Mince Pies and EggBlog

Well, it’s December, and that can mean only one thing – it is now acceptable to discuss Christmas.

I know some people begin getting all festive before the embers have fully died out on the bonfire, but for me you need to wait until midnight has ticked by on 30th November before you scoff that first mince pie, or even consider braving the loft to retrieve those decorations (which, incidentally, I am convinced I only shoved back up there about a month ago).

We all know Christmas is a magical time, particularly for the kids, but the real magic of Christmas, is that it is the one time of year when anything goes. You will eat, and drink, and behave like a totally different person from now until Boxing Day, all with one simple excuse – it’s Christmas. Christmas is like a month-long ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. In short, at Christmas time, the unacceptable suddenly becomes acceptable.

Here are seven examples of unacceptable Christmas behaviour, that no right-minded person would even contemplate at any other time of the year….

1. Fancy Dress

 

There are only two categories of adult human being who consider fancy dress as normal acceptable behaviour – actors, and the medically unstable.

Look, I am willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to Halloween, because I get that some parents will dress up for their kids, and I suppose the occasional stag/hen party is permissible, so long as they show some imagination (although, the last hen party I encountered – in Stockport – had clearly opted for the theme ‘drunken slags’), but for the remainder of the year fancy dress should be restricted to children only.

Not at Christmas though. Oh no. Once 1st December arrives, all bets are off, and you won’t make it through a twenty-four-hour period without encountering a Santa Claus, a ‘Mrs Santa’ (note for the ladies, not all of you can actually carry off a ‘sexy’ Mrs Santa outfit, so proceed with caution), a snowman or an elf.

I should know, because I hate fancy dress, but if you are reading this on the day of publication (Friday 7th December), then I am currently dressed like this for the Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘National Elf Day’ (which I’m pretty convinced my colleague made up, to make me look like a twat in front of clients):

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As you can see, I’m delighted about this. Ah well, it is Christmas, I suppose.

And I guess some festive fancy dress is ok…..

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2. Sprouts

No one in their right mind would consume these evil little balls of foulness at any other time of the year, so why do we allow them to infiltrate our dinner plates come Christmas? They smell of fart, they taste of fart, and they make you fart.

And, before you pipe up with ‘I honestly like them!’, no, you fucking don’t. You’re either lying to yourself (and the rest of us); or, worse, you honestly believe you like them, in which case you are a danger to society, and should be quarantined post-haste. See also: granola, kippers, olives (black and green).

Sprouts are awful, and disgusting, and my dinner plate come Christmas Day will be absolutely crawling with them. Because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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3. Christmas Songs

26th December to 30th November:

“Shall we put some Mariah Carey on?”

“Fuck off.”

 

1st December to 25th December:

“Shall we put some Mariah Carey on?”

“I-I-I DON’T WANT A LOT FOR CHRISTMAS, THERE IS JUST ONE THING I NEEEEEED!”

4. Breakfast

For eleven months of the year, I will hazard a guess that your daily breakfast consists of something like cereal, or toast, or fruit. Now and again, you may treat yourself to sausages, or bacon, or eggs – or even all of the above, in that most glorious of treats, the full English breakfast.

Then, December begins, and any sense of self-restraint goes straight out of the window. You will justify that third bacon sandwich of the week, because it’s nearly Christmas. You might even scoff a mince pie, or a chocolate bar, before the school run, because it’s nearly Christmas.

But this is nothing, and I do mean nothing, compared to Christmas Day itself. On Christmas Day, all sense of decency vanishes, and sheer, unadulterated gluttony takes over, as you devour an entire Terry’s Chocolate Orange, or half a tin of Quality Street (orange creme, thanks for asking) before 7am.

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Even at Easter, a religious holiday now seemingly devoted to chocolate (amazing how the chocolatiers – and, to a lesser extent, the bunny community – managed to wrangle control of that one), most sensible adults wouldn’t dream of scoffing every last bite of a giant Toberlone before sunrise, yet at Christmas we seemingly think nothing of it.

And, best of all, we get to wash it all down with…..

5. Weird Alcohol

Assuming you are not an alcoholic, then aside from Christmas, there are only two other occasions when drinking alcohol first thing in the morning is considered acceptable: when you are at an airport about to fly away on holiday, and on your wedding day (when the bride may have a glass of champagne with her Maid of Honour, and any bridesmaids of sufficient maturity, and the groom will neck something a little stronger, to numb the pain of the horrible mistake he is about to make*).

*joke, dear.

However, it is not the timing of the alcohol consumption which really worries me about Christmas, it’s what we drink. For example, at no other point throughout the year, would I even entertain the notion of sipping a glass of sherry of an evening, but I can easily clear a bottle by myself during Christmas week alone.

Look, I know it’s not a manly drink in the slightest, but I don’t think downing a litre of Harvey’s Bristol Cream in the last week of the year is going to make me seem any camper than I already am, so I’m not overly concerned.

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Then, ladies and gentlemen, we have eggnog. What in the name of all things sacred is eggnog? And don’t say ‘Advocaat’, because we both know full well you haven’t got a fucking clue what that is either. You can’t explain one mysterious drink with another mysterious drink.

Even the name concerns me, because no alcoholic beverage should ever feature the word ‘egg’ (or, for that matter, the word ‘nog’). A nog, for those unaware, is a small block of wood. Nowhere else in the off licence would we accept a drink with a name formed from a dairy product and a small block of wood. Anyone fancy a quick cheese-peg or cream-wedge? No, didn’t think so.

And don’t even get me started on mulled wine.

6. Rubbish TV

I don’t watch soap operas, apart from with my mother-in-law at Christmas. I don’t tend to watch reality shows, except at Christmas. And even though I don’t mind the Queen, if someone offered me the option of watching a woman in her 90s give a meaningless speech in June, or July, or even on any other day in December, I’d politely decline or make up an excuse not to.

But this is Christmas, and so help me God I need to find out who shot so-and-so on Corrie.

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7. Christmas Shopping

Christmas has been almost entirely commercialised, whether you agree with that or not, but for someone who has never been a huge fan of shopping anyway, schlepping around stores looking for gifts at the same time as the rest of the country is not my idea of fun. In fact, I would far sooner drizzle my gentleman’s area with honey, then dangle it in front of a bear’s face.

Yet people seem to tolerate, no, love, pushing their way from one shop to the next in the build up to Christmas, fighting to grab those last minute gifts for relatives you don’t even like, and won’t see again until the same time next year (if any of my relatives are reading this, I don’t me you, obviously).

Even my wife, who treats Christmas shopping as her all-time favourite sport, and who once spent three days in the Trafford Centre buying gifts (honestly, we had to set up a ‘base camp’ outside Clintons), now avoids the place once December starts. It’s ridiculous. The Trafford Centre is so vast that it is twinned with Luxembourg, but if you visit on a Saturday throughout December, you won’t find a spare parking space among the 47,000 available if you don’t arrive before 9am.

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No, I much prefer to do my Christmas shopping in my underwear*, and since the Trafford Centre kicked me out the last time I tried it there, I now purchase nearly all of my gifts online. Not that I have many to buy, as my wife takes control of purchasing for most of our family.

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Of course, nowadays we also have the ‘Christmas Markets’ to contend with, where cities and towns have taken the concept of crowded shopping, and moved it outdoors into the freezing cold.

Never mind, at least we can all stay warm with a steaming cup of disgusting hot wine.

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Thanks for reading x

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The Good, The Blog and the Ugly

Over the last month or so, I have had three very different retail experiences.

The Good

As I revealed in entry #65 (‘Blog. Blog. Need. Blog’), Ollie is currently collecting Euro 2016 stickers, and we are using this to reward good behaviour.

Sadly, such is my addiction to collecting the stickers with him – which I pathetically disguise by pretending the obsession is his – he is now being rewarded for the most trivial of reasons: eating most of his dinner, going to bed without screaming, and putting his dirty clothes in the wash basket, to name but three. The thing is, if we had stuck to our initial promise of only rewarding him for exceptional achievements at school, or impeccable behaviour when visiting family and friends, he’d still be stuck with half the Albanian side, a random Ukrainian no one has heard of, and three swaps of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Even with this extremely lenient rewards policy, Ollie is still struggling to complete his book (simply because there are so many stickers to collect), and he is desperate to ‘do swaps’ with as many friends as possible.

This is where WH Smith (sort of) came to the rescue.

Every Saturday afternoon, they have started doing a ‘Euro 2016 Swap Shop’, where kids (or, more accurately, Dads who pretend it’s for their kids), can pop along for an hour or so and swap stickers.

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This has been running for a few weeks, but it wasn’t until last Saturday that we were finally able to attend.

Ollie had been to a birthday party, and didn’t get home until just after half 1, so we dashed into town to try and catch the end of the meet – which was due to finish at 2pm. I did warn Ollie that there might be no one there by the time we arrived, but he was so eager to make some new friends – and hopefully complete the England squad – that he didn’t listen.

Sure enough, we arrived with around ten minutes to go, and the ‘Swap Stand’ at the front of the store was deserted. Ollie’s little face crumbled, and my heart went out to him. I tried to reassure him that someone might still turn up before 2pm, and we could have a wander around the store in the meantime, but the look on the shop assistant’s face told me that he didn’t hold much hope.

He then took me to one side and admitted that, not only had no one turned up at all, but this was the third week they had run the event and they still hadn’t had a single participant. In short, Ollie’s chances of making some new friends and swapping stickers were virtually zero.

I let him browse around the shop for a bit, glancing back to the stand every now and then in the hope of spotting someone, but 2pm came and went, and I had to accept it wasn’t going to happen, so I started to break the news that we would have to leave.

Then, just as his bottom lip began to wobble, the young shop assistant came over and explained that he had spoken with his manager, and she had let him open two packs himself, so that he could swap with Ollie.

Not only did this entirely unnecessary act save the day, but the lad managed to open a packet with one of only three England players that Ollie still needed (Chris Smalling), so within a few minutes Ollie had gone from despair to elation.

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It doesn’t matter that I then repaid their kindness by purchasing a few more packets by way of thanks. What matters is that, even in a big national chain, there are still people who would do something like that to make a little boy’s day.

Take a bow, WH Smith.

The Bad

If WH Smith can take a bow, then Argos can keep bending all the way over and turn around, so that their arse is primed for a damn good kicking.

We have been trying to find a suitable sofa bed for our spare room for ages, partly so that we can invite guests to stay overnight, but mostly because it means I don’t have to sleep on the sofa when I get into trouble (joke – she makes me sleep in the dog’s basket).

Then, a few months ago, we eventually found what we wanted on Argos’ website, and ordered one for home delivery. Look, I know Argos’ furniture isn’t fancy, and we could have spent more elsewhere to get better quality, but it’s only for the guest room (and for when I’ve been banished), so we were more than happy with our purchase. We even managed to time the delivery for when her parents were coming to stay at Easter.

As is often the way with Argos, unless you want to pay extra (and I think we have already established that we didn’t), the span of the delivery slot is ludicrous. They might as well just say it will be ‘at some point between midnight and midnight’. I’m not even exaggerating. As far as I am concerned, the only time you should ever be expected to get up that early, is on Christmas morning or if you are going on holiday, and the only time you should ever be up that late, is on New Year’s Eve or if you happen to fancy watching The Super Bowl one year.

There is only one thing more annoying than waiting in all day for a delivery, and that is waiting in all day for a delivery that doesn’t bloody show up. When it finally got to the point where I felt Argos were taking the piss more than they already had, I contacted their delivery centre to be told ‘Oh, yes, we had to cancel the delivery because we didn’t have any in stock. Did we not tell you?’

When my initial rage had partially subsided, I took a deep breath and mentally narrowed down my response:

  1. My first thought, was that I could explain which of his body parts I would remove and mail to his family if I ever caught him;
  2. Since it wasn’t really his fault, and since I had no imminent plans to visit whichever country his call centre was based in, I could instead describe what vengeance I would personally bring upon Argos’ headquarters;
  3. Realising I had no idea where their headquarters were, but since it was probably down South somewhere, and I couldn’t be arsed travelling, I could alternatively outline what damage I planned to do to their Crewe store;
  4. Remembering that their Crewe store already looks like it has been ram-raided / blown up / closed down anyway, and since I am after all British, I could put my anger and frustration into a strongly worded e-mail to their complaints team. Yes, I would do that, just as soon as I put the phone down on this muppet. That’d bloody show ’em.

So, having explained precisely how nasty my e-mail to his company would be, (and in doing so realising that his accent might in hindsight have been Welsh, but it was too late to reconsider my vengeful destruction plot now), I took great pleasure in slamming the phone down. Well, I would have, but our home phone is hands free – so I had to press the red button really, really hard instead.

That’s right, Argos, don’t fuck with me.

Within the next few days, I sent an e-mail to Argos of such venom, that I briefly felt remorse for the recipient. It was so hostile, there should have been a requirement for two people to hit ‘send’ simultaneously, like when the President orders a missile strike in 24.  I even used the phrase ‘I am extremely disappointed in you’.

Clearly my words had the intended effect, as not three weeks later, I received a heartfelt automated apology from their complaints department, with the promise of a, wait for it, £20 gift card. The consumer wins!

Naturally I didn’t mind the three further e-mails that I had to send over the next month, to ask where this gift card might have got to (suggesting at one point that it was perhaps glued to the bottom of our elusive sofa bed), because I had claimed the moral victory and, better still, the bed was back in stock and at a reduced price.

Without learning our lesson, and blindly believing Argos would have taken steps to ensure such a colossal error would never happen again, we re-ordered the bed and paid extra for a delivery slot in the evening, so that we wouldn’t be restricted to my wife’s day off work.

Needless to say, that re-arranged delivery date has also come and gone, and our spare room remains very much bed-less, although at least this time Argos did have the decency to warn us in advance that it was still out of stock. Seemingly, despite it being of comparatively low value, our sofa bed is being handcrafted by Tibetan monks, and will be delivered to the UK on some kind of bespoke yacht.

As a final twist of the knife, within a few days of our new delivery date passing us by, I got an e-mail from Argos asking if I would like to review my recent purchase.

Even though I was fuming with anger, I still extended the courtesy of composing a review for their website, but apparently ‘unless it’s fucking invisible, you dozy bastards still haven’t sent us one, have you?’ is in breach of one of more of their review guidelines. Shame.

The Ugly

Not strictly ‘ugly’, so much as ‘laughably insulting’ (but the title ‘The Good, The Blog and the Laughably Insulting’ wouldn’t have worked as well), is a recent encounter I had with supermarket giant, Tesco.

I am well aware that Tesco have their critics, partly because they seem to be taking over the small part of the world that China don’t currently have their sights on, but I happen to rate them, their products, and (generally speaking) their home delivery service.

Not only does it work out cheaper – and considerably less stressful – than driving to their nearest store in Crewe, but they do a far better job than I ever could of remembering what stuff we like to buy. So, as long as I stick to the ‘Favourites’ section on their site, perhaps adding in a few extra items here and there, not only does it narrow down my shopping and make the whole process quicker, but I can’t browse, and it therefore saves me from overspending on unnecessary snacks.

I have also found their ‘if you like that, you might like this’ suggestions to be rather helpful in the past too – and considerably more accurate than the equivalent tool on iTunes (“If you like Def Leppard, you might also like The Pussycat Dolls”).

That is, until about two weeks ago. I was happily completing our weekly shop, when I noticed the ‘Favourites’ section was not only suggesting items we hadn’t bought for ages, but items we only purchased once.

Then, to make matters worse, it was using those rarely bought items to suggest entirely inappropriate substitutes, and I realised Tesco were trying to tell me something.

It started with ‘Sorry, we’re currently out of Haribo Jumbo Halloween Bag (no shit) but you could substitute this with….. carrots.’

Excuse me, what?

Then, on the next page, ‘We notice you have previously bought KitKat Chunky 4 Pack. You might also like….. cucumber.’

Ok, Tesco, I get the message, I’ve put on a bit of timber.

How fucking rude. And ugly.

 

 

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