Christmas starting in October? That's fine by me | Simon Carter

HALLOWXMAS: Can the festive season ever come too early?
HALLOWXMAS: Can the festive season ever come too early?
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Every Friday, in a bid to exercise my brain, I visit the Toby Carvery at Hilsea to take part in a quiz. Recently, I was startled to see a Christmas tree just inside the front door. It was October and the clocks had only just gone back... 

Even more recently, I was greeted with a far different, far more colourful, scene – the decorations were  up, there were twinkling lights everywhere, a huge tree laden with tinsel overlooked customers wolfing down huge plates of meat, veg and Yorkshire puds, and one corner had been transformed into a type of grotto seating area. It was all very festive, and it could easily have been December 21 when, in reality, it was  November 8.

 At Debenhams, where my partner works, the restaurant on the top floor had by then already introduced its festive menu. In fairness, they were slow to embrace the rampant commercialisation of Santa’s busiest time of the year compared to others. In shops like The Range, aisles were full of both Christmas and Halloween goodies a month ago. Good business sense, if there are people wanting to stock up on snow globes and fake blood at the same time.

It never used to be like this, of course; back in the ‘good old days’ of the late ’70s and early ’ 80s I’m fairly sure no-one put up any Christmas lights  before December 1. Now, it seems as soon as summer bids us a cheery farewell up go the billboards and posters outside pubs and restaurants advertising their crimble menus.

 And yet – I’m teetering on the fence here, and I don’t know which way I’m going to fall –  I might just prefer how it is now to how it used to be.

I might just prefer it that the Christmas period starts in late September – or so it seems –  and continues until the dec s are put away in early January and shops start pushing St  Valentine’s Day cards.

 Christmas trees, tinsel and twinkling lights aren’t the devil’s spawn, are they? The Toby Carvery looks a damn sight nicer with them than without, put it that way. So what if they appear a few weeks earlier than they did in my childhood? Let’s be honest, not everything was better 30 or 40 years ago.

 A stroll down memory lane shouldn’t always fill you with lament. 

A lamb lies down to wallow in seventies’ prog rock nirvana

I appreciate I might be in a minority here, but I love early 1970s’ progressive rock music.

I love the wonderful song titles, such as I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), one of the songs on Genesis’ Selling England by the Pound album.

And I love the even more wonderful lyrics, such as Me, I’m just a lawnmower - you can tell me by the way I walk from the same song.
Luckily, I was at Portsmouth Guildhall last week to see Steve Hackett –  the guitarist in Genesis when prog rock was cool (well, cool-ish) – perform Selling England… in its glorious entirety.

Not everything was better in early ’70s’ England than it is today, but rock music certainly was.

Sting in the tail of passing driving test at first attempt

The sands of time flowed a little quicker the other day when my son passed his driving test.

Once upon a time – not that long ago, or so it seems – I was in the garden, merrily making ‘broom broom’ noises and pushing Ben in his toy car. He was two or three years old.

Now 17 he can join me in clogging up the M27 at rush hour when he buys his first car. So where did THAT time go, then?

Ben was delighted to pass first time – so was I, driving lessons aren’t cheap. He was even more pleased to hear I’d failed twice before eventually passing.

However, he was less chuffed to discover the cheapest yearly insurance he could find was £1,300...