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.
In my last post, I shared how profound the impact reading has on my life. I truly believe a book is the greatest gift a girl can have on her journey to being a woman, a grown-up, a functioning adult in society. Whatever that is?
I have decided to share with you, some of the books that have truly helped me, informed me, educated me, made me think about what I want from life, how I can serve and most of all, entertained me.
It’s not an exhaustive list. I’ll probably press publish and kick myself because I have forgotten one. I have also read an awful lot of crap. Some enjoyable crap and some, just a waste of time, crap. I know I’m not going to win the respect of literary minds saying this, but I have enjoyed Catherine Cookson sagas, teenage romantic fiction, mid-twenties romantic fiction and a mixed bag of titles we have attempted at book club.
Judging people by what they read is a pointless act anyway. It’s so personal to them. What I take from a book is quite different from what they lady opposite me on the train might take from the very same book. We would disagree on what we imagine the characters look like and what they sound like. We will make our own judgements on how we enjoyed the writing – straight to the point or lingering prose. We will feel different emotions for the characters. I might think someone had their misfortune coming, where the train conductor reading on his break might feel more sympathy. Our own experiences colour our interpretation of the words on the pages and bring them to life in a unique way. My life is reflected in some of what I have read and sometimes what I read shapes my life.
Since the times of Roman Baths, humans have gathered in locations dedicated to the healing powers of water. As a person born under a water sign, or as a complete coincidence, I enjoy spending time in or near water. It is where I find it easiest to relax. My fondness of baths is a bit of a joke with some friends. My preference for luxury bath products is an indulgence kindly supported by friends and family. However, every now and then, as a special treat, I like to leave the comfort of my bathtub and enjoy a day at a spa.