Linus here again, writing for you from the Christmas UK Cavern as the reports from the various Christmas In July events continue to roll in. More on those in a sec, but did you know why July is so significant for me to begin with?
We’re rolling back over thirty years to the 1980s now, and of course as a kid I loved to soak up the hype to anything I loved. Movies especially would get hyped up several months in advance as the UK launch would follow an achingly long delay after a successful run in the states. E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial was the first movie where I noticed that back in 1982, where the UK launch was a full six months after the USA release. In the meantime, there was plenty of opportunity for me to hoover up as much ET merchandise that my parents would allow me to have, everything from sticker albums and rub-down transfers, through to game cards and novelty erasers.
And then when the film came, my parents wouldn’t take me to it because at the time I thought aliens were scary… Hrm. Ditto GhostBusters and ghosts. Double hrm – it’s now one of my favourite all-time movies. By the time Batmania hit the nation in 1989, I was man enough not to be scared of a grown person wearing a rubber suit.
Anyway… as a growing child I was well-exposed to hype and anticipation, and I absolutely revelled in it. Christmas was no different. Presents were planned well in advance. The notes section of my pocket diary from Oxfam were packed with decorating ideas. And come July – yes, I was circling back to that! – all eyes were on the doormat as there were usually a few free charity Christmas catalogues folded into the various papers and magazines the family had delivered.
First up was usually the catalogue for the World Wildlife Fund, and it was always produced so well with their gifts well laid out and photographed. You’d get a cut-down version for free with a paper, or maybe the Radio Times, and you could sign up onto their mailing list to have the full-sized version delivered. Naturally I did that, and July became Christmas catalogue spotting season from then on.
It was mentioned in the previous Silver Bauble that we’re unashamedly nerdy about Christmas – I think you just got a full blast of that! But those simple A5 or A6 sized booklets brought a simple joy to me through those years, and can still do so today – although I prefer to hunt out Christmas catalogues in the street come October time. With printing costs down, there are so many charity Christmas catalogues being sent out that it’s impossible to keep track of them all – and is probably why we just focus on the High Street ones on Christmas UK.
Speaking of Christmas Catalogues, have you seen our special section covering some vintage editions?
Wow. That’s the only word that can adequately describe the reaction to what is easily the most popular idea to have come out of Christmas In July so far. Within hours, nay minutes of the news hitting our social media feeds, our website was clocking up an impressive number of hits as people wanted to know more. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds went into overdrive.
No, not the news that Asda are currently rebranding Pigs In Blankets as a Summer barbecue snack.
Nor is it news that Asda will be selling giant two feet long Pigs In Blankets for Christmas this year...
...which made us all collectively pause to drool a little. Nope, what got the nation buzzing was news that John Lewis has hit upon a genius idea by joining up with Quality Street and allowing you to compose your own 1.2kg tin of the iconic chocs.
Jaws hit the floor around the country. Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before? Sure, Quality Street have occasionally come out with little tubs of one variety of their sweets, but the idea of pick and mix, mix and match is brilliant. People responded to us on social media with details of what proportions they’d use – and there’d have to be some sort of proportion as the only caveat was you had to pick four varieties of sweet for each tin. So, if you wanted a tin of green triangles, you’d have to buy four tins – which some might say is a cloud with a silver lining.
As with these things, though, joy soon turned to rage as it became apparent that there are two different types of people: those who do not like the Blue Coconut Éclairs, and those of us who aren’t complete monsters. It’s amazing how varied our tastes are, and how strongly we feel about our preferences. For us here at the Christmas UK Cavern, we’d ditch the toffees immediately. Our tin would be 25% Green Triangles (classic – you know where you are with them), 25% Purple Ones (again, they never disappoint), 25% Caramel Tubs (gooey caramel – yum!), finished off with 25% Blue Coconut Éclairs (and if you don’t like them, we’ll have yours).
A 1.2kg tin will set you back twelve pounds, and they’ll only be on sale in selected John Lewis branches from late-September – chances are you’ll already know if your local branch is a biggie.
Movies 24 is doing its Christmas In July thing again, and it’s no doubt filled with American TV movies you have never heard of. A lot of them are awful. A. Lot. But there are some gems in between the morality plays and the umpteen twists on Scrooge, and we try and flag them up in our own Good Film Alerts. You’ve probably seen Snow doing the rounds, and here’s why we think it’s well worth a watch.
First up, the standard caveat. The bar is kinda low where it comes to TV movies. You could pop out to the loo for twenty minutes in the middle of one, come back and still be able to follow the plot. What you’re doing in the bathroom for twenty minutes is your own business. But we’re looking for feelgood fare which keeps our interest, and Snow scores highly in that regard.
Made in 2004, this stars Ashley Williams just as she breaks out onto the global stage after her initial stint on How I Met Your Mother, together with a pre-Flash Tom Cavanagh. Williams plays Sandy, a Californian zoo keeper, and her duties just happen to include looking after a herd of reindeer at Christmas. Cavanagh plays Nick, the latest generation in a long-running dynasty who are based in the North Pole. Nick has a problem – one of his reindeer is missing, and just happens to be roughing it in an enclosure in Sandy’s zoo.
We won’t spoil the plot for you – it’s predictable enough as it is – but it has a warmth to the writing that is charming, with plenty of additional story arcs to keep things moving. Cavanagh plays a wonderfully awkward Nor’Polean as he carries out his mission, during which he tells his back-story:
Once upon a time, in a far and distant land, there lived a mean and cruel lord. And, one Christmas, this mean and cruel lord was throwing a lavish feast, for Kings and Queens. When, lo and behold, a poor beggar was caught picking scraps of food from his kitchen. Now this cruel lord was a miser, so, what did he do, but, he threw him out, into the cold winter night. But, what the cruel lord did not know, was that this was no ordinary beggar. This man was, actually, a very powerful wizard, and he cast a spell over this cruel lord. Now, under this spell, this cruel lord vanished. And he would reappear, every year, one week before Christmas, during which time he was to give away some of his treasure, and spread glad tidings and good cheer. Well, as you can well imagine, this cruel lord gave, and gave, and gave, until a strange thing began to happen. He began to see the joy that his giving brought others and, bit by little bit, despite himself, he began to like it. And before too long, he began to love it. And, as he did, this spell passed from a curse... to a blessing. And this, once cruel, lord gave with a glad heart. It was at this point wondrous things started happening: for example, he worried that his big bag of gifts and gold was nearing empty when, all of a sudden, it would fill right back up again. This was the power of that spell. And it was this spell that was passed on from generation to generation, from father to son. Just as it was passed from my father... to me. And that's how I became Santa Claus.
How can you not fall for a movie with that speech? Give it a chance!
And that’s it for our first proper issue of The Silver Bauble. It’s enjoyable writing these, so there’ll be at least another issue as Christmas In July winds up for another year, leaving a few Christmas Press Shows dotted through the following months. We don’t go full-tilt until September 16th – the hundred days to go mark – but we’ll still be popping up here and there before then. ‘Til then…
Bauble Writing Guidelines
Christmas 2012 Lookback
Christmas 2013 Lookback
Christmas 2014 Lookback
Christmas 2015 Lookback
Christmas 2016 Lookback
Christmas 2017 Lookback
The 12 Ads Of Christmas 2011
The 12 Ads Of Christmas 2012
The 12 Ads Of Christmas 2013
The 12 Ads Of Christmas 2014
The 12 Ads Of Christmas 2015
The 12 Ads Of Christmas 2016
The 12 Ads Of Christmas 2017
The Silver Bauble #3 - 16/9/18
The Silver Bauble #4 - 30/9/18
The Silver Bauble #5 - 19/10/18
The Silver Bauble #6 - 18/11/18
The Silver Bauble #7 - 23/12/18
The Silver Bauble - Intro