy bags on the bus. It is also the one time that being surrounded by the Hilda’s is actually useful as all deliveries go via them. Having recently been down to London and experienced the crowds at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, any chance to not have to fight through the shops is good with me! Winter Wonderland

Christmas is all about tradition and merriment apparently. The traditional drinking of alcohol from 11am, the traditional arguments over the turkey, the traditional lighting of the Christmas pudding, the traditional receiving of the Patricia Cornwell novel (that this year can’t be topped, as last year it was a gift to myself when I saw her in Harrogate so came complete with signature)

This year I have started a new tradition of my own. Thanks again to the wanders of the internet, I have bought a Christmas Tree. I’ve never had a real one before so am quite excited (although I’m sure I’ll soon get sick of needles in the carpet!) I would like to point out however to anyone who may be confused that it is a tree and not a shrub. In fact the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a tree is ‘woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk…bearing lateral branches’Christmas tree

So behold my Christmas Tree, and remember size isn’t important!

The other very good Christmas tradition is two weeks off work. This of course also gives me a reason to justify buying lots of books to read during the break. Having them delivered straight to the kindle even means I don’t have to interact with the Hildas! The latest book I’ve bought came from an exhibition I saw in London, Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men. The book is by Sarah Wise and called ‘The Italian Boy’. Apparently it reads like a ‘whodunnit’ but is a true story. The book tells the story of the notorious London Burkers who supplied corpses to medical schools in the 1800s which sounds fascinating.Best sign ever

My visit to the Museum of London also provided me with a chance to see what has to be the best christmas sign I’ve seen hung on the door of a Victorian Shop front. I wander if I can get one of these on the internet?

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Is it just me?

Now my dear reader chums (mdrc for short), the eagle eyed amongst you will notice that this is the first non crime related title of the blog. That’s because I’m taking a little, what I call, crime pitstop. Such fun!

I like to listen to audiobooks when walking places, its much easier than walking down the road reading a real book, very tricky. My latest was (as the sister and any one who watched her bbc show will no doubt have guessed from the blatent plagarism in the opening paragraph) Miranda Hart, ‘Is it just me?’ Well ‘mdrc’, no it is not just her, its me to!

In this book Miranda discusses a wide range of topics, including technology, beauty, office work and of course Christmas! The recent small market research poll I’ve conducted has shown that disappointingly the audience Miranda seems to currently appeal too is quite limited. Married couples just don’t get her, after all why would anyone actually enjoy being a whole person rather than one half of a couple? Mothers certainly wouldn’t find her funny. Unless they are what she calls a type three mother (which Miranda, for the record, in the highly unlikely event that you are actually reading my blog, I believe you have made up and do not exist. Types one and two are taking over the world one organic rice cake at a time!)

Miranda’s core audience is probably made up of single women over 30 – well that’s everyone elses loss. This was hilarious and in true Miranda style this book had me laughing out loud. Therefore this book has also had the added bonus of making my walk to work alot quieter as people have now taken to crossing the street with fear in their eyes when they see me. Anything to avoid the freaky women laughing to herself!

Ms Hart describes life in all its glorious cringeworthy nonsense. Take Christmas for example. As Miranda says at Christmas, suddenly everything has to be done to a timetable an army major would be proud of. Why is it that cooking what is essentially just called a Sunday lunch for the rest of the year, suddenly becomes the most stressful thing in the entire world. God forbid the lunch isn’t on the table by 12.30 precisely. The turkey went in at 4.30am so if the veg isn’t in at exactly 11.30 along with the potatoes then the whole thing will be ruined. Stating that you don’t want a brussel sprout thanks as you don’t like them would any other time of the year be absolutely fine. On Christmas day however this is construed as a direct attack on the quality of the food and can lead to a full tantrum punctuated with cries of ‘why did I bother cooking anything’ (I suspect this is due to them being overtired, after all they were up at 4.30am to put the turkey in)

Life is full of these little conundrums, and Miranda covers them all. Hobbies is another good example she uses. Some people do really have hobbies, however let’s be honest most adults when confronted with that question on a job application draw a blank. Out we drag reading, swimming and socialising. In other words, there is a copy of heat magazine next to the toilet, we will occasionally float in a pool on holiday and we go to the pub as often as possible.

Sometimes being a grown up is just so boring! Being sensible, paying bills, sitting in an office all day looking at a view of a drainpipe – all that stuff is not ‘such fun’. However, reading Miranda’s take on life is frankly liberating.  We all do stupid things, but actually it’s not the end of the world. How many times do we stop doing things (or never start) in case we look silly? I think we should all embrace our inner child and just not care. In fact I would go so far as to say that Miranda’s book should be made part of the national curriculum. We should all try just to make life a bit more fun. Miranda is a big advocate of galloping instead of plain walking, so if you want to gallop to work in a morning, then do it! There is high chance that you won’t see the people you pass ever again, and even if you do then in true British style no one is going to mention your galloping episode so get on with it. You might start a whole new craze.

This book was excellent. I think Miranda is one of the funniest comedians around at the moment, and that I suspect ‘mdrc’ is not just me!

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