Monday, December 1, 2014

Black Friday? Cyber Monday? Count me out!

How the Daily Mail reported "Black Friday frenzy"

[First printed in The Journal, Monday 1st December 2014]

It’s taken a while but yesterday morning we had a breakthrough: Izzy is swimming backwards. 

Lying like a tiny turtle on her back, she first flapped one arm like a propeller, which caused her to go in little circles while gradually sinking beneath the surface; then, gingerly, she introduced the second, till both arms were beating the water like a sealion’s flippers. To be accurate, it looked more backflap than backstroke, but she eventually got the hang of it and was soon storming around the deep end bumping into all the other pupils. 

After 55 years of swimming, I’ve never worked out how to see where I’m going when doing backstroke, so I doubt Izzy ever will. But I guess this is progress of sorts. Her teacher was so pleased, he gave her a badge and promoted her to the school’s “Crab” class, while presenting me with a bill for next term’s lessons, where he promises me he’ll begin to teach her to go forwards. 

“But surely crabs go sideways, not backwards?” I protested, but Juan, who is Spanish, pretended to not understand. It’s a profitable business, this swimming school.

As I watched my 5-year-old's prowess I thought: what a shame the entire world can’t go backwards for a while. Things are moving on so quickly, it would be nice to relax and enjoy the view of where we’ve come from. 

I rather fancy a week or two of life in the era before the coalition, or the recession, or Gordon Brown, or even Margaret Thatcher. A world in which people bought, rather than downloaded, their newspapers, and when there were local programmes on ITV. A world in which trains had restaurant cars even though they invariably ran late, and when you could drive to Devon in three hours because there were no traffic jams. A world of Carly Simon and James Taylor…oh, maybe I’ve become nostalgic by watching too much BBC Four, or I’m becoming an old reactionary, like my colleague Keith Hann, but right now I’ve a hankering for a little stability in this turbulent world. 

It would be nice if we could remember what we’re leaving behind as we storm towards the abyss. Maybe this feeling is down to my one-man rebellion against the latest fad, Black Friday. This was the day on which I managed, defiantly, to purchase absolutely nothing at all. Take that, John Lewis! 

This American-led intrusion into our November (as if the next month isn’t going to be expensive enough without my trying to buy a load of extra televisions and gadgets in a riot) makes no sense at all. For a start, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Well, I do, because my wife is American, but generally the United Kingdom doesn’t take the last Thursday in November off to eat turkey and be thankful for the harvest. 

That’s the only reason Black Friday started – because Americans decided that the Thursday public holiday left a Friday void. So, rather than going to work with a hangover, everyone took Friday off as well and, having nothing better to do with their time other than watching The Price Is Right and Oprah, they all went off to raid the shopping malls. Soon it became an American version of our Boxing Day. 

That’s how it began, but what’s it got to do with us? Recently American-owned companies like Asda and Amazon began to wonder if the British might be so gullible as to accept Black Friday without the excuse or the hassle of Thanksgiving itself. Surely no sensible Brit would fall for an American ploy to make them spend a fortune on two Boxing Days rather than one, would they? 

Oh yes they would. This weekend millions of suckers fell like lemmings into the arms of the marketeers, adding billions to our pool of personal debt. Nice one, America. 

But not me, oh no. I may be paddling backwards, but I’m definitely not swimming down that particular shipping lane. Even if the shipping is free. 

Me? Having ignored Black Friday, now I’m ignoring Cyber Monday. Today I’m only buying one item. And that’s this copy of The Journal.

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