The other day I heard a reporter talking about Black Friday. This turns out to be the Friday following Thanksgiving, "regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season the USA". I find the terminology interesting. Denoting something "black" usually implies something bad. Do the shops regard it as a bad thing that Christmas shopping has begun? Do shoppers regard it as a bad thing that have to (yes, they absolutely have to) go out and spend money?
But the term Black Friday seems to be making its way into UK terminology as well. Odd! We don't do Thanksgiving! We just stop putting spooky stuff in the shops once Hallowe'en is out of the way and concentrate on selling mince pies and sparkly stuff instead.
Thanksgiving this year is on Thursday, the 26th of November. Apparently it's always the fourth Thursday in November. Who knew? Not me, anyway. But that still gives the Americans a couple of weeks before they have to start Christmas shopping.
Not so here in the UK. (How do we calculate when Black Friday arrives anyway?) On the bus this morning I overheard a lady telling her friend that she had already completed all hers. The parcels were wrapped and labelled. All she needed to do now was write her Christmas cards. She was planning to do that tomorrow evening! Good grief! They haven't even got the Christmas markets organised properly in Manchester! Whatever is she going to do between now and Christmas?
Meanwhile Starbucks is in seasonal trouble. Some people are threatening to boycott them. Not because of tax avoidance. Not because their cups of coffee are too big. Not because the people concerned think Starbucks coffee is rubbish. Three reasons that work for me. No, the reason is quite different. Because Christmas is coming up Starbucks have produced a new style seasonal coffee cup. If, that is, you can really call a medium sized paper bucket a cup! Anyway, they are serving what they call coffee in cardboard cups in shades of red: bright red at the top, working down to a sort of cranberry lower down. The problem is that there are no snowflakes. NO, NO SNOWFLAKES! This is what you need to show that your red mug is a Christmas mug! So they are accused of turning their back on Christianity, being un-Christian or even anti-Christian, refusing to celebrate Christmas, being politically over-correct and generally spoiling some people's enjoyment of the festive season. Which, I reiterate, has not really begun yet. I wonder at the workings of some people's minds! Truly, I do!
On BBC Radio 4 this week they have been putting on some short plays about children as part of the drive to raise money for the charity "Children in Need". I turned off tonight's offering. A child who was supposedly in foster care was describing her bedroom. She sounded like a fairly ordinary sort of north of England child from the way she spoke. Then she mentioned being able to see "the guitar wot I play". It was too much for me. It is possible to make a child sound authentic (they were doing it quite well) without having the child speak in a completely ungrammatical manner, in the style of Morecambe and Wise with "The play what I wrote", consciously ungrammatical I hasten to remind you.
The irony is that our daughter in primary teaching role has to make sure children speak grammatically. She has to devise ways of ensuring that they use, for example, was and were appropriately. Now, if that is part of the National Curriculum, why don't the BBC make sure their writers follow suit. All they needed to do was miss out the "wot".
That's enough of that. In the Italian class this afternoon, before we got down to serious discussions of the value or otherwise of dialects and regional languages, we somehow got onto the advantages of growing older. These include the bus pass, senior rail cards, reduced price tickets for certain speciality cinemas in the area, reduced price entry to museums and art galleries all over the place and, the one that started the discussion in the first place, double points on your Boots loyalty card!
Well, since most of us are growing quite mature now, we had to find something to console ourselves!
And finally, the huge dog who was occupying a seat on my bus last week has popped up again.
Zelig-like, he was waiting for the train, my train, at Victoria station.
And then he came and waited at my bus stop!
Of course, he might just live somewhere near our house.