Just wanna punch the f***ing radio. Put my fist right through the mesh covered speaker. Just wanna thrust my fist in so deep like I’m going to smash it right into the DJ’s face. His gleeful, ersatz American, FM jock voice, drooling on about the end of the summer holidays. The last Sunday of summer. The first day of September. Back to work, back to school back to everything you went away to leave behind. Back to radio DJ wankers who tell you that we’ve started on the long, hard road to Christmas.
Last day of summer. Got to get up, get out, hit the road, do something. Enjoy the last rays of sun before the dark nights set in and we all start stringing up Christmas lights. I will admit though, that I have started my festive preparations. During my brief visit to London in early August, I bought my Christmas cards from the recently opened « Christmas Shop » in a leading West End department store.
« Isn’t it depressing working here? » I asked the sales assistant – Christmas everyday from the sizzling heart of summer right through to the damp anti-climax of the festive season.
« I love it » replies the young man. « I come to work and it’s Christmas everyday. »
Buying Christmas cards in early August might just seem a little extreme, but they are good cards and I won’t be back in England much before next spring.
What about French Christmas cards?
What we take for granted doesn’t always exist elsewhere. It’s only in the last few years that Christmas cards have started to appear in French stores. They are expensive though – one French card for the price that you’d pay for a whole box of cheap cards back in Blighty.
So my cards are sitting safe, awaiting the festive season
But, the road to Christmas is long. Even in retail terms, there are plenty other moneymaking opportunities before December.
A trip down to the local hypermarket. The place is heaving with fraught parents and bored kids buying all the necessary « kit » for the new school year. Up until a few years back, kids were supposed to supply all their school supplies, even the textbooks. Nowadays though it is just pens, paper and pencils, though paper is not just paper and pens are not just pens. The math teacher wants squared paper. The French teacher wants lined paper; the music teacher wants lines, staves and triple clefs. The art teacher wants 160 gramme for drawing, 250 gramme for watercolour and brushes and paints and …
Most schools put a long list of the required kit on their websites. Subject by subject, the items change depending on the requirements of the teacher. Not to worry though, we are used to this « back to school » madness. There is plenty of cheap stationary crammed into the supermarket shelves and for those families that can’t afford it, the government hand out « back to school allowances » to get the kids equipped.
It’s been « back to school » down the local hypermarket since way back before the holidays even started. And when the nation’s 12 million school kids and 800,000 teachers have finally crawled back to the classroom, the hypermarket will tear down the « back to school » displays for the next big commercial event « la foire au vins » or the wine fair.
In vineyards all over France, the grape harvest had begun and to commercially coincide with this event, supermarkets and hypermarkets all over France will be having their annual wine fairs. Shelves and aisles piled high with bottles of vintage vino – good quality plonk tat punters will buy by the crate load to renew their wine cellars. The wine fairs are good affairs, because not only you can get wines you never see on the supermarket shelves, BUT, you also get a chance to taste a few. Go to your local store and get blitzed for free on good booze while you do your shopping. It does happen. There are those shoppers who get a little OTT.
Come late September, the last bottles of wine are sold up, shipped out, drunk, and cleared away, freeing up space for the Halloween display. From Dracula costumes through Jack O’ Lantern kits and even Halloween beer. Yes, we get all the same rubbish you do.
And then in late October, to coincide with the half term holidays, it’s the Toy Fair that lasts until early December. Get in quick folks, you actually don’t have until Christmas to get your Christmas presents, because come mid December, the toys will be cleared away, leaving empty aisles to be filled with festive food.
Yeah, I suppose Christmas isn’t so far off. (and even if the DJ was right, his eighties, FM velvet voice still makes me want to hit him)