Wednesday 13 November 2019

Frank Coughlan: ''Tis already the season to be melancholy'

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'Shoppers had their Christmas faces on. Not the panicky ones they keep for late December, but studiously focused all the same' (Stock photo)
'Shoppers had their Christmas faces on. Not the panicky ones they keep for late December, but studiously focused all the same' (Stock photo)
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

It's a man thing. For those of us approaching a certain age, anyway. That is an aversion to the whole process of shopping and all the frilly, silly waste-of-time paraphernalia that surrounds it.

I don't mean buying food and booze because none us lives by stale slice pan alone and it must be acknowledged that strolling out of an off licence with a few bottles of decent Malbec clinking off each other creates a reassuring sense of wellbeing.

Clothes shopping has to be endured too, of course, as long as it's as quick as it is rare. Can't be doing with mixing and matching or trying on five pairs of trousers when the first fits. So once a year generally covers that.

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What I'm talking about is the other stuff. Like when you are out with the nearest and dearest in the car and she utters, as if by happenstance and with faux-nonchalance, those sly, slippery words: "I just need to pop in here for 10 minutes."

Nobody pops into Dundrum Town Centre for 10 minutes. Nobody ever will. That's the day done. Four hours stolen that are non-refundable.

So it came to pass at the weekend. I shuffled behind like a sulky teenager and was, within minutes of entering this shiny cathedral to mammon, bored to within touching distance of rigor mortis. Then she mentioned Christmas.

Along the lines of, and with a certain trill in her voice, there being a touch of something vaguely seasonal in the ether. She said it as it was a good thing. In the first week of November.

I'd have bought a newspaper if I found a shop willing to sell me one. Failing that, I purchased a big coffee and deposited myself in an advantageous seat that allowed me cast a cold anthropologist's eye on Hibernicus Consumeratus as it foraged in the woods for 21st century necessities.

True enough, you could scent something in the air. Shoppers had their Christmas faces on. Not the panicky ones they keep for late December, but studiously focused all the same. Some were already laden with branded bags bulging with the sort of pointless things that no one could possibly want or need, having spent money they probably didn't own to do it. But who could blame them, with a mere 50 or so shopping days to go? Which, as it happens, is 49 and a half more than I need.

Many happy returns.

Parish pump beats lethal doses of Brexit any day

I've always been a keen student of British politics. While ours was invariably about cute hoor deputies swinging out of parish pumps, the great sweeping narratives of Westminster offered drama of a much grander scale.

I'm thinking Suez Crisis in the mid-1950s, which until Brexit was the greatest self-inflicted political wound of modern UK history, and the Profumo affair of a few years later.

Then there was poor Jeremy Thorpe a decade later again. The sleazy end of Fleet Street often made stuff up, but on that occasion it didn't have to.

After all of these and considerably more and worse, Britain dusted itself down and got on with it.

Now it seems broken, hopelessly divided and dysfunctional in a way that no general election could fix. So for the first time I can remember, I find myself turning away.

Having inhaled lethal doses of Brexit, I simply no longer have the will to be bothered.

Other than hoping dreadful charlatan Johnson beats hapless flip-flopper Corbyn and the Brexit deal gets done, I care not a jot.

From now on the parish pump will just have to do.

Irish Independent

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