It’s only mid-November and I’m fed up of Christmas already. This is because, if I’m to believe all the adverts on the television, it’s already been happening for at least a month. I heard the first Christmas song being played in a shop on the 1st of this month, and Christmas decorations started to make their appearance not long after.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a traditionalist and I like my Christmases to be in December, when the trees are bare and there’s a hint of snow in the air, rather than when the leaves have yet to even start their annual change into their autumnal wardrobe. Yet, this seems to be increasingly out of step with modern society, or at least the one the advertisers and businesses tell us we should be living in. Nothing can be kept as special any more and we’re continually bombarded with messages telling us we need to start concentrating on the next big, money-spinning calendar event even before we’ve finished enjoying the current one. We’re told we must start getting into Christmas mode even before Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night (if you’re British) and (if you live in North America) Thanksgiving have come, let alone gone.
The moment Christmas is over, they start telling us we need to be planning our summer holidays. Easter eggs start creeping into the shops while we still have our hangovers from New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay as it’s known in these parts). Spring fashion lines appear on the first of February when we still haven’t seen the last of the snow. The barbecue displays come out at the vernal Equinox despite the fact it won’t be hot enough for one until at least the summer solstice. As soon as the kids start their summer beak, it seems that every business goes into full ‘back to school’ mode with adverts and sales. How can they possibly enjoy their time away from the classroom when they’re continually being reminded that soon they’ll be going back?
And if you question this continual push to be thinking about tomorrow rather than enjoying today, you’re called a kill joy, a misanthrope or, in the case of Christmas, a Scrooge. Yet this misses the point. It’s not that I don’t like any of the special events we have spread throughout the year, it’s the way that they are foisted on us long before we’re ready for them by people whose aim isn’t to make them more enjoyable, but to guilt us into spending more money on them than we can really afford. They know that if we see it often enough, they’ll eventually wear us down and we’ll eventually give in. They become richer, but we’re the ones who get ever-increasingly stressed out because we’re not fully prepared for Christmas by the end of November (not realising of course, that the sell-by date on those mince pies we just brought means they’ll go off before we’ve opened more than a few doors on the advent calendar – leaving us no choice but to bin them on the 24th and make a last-minute dash round all the shops to try to find some more).
It seems we’re not longer allowed to enjoy the now, and instead we must always be looking forward to what’s coming up next. Even the words have started to change their meanings. When a television voice-over announces what’s coming up after the program you’re currently watching, they refer to the following program as ‘coming up now’ when it’s still a good 15 or 30 minutes away from starting, while for them ‘next’ means the program after that. This bears no resemblance to what I understand these words to mean.
I think this is one of the reasons I’m so drawn to post-apocalyptic fiction and films. In a zombie-filled world, you never know what’s going to happen next, so all you can do is think about what’s happening now. Enjoy the little moments of rest and security when you can, eat whenever you find food, sleep when you get the chance. There’s no little niggling voice in your head, put there by advertisers, whispering that you can’t enjoy today because you haven’t yet finished planning for another one which is still almost a quarter of the year away. With all the flesh-munchers around, life might be difficult, but at least it will be current, and so it’ll be more meaningful. If only we were allowed to live like that in the real world, but I guess that doesn’t make those who run (or is that ruin?) it enough money?
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.