BE PART OF THE CHRISTMAS REVOLUTION!

I had an extraordinary response to my \”Christmas Bloody Christmas\” post from my local network – Network Cornwall – with most people agreeing that the problem with Christmas isn\’t Christmas. 
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The problem with Christmas is starting it in August so there\’s a four month build up. No festival could possibly stand so much hype. Spending a third of the year on it is not only crazy, it makes the whole thing a boring nag.
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I totally understand that businesses need to start thinking and planning for it well in advance as so much of their profit rides on a good Christmas. That\’s fine. What I don\’t want to do is any of MY organising that far in advance. And I won\’t be nagged.
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My only Christmas planning is simple: I set up a Christmas savings account every January and put money in by banker\’s order every month so I don\’t have to pay through the nose to finance it on credit cards. I can\’t tell you how much easier that makes the whole thing. But that\’s it. I will not buy presents or cards or food until the end of November.
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Nor do I want to see or hear any of the following until the 1st December:
• Tinsel or Christmas decorations in shops
• Christmas trees anywhere, decorated or not
• Christmas menus anywhere
• Adverts for Christmas presents
• Father Christmas/Santa Claus in any form
• The Snowman theme tune
• Christmas lights in towns or gardens
• Countdowns in shopping days that are higher than 25
• Christmas carols
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This is the Christmas Revolution: simply ignore anywhere that does premature festivity: don\’t buy their stuff and don\’t use them. Refuse to be bullied into jollity before December and tell them why.
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We don\’t have to take this nonsense. Together we can put Christmas back where it belongs – in December.

WHY THERE WILL BE BOOKSHOPS ON THE MOON

\”Bransonville, dateline 29 August 2061

Yes – anthr bookshp is opnin on de Moon. Lol 2 evry1 who sed bookshps wer finished with the new cranial plug-ins! Trad books in retro ereaders – u cn even get fizzical hardcopies wiv de best Moon-grown coffee u eva tasted…\”
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My #2 son refuses to pay for movies or music – but he\’ll spend his own money on smart beautifully produced hardbacks and graphic novels and on massive fantasy novels like George RR Martin\’s Game of Thrones series. Luckily we have a wonderful Waterstones in the centre of Truro with a Costa coffee shop which is evidently the only place to hang out. He\’s not even put off by the fact that I\’m constantly in there, reading the books (and buying far more than I actually have space for), writing and drinking coffee.
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Bookshops have only really been with us since the 16th century and the invention of printing – now they\’re becoming what monasteries were in the Dark Ages. They are bastions of civilization, places where people who read can meet each other, social hubs, temples of literacy.
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HMV were mad to sell the Waterstones chain but it\’s probably just as well they did. I was relieved at the news that Waterstones had been bought for a bargain £53 million by the Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut and delighted when he appointed the inspiring bookseller James Daunt of Daunt Books to run it.
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TV was supposed to kill off theatre and live music – instead they\’re thriving and it\’s TV that\’s in trouble. Huge corporate publishers will probably go bust, books might change physically, genres will come and go and new ones will emerge. Nothing (not even a cranial plug-in) can give the emotional immersion of a really good book. But for all the wonders of Internet shopping, we still want something to hold, we still want to browse and we still need people who can listen to our feeble burblings about this really great book with a yellow cover and find it for us. 
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That\’s why there will be bookshops on the Moon.

Christmas Bloody Christmas

I love Christmas. Really I do. What I hate is the four to five month build-up, starting in August. I know all the business reasons for this, with everyone trying to get in before everyone else and feeling they have to get it all sorted in summer. It\’s the same sort of lunacy that has shops doing Back To School offers before the poor kids have even broken up for the summer (and only lunatics buy kids their school uniform before the summer holidays when they\’re liable to grow an inch or three).
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It was great in Spain. There Christmas starts with a bang on the first of December and stops with los Reyes Magos on the 6th of January. It\’s fun and exciting and the tinsel doesn\’t have time to get tired and grubby and the kids don\’t get so wound up about all the stuff they want that they can\’t think straight.

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Yes, of course, I delete all the premature Christmas stuff, noting the companies that are the worst offenders to make sure I don\’t make the mistake of doing business with them.I do nothing about Christmas until the end of November.
Then from 1st December to 6th January I really enjoy it all – Christmas pud, tinsel, silly TV, daft presents, Christmas carols, the lot. Try it some time. You might like it.

COWBOYS AND ALIENS

Cowboys and Aliens is probably the most honest film title ever. It does exactly what it says on the high-concept tin. You have cowboys. A good assortment of honest ornery townfolk, rough but good-hearted cattle baron (step forth, Harrison Ford, with the cutest grin in the West still up and running), deadly stranger with a past he can\’t remember and a price on his head (yes, you, Craig, Daniel Craig), honest Injuns – sorry, Native Americans – and some outlaws and …er…
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You have aliens. Wicked ones, looking for gold. In a great big rocket ship.
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And basically that\’s it. You know what\’s going to happen, who the other characters are and how many times there will be lots of shooting. No surprises whatever in the plot and all these hard-bitten guys with experience in the Civil War make exactly the sort of dumb basic tactical errors that any soft wet film director would make so as to get some dramatic action.
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I mean, I wouldn\’t gallop a tightly bunched force of men right into a ravine without checking for ambushes and I\’m not even a hard-bitten cattle baron with experience of war. But never mind.
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Nobody goes to a movie called Cowboys and Aliens expecting great art and they won\’t get it – but it does what it says on the tin and it\’s silly fun while it lasts. And Harrison Ford\’s grin is still an awful lot cuter than Craig\’s.

VICTORY (ISH)

Unlike most of my plans, this one worked like clockwork. Sons #1 and #2 were incredibly helpful and willing; Maisie the cat was captured in record time and Holly the dog was co-operative; nothing broke down; the entire house was sprayed and powdered and vacuumed… We even managed to take the pet bedding to the launderette for complete cleaning and Maisie to City Road Vets for a check up.
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And as she trotted around the examination room inspecting things and disapproving of the door to the dog pens, she was complimented on what a fit old lady of fifteen she is. This is not unconnected to my brutal attitude to her diet which is in her (considered) opinion utterly inadequate, but in the vet\’s (callous and uncaring) view, perfect for keeping her slim.
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She likes being in the car, so long as we lift the lid on the kitty-carrier so she can watch through the windscreen as we chase other cars excitingly along the road. In the days when we still had her son Muskie and only the one kitty carrier, he used to have to go in it. From there he would make the most appalling continuous air-raid siren noises. My daughter carried Maisie in her arms where she used to sit, quite relaxed, enjoying the ride.
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That is until Muskie\’s wailing annoyed her too much, at which point she would hiss and try and whack him with her paws through the sides of the carrier. This was a little too exciting so we didn\’t do it very often.
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Once she got herself out of the kitty carrier on a motorway and went for an explore around the car before draping herself across the back shelf so she could sneer at the cars behind us. Thank God we didn\’t pass any police-cars before we could find a service station to stop at and put her back.
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Oh the fleas? Ah yes, the fleas. Well, like certain insurgents they\’re jolly hard to kill. Yes, we\’ve still got a few. I\’m working on it, OK?

FLEA DAY

Plan of Campaign.

07.00 hrs. Reveille. Ablutions, all troops. Yes, that includes you.
07.30 hrs Breakfast. Cereal.
07.45 hrs Canine PT plus elimination exercise. OCC to direct. Kit: plastic bag.
08.00 hrs Canine breakfast. Feline breakfast.
08.10 hrs Feline detention in Cat Holding Pen. Kit: cat basket. Full First Aid Kit. Warning: do not think about this in advance or cat will be alerted and will disappear.
09.00 hrs Immediately upon cat being finally incarcerated in basket, cat removed to car. Dog ambulation by #1 son. Removal of all bee-related items to car, including two supers with frames currently stored in Provision Preparation Area (kitchen)
09.30 hrs Removal of and laundering of canine bedding. Human bedding removed to laundry basket. Vacuuming of human mattresses.
Spraying, powdering of Flea Central and Secondary Flea Area (Cat\’s Bedrooms nos. 1 and 2 a.k.a Mother\’s Bedroom and #2 Son\’s bedroom.)
Spraying, powdering of Tertiary Flea Area (Living Room.)
10.00 hrs. All personnel to evacuate area.
11.00 hrs. Return of OCC to vacuum all now Flea-free areas.
12.00 hrs. Dotting of Frontline on canine and feline neck-areas, despite protestations from cat\’s newly hired lawyers.
12.30 hrs. Re-entry.

ON BEING A SLOB 3

Is it depraved and disgusting to enjoy cracking fleas?
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We\’re counting down to Flea Day on Friday when house, bedding and animals have to be simultaneously dosed with ghastly insecticides so the little bastards have no place to go and so keel over and DIE. After you do the spraying and the powdering, you then have to get the animals out of the house for an hour and dot them with Frontline. After a quick visit to A&E to deal with the cat-clawing, you then have to go back in the house and hoover it all up before the animals come in again. It\’s a major operation.
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In the meantime, of course, poor Maisie still has fleas (so has the dog, of course, but she doesn\’t seem to care.) It\’s not good for her to dose too often with anti-flea stuff. Maisie sits on my windowsill, grooms and scratches and stares at me and then she miaows in a particularly annoying and insistent way. It\’s quite different from her \”Feed me now, I\’m a lickle itty-bitty kitten about to expire of starvation!\” miaow which has a very pathetic croak in it. It\’s more an \”Oi! Groom me, you stupid ape!\” kind of shout.
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Unfortunately, Maisie does not approve of the electric flea zapper comb which will obviously kill her dead if she lets it near her. So  being a well-trained cat-servant, I groom her with a nit comb. Maisie loves this and purrs like a revving motorbike. It  takes a lot of dexterity because as the little bastards get caught in the teeth of the comb you have to quickly crack them against the comb with your thumbnail. 
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This particular bloodsport is both revolting and strangely satisfying. There\’s the skill involved in catching them before they jump back on the cat, but it\’s the loud \”pop\” when you get them good that does it for me.
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Is it calling to my inner primate…? My distant ancestors who whiled away the jungle hours cracking each others\’ parasites? Probably.
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And it reminds me of something… Can our instinct for flea-cracking explain the mysterious allure of popping bubble-wrap for stress-relief?

ON BEING A SLOB 2

Here are some handy excuses for the state of my house.
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1. I broke my arm three months ago and couldn\’t do any washing up or hoovering. Or tidying. No, honest, I couldn\’t. The surgeon said so.
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2. The hoover wasn\’t working. Well, the plug wasn\’t working. I fixed it. Then the plug broke again. It\’s a splendid Numatic Henry Hoover, by the way, which is fine now I\’ve got round to fixing the plug again. At least I have good kit.
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3. I have one fifteen year old son and one 21 year old son. Nuff said. Yes, I know it\’s my fault for not training them properly. But how can I train them when I\’m so rotten at tidying myself?
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4. I have a very serious £150 a month book habit, mostly bought from Waterstones in Truro. We are currently very very overbooked. I might count them. I have now found the last remaining bit of wall to put a bookshelf against. After that… well… I don\’t know. No, don\’t be ridiculous, I can\’t possibly stop buying books. And although I had great hopes of Kindle, the black/white-page-change flicker would give me a migraine.
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5. My house just silts up with stuff. And paper. And newspapers. And magazines. And notebooks and photocopies and… I don\’t know why it does this. My mother-in-law\’s house never does.
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6. I think stuff follows me home, that\’s what I think.

ON BEING A SLOB

Try this pop-quiz I just made up to see if you\’re a slob too.
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You find an open magazine lying on the bathroom floor. What do you do?
a) This is impossible. I have no time to read magazines because I spend so much time cleaning, dusting and washing my hands. Like books, magazines are evil dust-collecters and are banned.
b) This is impossible. All magazines remain in my faux-leather fake book special magazine holder in the living room until they are recycled at the end of the week.
c) I pick it up, put it in the correct place for it and shout at the person who left it there.
d) I read it.
e) Which magazine did you mean?
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Congratulations. If you ticked (d) or (e), you too are a slob.
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I\’ve always thought that slobs and tidies* have differently wired brains. I\’ve watched the tidies I know with great interest and I\’ve noticed that they always see the start of mess. They spot that magazine in the loo and they find the stray mug behind the sofa. More importantly, they then do something about it.
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I don\’t. I really don\’t see it. Tidies won\’t believe this because they think the whole world is wired the same way as them which is why there\’s a word like slob for people like me but no word for people who go round tidying and cleaning and get nervous if there\’s a picture hanging crooked.
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I\’ll notice the magazine on the bathroom floor when the pile is interfering with me getting to the loo and probably not before.
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Obviously this means that my house is usually in a mess. Normally it\’s not too dirty though. But at the moment it has got so filthy, that even I have become uncomfortable and the cat is insisting I do something about the fleas (I will give excuses for this disgusting state of affairs tomorrow).
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The trouble is, I know that means a solid week of work to get the place sorted out and cleaned and while I don\’t mind cleaning at all, I absolutely loathe, hate and detest tidying. It makes me feel sick with boredom and the resulting tidy room makes me feel anxious and crabby.
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I blame my different wiring. I am differently organised. Yes. That\’s my excuse. There should probably be a treatment program or something.
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[a tidy, pl. tidies, n. – someone who enjoys tidying and organising and whose house is always tidy. When reading Feng Shui articles they have to ask, \”What is clutter?\” Finney Lexical Expansion Service.]

BEE DEMOCRATIC

I\’ve been enthralled by a wonderful book about bees – this one is called \”Honeybee Democracy\” by Thomas D. Seeley. It\’s beautifully produced, beautifully written and tells the story of how a colony of bees swarms and finds a new place to live. Not only does he tell the story – he also explains how he knows. The book gives the painstaking scientific background to a fully formed scientific statement. When he says what kind of hollow tree bees prefer, he knows because he\’s checked. I admit his explanation is hard to read because it involved poisoning bees with cyanide. That was back in the heedless 1970s though. I think Seeley would do it differently today.
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You don\’t need to be interested in bees to be amazed by the story of how a swarm of bees effectively vote on where they\’re going to live – politicians and historians might find insight into ways a large group can come to a decision as fairly and efficiently as possible.
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The only criticisms I can think of are the cost of the book (it\’s gone down since I last checked) and the fact that being a large hardback makes it difficult to read in bed – for goodness\’ sake, will somebody please publish Seeley\’s work in paperback?