Sunday looking nothing like a day of rest in Bristol’s Cabot Circus shopping area this afternoon. It was rammed with thousands of unsmiling shoppers traipsing round one of the most boring places on earth. Endless ‘designer’ shops with the occasional up and downmarket restaurants in between were not built with me in mind.
I am unable to compare Cabot Circus today, with a few weeks to go before Christmas, with how it is normally. I do not know if it is always quite that joyless but I’d understand it if it is.
Shopping, whether buying stuff or looking at stuff, is not my idea of fun. I usually end up buying something I don’t need for myself or I buy something as a Christmas gift for someone that they don’t really want.
Cabot Circus is large and modern and very middle class in its clientele. It’s older brother, Broadmead, is large but very working class in its clientele. And the difference leaving one to go to the other can be measured in the businesses. Granted there is the odd KFC in the Circus, but mainly it’s the trendy names like Giraffe and Coal that are supposed to tempt your pallet. By contrast, the first thing you see on leaving the Circus is Greggs. And Greggs, which I occasionally frequent when I am in desperate need of a pasty (it happens) provides me with wonderment. So many of its customers multitask on an heroic level, simultaneously imbibing the pasty and smoking a cigarette. I wouldn’t like to try it but it takes some doing.
From River Island we now pass BetFred, sundry charity shops and of course Sports Direct. I am not being snobby about it because I am a Sports Direct user out of financial necessity, like most of its customers, and doubtless all its zero-hour employees who boost Mike Ashley’s profits in return for the minimum wage. What a man!
The new tradition in town is now the German Market where you can purchase tons of German trinkets and tat, as well as industrial sized sausages and heart attack inducing confectionary. Oh, and an authentic German pop up bar which sells large containers full of lagers with names like Schlussmeister- as German as cricket itself and only £4 a pint. Lovely.
And there is the spirit of Christmas. Little or no reference to the Pagan festivals which led to Christmas but plenty of the traditions, mostly German, which provide the Christmas we enjoy today. There is the odd reference to the alleged Jesus of Nazareth here and there but Christmas bares little reference to religion. Did it ever? But for non believers like me, Christmas has a lot to offer.
I like the fact that most things grind to a halt after a hectic month of overspending and over-imbibing. You can spend even more time drinking far too much and eating too much, as well as spending precious time watching TV and even talking to loved ones. Above all, I like not being at work.
It seems to me that the same people who moan about the loss of the spirit of Christmas are largely the same ones who cram the shops, either in town or in Cyberspace, and live the material Christmas rather than the spiritual one. I doubt that all of those who filled the car parks and filled the baskets in Marks and Sparks are card-carrying atheists yet were still happy to take the family shopping on God’s Day Of Rest.
I’m not sure that Jesus ever existed but I am quite happy to have a winter holiday on the day that was chosen hundreds of years after his death to be his birthday. I am not bothered as to whether he was born in a manger or a cave, I don’t really care that the the exchange of presents, Christmas trees, the turkey, Christmas cards have any religious connections but they are all nice things.
So I say to everyone, Merry Christmas because whilst it’s not the best time of the year – the best time is when it’s warm – it’s still pretty good.
And if you have a god, then why not celebrate him too? Whatever floats your boat. Have a drink, have a good time now. Welcome to paradise.