The Silver Bauble #4 - 30/9/18
Hoarding: Not A Prostitute’s Microwave

It’s Linus here again, writing from a small corner of the Christmas UK Cavern.

September is an odd month for us. We begin with the residual endorphin rush from the Summer holidays, and then a mad rush as we finish off the regular start-of-countdown features - you know the sort of thing: the Lookback, the 12 Ads, and the new Bauble. Then whilst we ride the dragon that is the Christmas Run-Up, Autumn arrives and the month ends with the first major Christmas catalogues hitting the streets.

As I’ve written in a previous Bauble, those catalogues are a little source of joy, and even today, the annual Christmas Catalogue Hunt is a satisfying sideline when heading into town to do some shopping and to see what’s what as the shops prepare for Christmas. The general health advice we get in this country is that everyone should do at least ten thousand steps a day to be considered as being active enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I can easily do that in a single evening after work during a Christmas Catalogue Hunt!

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Naturally there is a technique if you want to maximize your hunting prowess. Searching and and spotting is just one part of the sport - you need to be able to form a sixth sense so that you can anticipate their arrival in a store. A sixth sense. For detecting oncoming Christmas Catalogues. Now some cynics may say that such a sense does not exist, and they would be right. What I usually do is wander into a store, see the size of their Christmas section, and then ask a member of staff when their catalogue is coming out. Yes, this is cheating, but I’m too lazy to develop a non-existent sixth sense in the face of possibly finding some nearby stollen to eat.

The reactions to my Christmas catalogue queries vary. Some staff are immediately helpful with times and dates. Others will point you to their Christmas section and will ask you to have a look around there - which is a cute but polite bluff. Others still just won’t have a clue, and will bluff by saying it’s on its way, but they don’t know when they’ll be put out - and then I’d discover them in another part of the store on the way out. Most of the time the shop assistants are polite enough to hide their shock of being asked about Christmas stuff in the middle of September when it’s still well over 20C…

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And then there’s the catalogues themselves. They really are getting bigger! Back in my childhood, they’d be around sixty or seventy pages long, but now they are some pretty severe chunks of tree - you do feel as if someone has been trying to print out the internet over and over, and put it into a glossy magazine. You knew that they were becoming large when they starting having a proper bound spine, rather than just the staples used to hold together your favourite catalogue. The Argos catalogue is just daft these days, with the main catalogue during the year being several centimetres thick, and their Christmas catalogue actually weighing your arm down as you carry it around town before heading home. With each passing year, there has been speculation that the Christmas catalogue is becoming a rarer species, with rumours that Argos are doing away with paper catalogues completely, but there’s little evidence of that just yet. It’s inevitable, though, as everyone gets a connected device of some sort and the idea of online shopping extinguishes the attraction of shopping by filling out forms in-store, or even sending off a cheque or postal order through the mail.
Postal orders. Yikes. Are they even still a thing these days? I know that some banks have stopped issuing cheque books, and I have no idea where abouts in the house my own cheque book is.

Back to the catalogues, and believe it or not, size is important, including thickness. Especially thickness. You won’t believe the problems that thickness is giving me right now. I have a small collection of Christmas catalogues dating back through the decades, including an old WH Smith catalogue from 1923. These were generally picked up over the years via raiding attics and perhaps buying a few too many on eBay. Yes, eBay. These are collectors items! And seeing them appearing on eBay has led me to keeping the Christmas catalogues I collected over the past few years. I keep each one in a labelled clear plastic document pocket, stored in folders in Banker’s Boxes, and due to moving house, the collections for the past couple of Christmases hadn’t been filed yet, and I’m in the process of doing that now.

It’s only when you see each year’s collection together that you realise how much stuff there is. The height of the stack for each year hovers around fifteen centimetres - six inches in old money. Storage is not yet an issue, but will be in a few years’ time! So do I keep them, or throw them away?

To help my decision, I had a look on eBay to see when these begin to get valuable - as in above ten quid each. Thirty years. Ah. There was a Christmas chocolate catalogue from the 1970s recently sold on eBay for over sixty quid. So it’s lucrative - if you hold onto everything for forty years. At which point I’ll probably be long gone. Collecting Christmas Catalogues in the hope of making some money just will not pay off for me, so why keep them?

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Our Nick hit upon the brilliant idea of starting a Twitter feed which posted up random pages from these catalogues - he’s just working through my collection with his scanner, and you can find his work on the OldUKCatalogues Twitter handle, but even then the time we think something becomes truly vintage and of interest for nostalgia purposes is ten or fifteen years. At six inches a year, that’s still a healthy chunk of storage space for the current catalogues before they start becoming of use to us.

So logic dictates that I throw these catalogues from the 2010s out. Which I will do. Eventually. I’ll wait a few years, though - if Christmas catalogues truly are a dying breed, then these final ones could be like gold dust. And thus speaks the words of a Christmas catalogue collector, the words of an addict, the words of a hoarder, the words of someone who knows better, but the words of someone who just doesn’t care.


Our invitation for you to send in contributions to the Bauble has already borne fruit, and is hopefully the start of something fun. Have a look at our writing guidelines to see what we think would fit in here (pretty much anything Christmas-related, to be honest!). Colin McGregor has answered the call, and also has an interesting feature idea. So, introducing...

My Desert Island Christmas Discs
by Colin McGregor

Picture the scene: You are stuck at the North Pole and have your top ten songs to play until Santa and his elves get back – what would they be…?

1) Lindisfarne – Winter Song: Elvis Costello called it THE greatest song ever written. Open a glass of something & think about the real meaning of Christmas.

2) Kate Rusby – Sweet Bells: While Shepherds Watched gets a Yorkshire carol makeover. Gorgeous.

3) Steeleye Span – Gaudete: Maddy Prior at her best in this glorious version of the carol.

4) Chris Hill – Bionic Santa: Mad sound bite festive fun tapping into the Six Million Dollar Man. Can’t believe it is from 1975 as still have the vinyl.

5) Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus is Coming To Town: Live version is brilliant with the late great Clarence Clemons in full flow on the sax.

6) Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody: nuff said.

7) Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo: Gorgeous instrumental version of the famous carol. Pans People did a great routine to it too.

8) Alan Hull – Cardboard Christmas Boxes: From the posthumous Statues & Liberties album, the cardboard Christmas boxes are a reference to the homeless at Christmas.

9) Gary Jules – Mad World: The best anti-X Factor song ever and a great cover version.

10) The cast of Spelling Bee – The 12 Days Of Christmas: This was the first Broadway show I ever saw and I've even got a prop from it.

Luxury Item: A radio to listen to the Christmas radio stations from around the world.

Movie Review - A Christmas Martian (Le Martien de Noel)
by Colin McGregor

If you go down to the woods today..

You might find a friendly smartie eating alien with a slightly rude name (won’t spoil the joke) whose spaceship has broken down. That’s what happens to Cathy and Frankie in this great off-beat cult film that anyone over about 45 should remember as it always seemed to be on TV at Christmas when we were kids.

It is just before Christmas in rural Quebec and the youngsters are getting ready for the big day when they encounter the very weirdly dressed alien whose face is partly covered in fishnet stockings and vow to help him fix his flying saucer.

The help is given with more than a hint of Whistle Down the Wind about it - meanwhile of course the pesky adults are onto the alien including the classic bungling drunken police chief who even manages at one point to arrest Santa.

Such is the low budget nature of the film that you don’t need to be a member of MENSA to recognise the same car chase footage being used several times! Frankie & Cathy get their test flight inside the flying saucer and there’s educational footage with a nod to the Big Blue Marble TV show of the era too. I also love how the language issue is solved in a way not a million miles different from the Babel Fish method The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy used.

It’s good fun science fiction hokum with a festive twist and ideas that maybe inspired some more famous recent movies - I can see similar ideas in The Snowman and perhaps even E.T. As a test of how good this film is, is that my partner Joan started watching it and after a quick burst of ‘what the heck is that?’, sat engrossed until the end and thoroughly enjoyed it!

A must see at Christmas and my favourite movie that ranks just behind A Charlie Brown Christmas in annual festive viewing.

1971: Director - Bernard Gosselin
Main cast: The Alien – Marcel Sabourin, Cathy – Catherine Leduc, Frankie – Francois Gosselin
Running Time - about 60 mins
Watch it: Not on DVD to my knowledge but try this link on YouTube.

Until Next Time...

We'll see you in the next Bauble, but don't leave Colin on his own there! We'd love to hear about your favourite Christmas songs, movies, memories, recipies, activities... anything, really! If you find something interesting, then chances are that Bauble readers will too! You can find full details of how to contribute to the Bauble here.

Bye :)

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