Friday, November 28, 2008
Christmas is less than a month away and, as much as I hate seeing , hearing and thinking about it too far in advance (say, October) I feel now is surely an appropriate time to do just that. So here you are, dear reader, a Christmas post! A few more will probably follow (how else would I share my annually recurring love of the Chipmunks?)
Several years ago I arrived in London towards the end of November, starting work as a Christmas season temp at the large HMV record store on Oxford Circus just a day later. It wasn't my first time in London, but it was the first time I'd been there at that time of year.
The positioning of the cash registers (where a temp worker would normally spend most of his/her time) was just so that you could look right out onto the busy shopping street (Oxford Street), double-decker buses passing by, rain and snow falling on frantic shoppers, desperate to buy something for every single person they knew, regardless of how much they actually liked said person, and regardless of how crappy the gift.
Despite the fact that I was struggling to get used to the new currency that I had known for only a few days, I occasionally had the opportunity to have a brief chat with customers. Normally not much was said apart from "here's your change and your receipt", followed by an optional "Merry Christmas". More often I would just ask myself why they were buying that awful Robbie Williams/Celine Dion/Black Eyed Peas album; I would never of course say anything (unless asked for an opinion. I which case I'd happily tell them to put the CD down and leave the shop immediately), but couldn't help but wonder whether this truly was what they were planning to give to a loved one, a friend, a partner... It just seemed so obvious, and soulless.
Luckily there were however a few exceptions. Such as the older lady who approached me once, asking for advice on what to buy her 15 year old grandson, leaving the shop 30 minutes later with a whole basket of my recommendations. Around about the same time a man came up to me with four or five copies of Low's Christmas EP. When I pointed out my pleasure at his selection, he explained that he came into HMV the same time around Christmas every year to buy several copies of the album, which he'd then give to all his friends. This was quite possibly one of the nicest things I heard that entire month, and I dedicate this post to him!
Buy it for your own friends/parents/brother/sister/girlfriend/boyfriend/au pair/uncle/aunt here!