I am 16 weeks pregnant, and despite the subsidence of morning sickness, I am feeling increasingly sick. I thought pregnancy would mellow me. I thought the hormones would make me all warm and gooey and peaceful. I thought I would learn to choose my battles wisely and create a relaxing environment to cocoon the little one. But no, I’m even more angry and agitated that normal. My husband calls me the ‘little agitator’ which is a moniker first thought up for Lisa Simpson. She happens to be a role model of mine so I don’t mind. Lisa always stands up for what she believes in. She isn’t afraid to rock the boat. She certainly doesn’t mind disagreeing with the adults around her.
The topics that are getting me particularly animated at the moment are the number of people who are increasingly using the differences between us for political or economical capital.
I don’t remember enjoying the period between Christmas and New Year so much for a long time. I was working parts of it for the last two years but even before that, I didn’t seem to count it as a proper holiday. I’ve really gotten into it this year. We haven’t made plans – no travelling, no nights out, no shopping sprees, no madcap schemes for self-improvement. We have embarked on absolutely guilt-free resting, listening and reading. I’m not entirely sure we should feel guilty about those activities anyway. Rest, listening and reading being essential ingredients for curing the modern mania of 24/7 living and connectivity.
It occurred to me while watching the ‘wrong’ Scrooge. That is the one from 1970 with Albert Finney. The 1951 film with Alistair Sim is the ‘right’ one. Obviously, The Muppets’ Christmas Carol is the best of the genre. Some things about Christmas can be disappointing. Maybe the Dickens book that pertains most to Christmas is actually Great Expectations.
For the week before Christmas I get excited. Child-like excited. I get butterflies in my stomach. I enjoy the ‘to do’ list of festive things. I want to make it all perfect. Then I start to think about the supermarket ad version of Christmas. The big, bustling family. Games. Champagne in a big ice bucket. A perfectly fitting velvet dress. A handsome husband – OK I get that one, but no chance he’s wearing a suit. Snow falling. A puppy with a red bow around its neck. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s a work of fiction. It’s a nonsense spreading to make us feel like somehow we are failing so we buy stuff and feel like we are winning.
This Saturday was Small Business Saturday in the UK. This annual non-commercial campaign does good work highlighting the contribution small businesses make to the economy and the character of our town centres. Held on the first Saturday of December, it’s also a key day in the retail calendar. The day many people flock to the shops to do Christmas shopping after the all-important November payday.
This time last year, I was running a small business, Time Lifestyle Boutique. It was a gift shop in Dundee city centre, on the street that connects the civic centre of the City Square to McManus, the city’s current star museum ahead of V&A Dundee opening in 2018. I closed the business for good in March this year after a whirlwind adventure where I chased my dream, achieved what I always wanted to do and learned very valuable and hard lessons. Ultimately the business was not to be sustainable one but it was the start of a new chapter for me where I faced fears and made things happen in life. It’s in this spirit I have continued on my journey.
The reason I bring up Time this week is because I thought about the shop more this weekend than I had for the last few months. Small Business Saturday was the day we would take the most money each year. I did a lot of promotion of the event and wrote and spoke a lot about how important it was. In 2014, I also coordinated a campaign for other city centre businesses to get involved with. We offered discounts and shared information about the other participating businesses in the spirit of collaboration, rather than competition. I hope that this awareness campaign has at least resonated with a few people who include small businesses in their buying habits to this day. It might just save other small businesses from the same fate as my own.
My Dad has a saying, ‘time solves everything’. When I am feeling cynical I think that’s because I will probably die before I get to the end of my to-do list and then I won’t have the to-do list anymore. When I am feeling more optimistic, I get it. The thing that is causing you to worry today will probably worry you less in six months’ time. The exception to this is DIY. Putting off a small leak will not be less of a worry in six months. It will lead you to the event that happened to me earlier today… getting a joiner in to replace the part-rotten bathroom floor.
A few weeks ago I went to Tesco for some toothpaste on the way home from work. I ended up putting the Harpers Bazaar Christmas special, a Johanna Basford Christmas colouring book and Mr Kipling’s Christmas cake slices in my basket. That’s what happens to you at this time of year… you lose all your senses amongst the Christmas music, aisles of glitz and dreams of curling up in front of a fire with seasonal reading. I don’t even have a fire and I definitely haven’t read the magazine yet. I have started the colouring to get out of the ironing, though…
Most of us will spend much more in December than we earn. We might have started putting a bit of money away for the last few months in anticipation and many won’t have had that luxury due to the cost of everyday living and will be looking to credit cards and loans to get through Christmas. Regardless of how you plan for it all… chances are you have a growing list of expenditure for the next few weeks with no end in sight.
I attended a debate on Thursday night hosted by Creative Dundee and the Architecture Fringe. It was held at Dundee Contemporary Arts and was well-attended by architects, students and ‘creatives’. Four panel members were asked to debate the following question, ‘Is Dundee losing itself in the search for glamour?’. The motion fell. Being a Turncoats event, the panel members had to swap sides half way through the debate and I could sense at least two members of the panel were squeamish in the counter-argument. The event had a social media blackout so panel members could be frank, and I think that made things more interesting. Panel members featured two architects, a curator and an arts collective founder.
I think it’s an excellent question and it’s one that we all have to think about. It’s something I have been thinking about a lot in the last four years in particular while we have been seeing monumental changes in the Waterfront area of the City Centre. The city’s skyline has drastically changed and the investment is in the towering realm of billions. I believe the scale of this change and investment will not be seen again for a generation and the direction of the city and the lives of its residents will be steered by today’s developments for decades.