On Saturday 4th December some lunatic within our household decided that it would be a good idea to go to the Christmas Market at Winchester Cathedral. The vitriolic witch-hunt to lay the blame at someone's doorstep for this disaster rumbles on but no-one, not even the most shopaholic female amongst my family, is prepared to admit that either it was their suggestion or defend the excursion by pretending that they had a good time.
It is not that I am anti-Christmas - far from it. It is not that I am anti-Christmas Markets - the concept of mulled wine, roasting chestnuts, and jolly Christmas stalls is fabulous. It is certainly not that I am anti-Winchester or its beautiful Cathedral - I love my local city and its cathedral. I am however exceedingly anti the seething mass of humanity that swarmed and surged like a million-legged jellyfish wafting in the surf.
There was a beautiful ice rink, next to the beautiful stalls, within the grounds of the beautiful cathedral. I know as I saw the signs for it. I also saw a lot of people moving with a slightly different dynamic to those of us being pushed and pulled amongst the stalls. The ice-skaters of Winchester are a proficient crowd - not one fell over. The reason is that they were packed together so tightly that falling wasn't an option. God forbid if anyone had tumbled, their Christmas would have ended there and then. To experience ice-skating the Winchester Christmas Market way strap a small ice cube to each foot then clutch a person to the left and right of you. In unison shuffle forward.
I took the coward's way out and fought my way to the front of a stall selling mulled wine at an eye-watering price where I pitched my camp, while the more resilient females set off to explore the stalls. Three purchases were made in the two hours that I sat and drank increasingly enjoyable mulled wine.
As a party we then fought our way out of the melee and back to the train station for the short trip home. We live one station down the line from Winchester. The train journey takes 8 minutes one way and 9 minutes back - always puzzled me why the difference but it's a question that I have left fallow to date. The trains depart from Winchester at 54 minutes past the hour and there is only one train per hour. They always have departed at 54 minutes past the hour but on Saturday they were bought forward to 42 minutes past the hour due to bad weather. SouthWest Trains - the only organisation that gets faster in the snow! There was a "poster" to this effect but it was hidden so artfully blending into the wall so seamlessly that it could have been a Banksy! We missed the train by five minutes. I was not prepared to wait a further 55 minutes. Consequently, a local taxi driver with a transit van bereft of suspension profited outrageously by driving us the few miles home. His bill at least made me forget the over-priced mulled wine.
It was to misquote Wallace & Gromit "Not a grand day out!"
So the point of all this nonsense? Watching the news on Sunday, the BBC was predicting record receipts for online traders as the public was staying away from the high street shops due toe the bad weather. I suggest that while it may have something to do with the weather people are waking up to the convenience of shopping online. I can smugly report that I have done most of my Christmas shopping and with the exception of two presents all have been purchased online.
When we launched HearingDirect our philosophy behind the business was to treat people as we would wish to be treated and provide the most accessible, convenient way to buying hearing aids, associated products and accessories. I was never more aware of the convenience of online shopping than on Saturday. You may not be able to buy overpriced mulled wine online but stay at home, make your own and relax while browsing our shop.
Happy Christmas Shopping.