Black Friday.  Excellent.  It’s November, it’s freezing, energy prices are set to rise again in January, First Class stamps are £1.25 and it’s Black Friday!  Who needs it?!  The scammers, I suppose.  Bombarded by emails for weeks, now, one would hope that your average Joe might have considered – by now – that the whole thing is a con?  On second thoughts, apparently vaccination hubs are alive and well in shopping centres around the country as Joe and his mates clamber for their umpteenth booster … brings a whole new meaning to community spirit.

On the subject of the sheep syndrome, is it just me, or does anyone else find that he/she can walk into an empty supermarket and, within seconds, one’s fellow beings are everywhere?  Do they lie in wait?  Has there been an announcement or am I just being followed?!  I happen to put a great deal of thought into when is the quietest time to shop.  I could write a thesis on the predicted movements of the public; the routine habits of the many.  Similarly, when I plan my daily excursion to my beach …  That’s somewhat easier as I tend to be favour the dying breaths of the sun – some may call it virtual darkness – when everyone else has gone.  Granted, given limited visibility and poor eyesight, that fact may be little more than a desired illusion but, suffice to say, I am content in the solitude and the glow of light courtesy of the night sky’s reflection in the water.

Meal times.  Go food shopping when most are eating – well,  preferably not lunchtime when the vultures descend for their meal deals.  Escaping their screens for just long enough to render the shelves of sandwiches bare, one is likely to be crushed in the stampede!  No, six-o’clock is preferable.  Fellow shoppers, at that time, are less aggressive; more interested in the wine as they seek sedation following the trials and tribulations of another day.  The food shelves may have already been stripped bare but there’s always an over-ripe avocado to be had and a bag of soggy salad …  I did not follow my own advice today, nipping to Marks just after 2pm for the smallest of shops: Collection blueberries (the best), salmon fillets, a tub of crushed avocado spread (so good!) and wine, give or take.  Undeniably healthy!  Suitably buoyed having secured my chosen items, I was suddenly faced with a plethora of people and war-ing trollies.  Why?  From whence had they come?  Admittedly, the car two in front of me had raised my blood pressure by indicating to turn right into car park ahead of me when I arrived – I know, don’t you just hate that – but I had managed to claim my preferred space so calm restored.  Shop quiet, blueberries etc in the basket and then it all went pear-shaped!  Forced to queue, now, I surveyed the contents of the surrounding trollies, most piled high with party foods and Christmas.  Yes!  Black Friday and panic has set in.  Supposedly poverty-stricken and four weeks to go, the frenzy is spreading as they buy enough to feed the starving in Ethiopia, convinced that rations are to be imposed at any second!  Every year!  Same old, same old.  Programmed to receive …

In Austria, there are no blue lights (blue is not Christmas!).  Instead, tradition abounds as the family gathers to decorate the tree – a real one, cut from the alm – on Christmas Eve, attending Midnight Mass in the ancient pilgrim church before collecting in the village square, nestled in the shadow of the snow-capped mountains, to sip mugs of Gluhwein to the strains of Silent Night, courtesy of the local brass band.  It is as though time stands still as families gather on this special night to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.  Gifts are exchanged before bed, the village deserted on the 25th, a day of peace for loved ones, and reflection.  How can we, in this country, get it so wrong?

Sufficiently subdued?  To my notes …  Oscar Pistorius is to be released, on bail, in January.  No surprise there, then.  He only murdered his girlfriend in 2013, shooting her four times through the bathroom door, believing her to be an intruder.  Of course.  The fact that said girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, wasn’t in bed, apparently, offered him no clue whatsoever but, realistically, she could have gone for a walk in the dark – in Johannesburg!  No matter, the guy has paid his dues.  Never owning up to his crime, he has been in prison for nine years, not withstanding a short break of house arrest in 2015.  He deserves his freedom; deserves the rest of his life …  I’m sure Reeva’s mother is just thrilled about that (her father died, heartbroken, in September) able, only, to lay flowers at her beloved daughters’ graveside.  Is there any justice in this world?

A world in which a black influencer, Nella Rose, is considered a celebrity and able to command thousands of pounds for agreeing to spend time in the Australian jungle tormenting the unsuspecting in the name of an ITV reality show.  An influencer?  What is that – and God help us all if anyone is ‘influenced’ by her!  Possessing of a huge chip where, traditionally, there is a brain, she has been loud, aggressive and ignorant, to date, to the detriment of both Fred Sirieix and Nigel Farage who have endeavoured to humour her.  She is, after all, of ethnic minority, thus possessing the proverbial ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.  She can say and do as she pleases.  The voice of victimhood, her misplaced confidence, however, only serves as a reminder of the skewed values in a Britain which has buried the ‘Great’.  

Finally, also on the news today was the announcement that the Brit Awards are to up the number of nominees to ten in the categories of Artist of the Year and International Artist of the Year, moving forward.  Does anyone care?  Well, it did bring a smile to my face be that the male and female categories were replaced by one gender neutral category, this year, following the whimperings of the proclaimed non-binary Sam Smith.  Personally, I find him hideous but the voice of woke had spoken and thrown his/her/its/their (delete as appropriate) toys out of the pram so … Harry Styles won everything!  Deservedly so, I might add, but, remember, merit has no place when it comes to awards!  Ironically, the hysterics of the non-binary Sam Smith resulted in no separate female category and no female nominees.  Imagine that!  Thankfully, after ‘extensive consultation’, the awards organisers – the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) – have implemented the change in the number of nominees with a view to ‘improving representation and inclusion’.  Thank God for that!  ‘Come on, Harry!  We want to say goodnight to you.’!  (Harry Styles, As It Was)

Oh, must add, I’ve just watched Take That on the Graham Norton Show.  Not sure what to say, really.  I mean, I do like the song but what the hell happened to them?  They’ve either been recently exhumed or they’ve been partying in the attic with Miss Havisham!  Talk about a reminder of one’s own mortality …

Time is free but it’s priceless.  You can’t own it but you can use it.  You can’t keep it but you can spend it.  Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back …’ 

Harvey Mackay

Did I say it was going to be cheery?!

This is Trish, signing off.