Saturday, 24 October 2009

Random Google searches - 'voluntary stalking'?

After another long week at work and with my fiancĂ©e at the other side of the Irish sea, enjoying her weekend long hen party with the girls. I’ve had plenty of time to watch random TV, and loiter on the t’interwebs. Ok, so maybe I’ve not had the most wholesome time, all I’ve managed to do is choose my transfers for the fantasy football, to play online scrabble and complete another inquisitive but slightly nerdy task, that of looking through the Google search queries for my blog. Bemusing myself with the odd things that this here blog has been located by in the several months I’ve been typing here. Ok so it’s not exactly everyone’s idea of a great start to the weekend but it gave me a giggle!

With Christina Martin - occasional writer and comedian - leading the way (at least in my realm of reading about random search results beyond Googlewhacking), I thought I’d share some of the more random Google searches that have found my blog. Before I start, I’ll warn you they’re not quite as bizarrely random and as wonderfully absurd as those Christina found. After all, ‘comedian more powerful than jesus’ and ‘goose costume sale’ are searches worthy of awards let alone finding a blog – well that, or at least worthy of an explanation by the original search author.

So here goes... the first that caught my eye:

‘camera above the royal mail in belfast‘

I wonder if they were hoping to find if they could use it or if they were being watched? Maybe they were just hoping to find out if someone’s doing something about those letters that grow legs and make a run for it?

‘how to become a captain of a ship in ireland’

Ah this makes more sense, well – maybe. If it was possibly the same person as the camera query, and that person was going to be looking out for an important letter - it could easily be their Master Mariner’s licence they were trying to keep their eyes peeled for. Avast me hearties, I’ll be understanding!

‘belfast and northern island street directory ‘

Shiver me timbers! No wonder they wanted to be Captain. There might be treasure to be had if we can but find our way around the Northern Island... best set sail for Rathlin on high tide! Whilst we wait, here are a few more...

‘funny contact lenses in northern Ireland’

that hopefully didn’t result in the following search...

‘tragic stories blogs northern ireland‘


‘bargain buys vans on ebay no mot ni county down ‘

hopefully wasn’t anything to do with...

‘northern ireland explosive’

Then there were some people seemingly searching for the more random...

‘natalie imbruglia looks like carol vorderman’ - this is vindication of sorts, I knew I wouldn’t be alone in thinking that! Here's the explaination about the doppelgangering.

‘europe easter egg for kings ‘ – probably a DVD related search but I like the thought of an Easter egg fit for a King. I bet it’s like those kinder eggs you can get that have the giant toy inside... if I was a king I’d like one of those... but bigger! And then there were my two favourites...

‘huge statue of a lady in a bed in ireland’

I’m intrigued.  Does anyone know what they might have been looking for? If there isn’t one, I implore someone with more money than sense to make this a reality! I suspect they were the most disappointed to only find my blog.

And my overall favourite but also the search results I least wish to appear in...

‘voluntary stalking’

Sometimes you have to wonder what people are really looking for or if they’re just typing into a search box for the fun of it. When someone types in voluntary stalking, whats going on in their mind? Do they want to be stalked or are they looking for a consenting victim or are they looking for examples of such phenomenon - hopefully its the latter.

P.S. I am not volunteering for being stalked - no matter how many ‘funny contact lenses’ or ‘bargain buy vans on ebay no mot’ you might find my blog with! You might tempt me with ‘a huge statue of a lady’ but she has to be in bed and both she and the bed have to be in Ireland. You can send this via royal mail, a captain might be along to pick it up in the next few years if it needs importing and we’ll have someone watching to make sure it arrives at the sorting office ok. If you can fit it inside a European Easter Egg suitable for a king that would be awesome. Cheers!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Bits of Belfast - Part 4 - Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall Oct 20th 2009The shortening daylight hours are quickly becoming a lot more noticeable and if Usain Bolt has found himself trying to beat the progression of the seasons to a finishing temperature, he best get a move on because it isn’t hanging around. With the leave’s falling off the trees, the first of this year’s Christmas decorations were being placed on Belfast City Hall over the last two days. It’s external redecoration co-in siding with it it’s reopening to the public after almost 2 years of refurbishment.

Part of the refurbishment is a cafe open to the public. The council ran a public vote to see what it should be named and of the choice of name put forward (all of which were related to the industrial/economic development of the city) it was the apt name of ‘Bobbin’ which won out and so this new coffee shop called the Bobbin Coffee Shop is now open and for the passerby to 'bob in' and have a warming brew. I have to admit; I’ve not made it in myself yet but have heard good things from those who have. Besides the improved functionality and intended use of the City Hall here is the councils run down on the refurbishment works.

So the Bobbin seems to be a name we might hear a lot in the future as Belfast City Hall does have a habit, for many of us who live and work in or around the city, as being a place we pass by an awful lot because it is seemingly the heart of Belfast. All roads might lead somewhere new but seemingly more so to this location than any other, roads in Belfast lead to City Hall. However you end up there, it’s probably only going to be a place to grab a bite to eat during lunch, the opening hours leave something to be desired. Monday – Friday, 9am - 4.30pm only (after the initial reopening celebrations).

The names popular in the vote for the coffee shop of ‘Bobbin’ and ‘White Linen’ seem very suitable because by all accounts, City Hall is where it is due to Belfast’s economically bright yet humanly gloomy industrial history. My curiosity of the history of Belfast got the better of me and I’ve recently been reading a book called Belfast – The Making of the City by J.C. Beckett et al. This book contains many photos and pictures from the past but most interesting to me was a map of Belfast of 187 years ago. On this map the River Lagan’s path is almost unrecognisable to today’s channel; the centre of town is dominated by High Street and the White Linen Hall, on the site of which that big impressive City Hall now sits, is on the edge of town to the South. The map depicted in the book shows the layout of the streets less than half a century after the completion of the White Linen Hall and within another ¾’s of a century the White Linen Hall, as a sign of the times and Belfast becoming a city, was being replaced by today’s City Hall. The location became a focal point through its importance to trade and is now the proud centre, however its development to a vibrant city.

Fittingly, this spectacle of a focal point, if only in passing, to so many of our days, is taking on the next stage of its civic role with a good dose of the past woven into its fabric. The start of a double dose of re-openings... soon to follow, the Ulster Museum on the 22nd of October.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Climate change, a very local story.

Northern Ireland has many of its own unique problems to solve but there is one problem that Northern Ireland, Ireland and Great Britain have in common and a problem that they all contribute to on the global scale - influencing climate change. How do I know this... because I live in Northern Ireland and I believe that I too contribute to the problem. I know, not a great admission to make, especially when you take into account I spent 3 very worthwhile years of my life studying the environmental sciences. So why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you this because I don’t mean to detrimentally exploit our environment, but I know my actions are likely to be contributing to the problem. I’m telling you this because, although I’m by no means an expert, I studied the literature from what I hope was a balanced perspective, I’ve read the arguments for and against and have made my own mind up from the scientific data and theory I’ve had to sift through to write my essays. I was even going to write another essay for this occasion of Blog Action Day. However to cut a long story short, my opinion is that we are precariously playing with natural systems that are resilient but that are part of such a complex balance that we’re foolish to think we aren’t at least having a significant impact. An impact that could leave a much harsher world for our offspring to live in by worsening pre-existing problems that it seems mankind can’t even resolve during the best of times... the likes of poverty and war.

It wasn’t that long ago I was at university, and climate change was a leading topic but as we found when searching the media, it hardly made the news that often and it wasn’t such a large part of a political parties manifesto. Thankfully that has in recent times begun to improve, even if it has led to a slight transference of scepticism because of its increasing use as a political tool to win votes. Eventually though, those with the ability to approach the problem, i.e. government and the industrial and business world, those who are reliant upon the systems people have developed up to this point, have at least on the surface begun to show signs of acknowledgement. Sadly though, change is slow in human behaviour. A change that has not been helped by those who have a vested interest to oppose such change, especially when the change might affect their profits or control. But like the political scene in Northern Ireland it’s likely to be a generation or two before a general consensus overwhelms the petty arguments and those in a position to do so get their acts together. Let me put it this way, Northern Ireland has its fair share of sceptics on climate change problems but I’m not one of them, sadly regarding the hope for change, our last Environment minister here in Northern Ireland was.

My more immediate and local problem though, is that in my current situation I find more often than not that I am not in a ready position, like billions around the world, to do what I would need to in order to restrict my own impact.

For instance... I choose not to drive but I still have to use a bus that is stuck in traffic pumping out its fumes because Northern Ireland is seemingly obsessed or dependent on the petrol motor car and there are only limited mass transit facilities in Belfast. I try to buy locally sourced produce, for instance if I buy bottled water for my desk at work I buy the one that was bottled and sourced closest, but I still end up buying it because it’s convenient when really I could go out of my way to carry a 2ltr bottle of water to work each day. I use a lot of electrical devices and lights and I turn them off when not in use, we’ve also replaced most of our bulbs with energy saving light bulbs but the electricity here is still predominantly provided from non renewable power stations and it’s either their way or the highway. We don’t use hardly any heating and wrap up in blankets but when we use hot water it’s powered by a gas boiler, we live in a rented home and neither our landlord nor we are eager to fund an expensive conversion to renewable energy sources. We like to travel and experience new places and culture but to do so we have to get on a plane or a boat, there is no realistic alternative. We recycle but just about everything we buy comes in packaging and bags. These are just a few scenarios whereby whether I or not I like it, I end up playing a small part in reinforcing mankinds effect on climate change through many of my choices.

Sure, some choices are not exactly choices, others are indirect consequences and some are my choices and those I do hope to change the outcome of in future.

The point though, is that even with a conscience acknowledgement of the problem, it’s not so easy, at least in my experience, to make changes that can help rather than hinder on your own. Northern Ireland isn’t the best place to try and live carbon neutral or in a sustainable manner right now, but I’ll keep trying even if I’m frowned upon by others in their 4x4’s. I intend to make a more concerted effort and hopefully I won’t be alone. Though just another view, much like the rest of this post, Northern Ireland is in a great position to repolarise the effect in place at present - there is hope yet and we can all make a difference if we try a bit harder. Given also the support shown today with Blog Action Day 09 we won't be alone. I’ll hopefully blog further on this topic in future, preferably with some facts and interpretation rather than just opinion.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Up 3D and the 3D Cinema Showdown.

Up 3D advert at Belfast City Side Mall Movie House CinemaOn Monday it was another cinema night and a trip this time to the Movie House cinema at City Side Mall (aka Yorkgate Shopping Centre) on the outskirts of the central business district of Belfast. There we enjoyed a trip for a cup of tea and then on to see the recently released Pixar /Disney Digital 3-D film, Up. After Toy Story 3D at the Odeon where RealD is the preferred format, this was a chance to try out the 3D experience at the Movie House’s flagship cinema, with a Dolby 3D system. So what did we find?

Well, to begin with, a delicious raspberry muffin and a cup of tea at a near by cafe. It was there I met up after work with Norn girl and friends, closely followed by my soon to be sister and brother-in-law. The group were set. Losing one to other commitments, the group heading to the cinema comprised of 4, 20 something’s and a 12 year old. It was the oldest of us, *cough* Norn Girl, who with the encouragement of her younger brother ended up buying some crazy coloured clip in hair extensions which were worn all evening until donated to a lion... don’t ask!

We made it to the kiosk outside the York Gate/City Side Movie House and bought our tickets. After a quick ice cream stop for some. We climbed the stairs and handed in our tickets. The rest of the group headed to the queue for drinks and refreshments but I only wanted a bottle of something wet and cold so made my way around to the vending machine that’s around the corner near the higher numbered screens. After I had bought an overpriced bottle of Oasis compared to any other shop in the area I had a look around at the machines whilst I waited for the others to catch up. One caught my eye. It was a grabber machine like I used to play in Blackpool on family holidays as a kid. I was tempted to play this one because it had a nice sign on it saying ‘win every time’. I got my £1 and put it in the slot. I moved the stick and the grabber moved forwards, I had my eye amongst the random items for a toy SpongeBob Squarepants... the grabber stopped, I hadn’t meant to but it hit the back wall and was just out of reach of Spongebob. Oh well, I pressed the lit up button and the claw descended and missed everything. Thankfully it was a win every time... take 2... this time I headed for a pile of stuff and managed to dislodge a few things and there was another Spongebob... if only I could grab it with my grabber. Take 3 I tried, and failed. Take 4, the claw grabbed, and started to pick something up... in a real life version of Sid’s space ship grabber machine victory in Toy Story, my first thought was also...“Alright! Double prizes!”. The others were soon with me and I gleefully donated Spongebob to Norn Girl. I offered the weird bee thing around but sadly for this ‘Buzz’ there were no takers.

Spongebob Squarepants and a BeeWe made it to our screen and the staff were handing out the glasses. The Dolby3D glasses are reused and are apparently washed each time between uses because they are expensive to produce. They look the part, like trendy sunglasses and have an almost two tone coloured shimmer to them.

We picked our seats and watched the 3D ads and the 3D Pixar short film called ‘Partially Cloudy’ which was funny and a good warm up for our eyes. The view through the glasses though seemed just a bit off being 100% clear. There was almost like a slight fog around the outside of the field of view from the glasses which didn’t take away too much but was just noticeable. We tried each other’s glasses but they were all the same. A wipe on a cotton t-shirt to see if it was a smudge or residue from cleaning or something didn’t make a difference.

Up started and we settled back into our seats. I won’t spoil anything but the story sets up in the past with the lead character Carl Fredricksen as a boy, we are given his life story... and then the main story begins. The comedy is brilliantly done, the situation is so imaginative and well thought out that it’s hard to describe. All I will say is that Kevin and the dogs with their collars, at least for me, are the funniest movie characters to grace our screens this year, the movie lives up to its name and is as uplifting as the name suggests.

The 3D effects were quite subtle in places and not always used as much as they could have maybe been but the story to this movie and the comedy is its charm, the 3D effects are just the icing on the cake.

So yet another excellent movie experience. I don’t like to promote products and services and the corporate world but it seems like its probably about the right time to declare that 3D isn’t just a fad anymore. With the new push to promote digital 3D systems, its well and truly being integrated as part of the motion picture art form and it looks here to stay... which is good news for me because I’ve really enjoyed it so far!

The only let down to the movie (that was my own fault!) was the slight discomfort that came when I had randomly lifted off my glasses. I was trying to hold them away from my face try to try to see how the 3D was working out and to see what the brightness was like between that actually on the screen compared to what was coming through with the lenses filters. On their return to my head, I ended up missing the side of my head and poking myself in the eye with the end of the ear piece... oops! I missed a couple of minutes of 3D due to this slight mishap but I can officially say I’ve safety tested the ear pieces of the Dolby 3D glasses and that pair at least are a good level of blunt.

With the Storm cinema at the Odyssey at the time of writing not having a 3D showing advertised on their website (though they do have the VIP screenings with the lazy boy chairs – to which I’ve only been once, but they were so very comfy!) and having now experienced a 3D movie at both a Movie House and the Odeon. I think I can outline my experience mingled with a bit of the experiences of those with me on each occasion.

Customer Service: Both venues were great – excellent customer service, as in no fuss and friendly and clean (before other people made them messy). All good!

Prices (at the time we bought the tickets):
Movie House City Side - standard 3D showing ticket price £7
Odeon Victoria Square – standard 3D showing ticket price £8.45

3D experience: The 3D technologies of RealD and Dolby 3D were both good and produced a good quality 3D experience but here are what we found to be the pro’s and con’s of our visits.

Movie House City Side:

Positives - Choice of seats on the day. A few arcade and vending machines in the corridors between screens though if you’re a parent this could well be a negative hehe.

Negatives - What we judged to be slightly more uncomfortable glasses for our heads than the Real D (4/5 of us anyway) and slightly less clear/vibrant images but still a very good quality, however this is likely to be subjective and also could be influenced by the colours used in the movie itself. You can't take home the glasses and look cool/an idiot on the way home. Food and drink is expensive compared to same products at local shops and supermarkets.

Odeon Victoria Square:

Positives - What we judged to be slightly more comfortable glasses for our heads and what appeared to be slightly more clear/vibrant images, though this is subjective and also could be influenced by the colours used in the movie itself. The glasses are your own to keep and you too can look cool/an idiot on the way home :).

Negatives - Lesser choice of central seat locations without increased cost. Food and drink expensive compared to same products at local shops and supermarkets.

In regards to the technolgies involved, I’ve had a read around the t’interwebs and the best description I’ve found so far (one that isn’t too out of date yet) is a post by a user on the Audio Visual Science Forum who describes his observations of RealD and Dolby3D.


It’s honestly very hard to choose between them but personally from these experiences, I preferred the actual 3D movie experience of the RealD technology in the Odeon but preferred the physical venue at the Movie House.

However, if I had to choose what I enjoyed most of all; I enjoyed the good time had with Norn Girl, friends and family, the rest is just a bonus.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Weblog Disclaimer

Connecting with other consciousness in this usually warm and thoughtful but potentially unpredictable and dangerous world of the internet/blogosphere, it's hard to know who you might encounter and what their intentions might really be.
Heading further out into a largely uncharted expanse with my ever changing bag of feelings, ideas, opinions and accounts slung over my shoulder, the time has come to try to ensure a smooth voyage into the future with a Disclaimer.

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Thursday, 8 October 2009

Wedding planning, "Yellow Alert!"

With less than a month and a half until the wedding, yellow alert has been called. The rise in stress has stepped up a notch, especially last week. The joys of planning, arranging and holding a wedding with many of the more traditional elements, would seem to hold the potential to provide a taste of married life, before it’s even upon us.

The 'yellow alert' we've called, is seemingly due to a culmination of a few factors. The first admittedly, is that of me as of the end of last week not getting involved enough - my bad.

The other more substantial issues causing us headaches in our wedding organisation are as follows:

- Lots and lots of little things that snuck under the radar which all raise their little heads from the ground like attention seeking zombie leprechauns. Just little to-do's all asking for attention and needing a resolution.

- Work and other commitments eating time. It’s hard to relax when your wedding is on the horizon. Sadly and probably short sighted of us; the main victim of this, apart from our sanity, has been our gym time. This fell by the wayside some time ago.

- Other people. Please don't get me wrong, we really want everyone who's invited to show up to our big day (especially given all the planning involved with the day itself) but our original plan didn't include the complex web of wedding planning that we're still working on today. We didn't plan to be antisocial, but our initial ‘Plan A’ was to travel somewhere else, ideally Scandinavia. To head there with just our immediate families and in a beautiful setting, to have an intimate ceremony. The up side would have been that along with our families, we would have had a trip to remember. We wanted to then just hold a wee gathering back home for everyone else to not be left without a party.

Sadly, because of the cost of the travel, those plans didn't fit into our budget, even when cutting corners and after saving for the best part of 2 years. Now we're dedicated to Plan B. Plan B happened to provide us with some great venues here in N.I - a castle and a hotel no less. The problem with being here is that so many other people will also be there because its close, and as we've come to find, now more than ever, even some people you know well can be very unpredictable. It seems almost surreal the unnecessary problems we've had thrown our way.

It's not that we don't like helping, if anything we've a habit of never being able to say no when asked to help. However, if its not people wanting us to resolve their travel arrangements its being asked to confirm details that they have already been given the means to the information for and just not looking. As well as that its people asking for plus ones. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just asking - in fact we've not turned anyone down and now have people coming to the reception who we will be meeting for the first time. Come to mention it, we must ask for full names for the seating plan. The annoyance has come in the way we've been confronted with the requests. Whether intended or not, the enquiries we've had, have basically insinuate that they won't be coming unless they can bring a plus 1.
This would be understandable if it wasn't for the fact that the people know a lot of other people who will be there anyway. After all, we planned and planned and planned the guest list, it might not be perfect but everyone will be near someone that we know they know and actually like - or at least we hope they still do, eeek.

We've tried our best to cover every base and the majority of people have been great and many RSVP's have come back with Yes I will attend proudly ticked so it’s not as bad as I might have made the situation out to be. Its just a little disheartening when your best efforts are thrown back at you by people who you would have thought would appreciate those best efforts, even if they obviously fell short of their expectations.

Ah well, I'm sure there will be plenty more ups and downs yet as the time draws closer.

A big list in a calendar format was a creation on Sunday. A countdown, as well as a reminder of all we still need to do. A list I'm already behind with, oops.

Despite the stresses and what seem to me to be overly complicated arrangements. I still can’t wait to be married to the girl I fell for 7 years ago. I might be dreading the speech and we're both unnerved about the fact that so many eyes will be staring at us all day, but I'm defiantly looking forward to saying "I do". I just can't fathom why its so damn hard to set the scene to do so, and to throw a party afterwards. We were never going to be able to afford a wedding planner to take the stress away, so there was always going to be some organising to do. Its just maybe proving to be more complicated than it might have been.

I just hope that we can ride out the storm long enough to prevent us swimming away and eloping. All being well it won't come to that but I'll keep an eye out on national express coach prices to Gretna Green just in case.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Toy Story 3D

Excited about a movie we’d all seen several times before? You bet we were! Last Friday I bounced into a cinema screen like I hadn’t done for over a decade.

Having been very impressed by the latest version of the 3D cinema experience when we took the plunge and went to see Monsters Vs Aliens a wee while back, we were really looking forward to this one. It’s not hard to see why when I break this down in true Joey Tribbiani style - probably a reviewing technique that the likes of Radio 1’s James King wishes he’d thought of (I don’t know about you but I think he has a terrible taste in movies, but even he gave this 5/5!)...

Whats not to like? Toy Story, good. RealD 3D Digital Cinema, good. Getting to walk out of the cinema with 20-30 other people all still wearing polarised glasses and looking like you’ve all come out of a Blue Brothers re-enactment, good!

This new generation of 3D cinema really does beat the pants off the older 3D versions. I remember being at Alton Towers in their 3D cinema as well as the odd IMAX elsewhere and coming out feeling quite nauseous. I’m surely not that prone to it? I’ve never been car sick and even when my cousin and I decided to spend the best part of a morning at Blackpool Pleasure beach riding only anything that spins, and riding those rides repeatedly we didn't hurl. We might have been dizzy and in need of food to give our internal organs some stable and cohesive binding, but it wasn’t as bad as a 30 minute visit to see an unstable 3D adventure. With the new range of digital 3D cinema, we’ve headed to the Odeon mainly so far, and I believe they use RealD, this has been by convenience more than choice, but undoubtedly it has been first rate. The screen still seems very bright, the colours are great, the 3D really does stand out and the experience has been all together brilliant. Sure it might seem outdated and be superseded before long, but right now, it’s quite a sight, quite literally.

The only downside I’ve found has been the cost. The Odeon is far too expensive, as it is anyway for its regular tickets, especially compared, over here in Northern Ireland, to the Movie House cinemas. With the 3D showings, for 2 adult tickets and a bag of sweets, you’re not going to get much change from a £20 note.

Toy Story itself was the same bunch of giggles and action as it was in 2D but in 3D that extra dimension really does add an extra dimension. Seeing Andy’s toys coming to life with depth was great, it was like watching it for the first time again and brought you closer into the characters CGI world. From the reactions of those in front and from my own behaviour, it seemed like everyone was taking random turns at smiling at whoever they were with. Not to spoil it for anyone, but even the credits had a hint of 3D to them!

All in all, it was probably worth the money this time but I do hope it comes down in price a little, and perhaps it will if the hints are true that 3D TV might be upon us in the not so distant future.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Is it Christmas time already?

Merry Christmas! It’s here; it’s the most wonderful time of the year. That time honoured festival, where people throughout the ages have celebrated the coming to an end of darkest days of winter by filling it with a feeling of optimism and togetherness for the year ahead. It had only just turned September when the 1st signs were there to be spotted by the curious passersby. And in the race to win over the hearts and minds of those less fortunate than themselves, it’s the business world who, as usual have bolted from the start line.

First signs were the sneaky inclusion of some wrapping paper and bows, hidden low down at the foot of the shelves in a few stores. “What a funny sight at this time of year”, I did think to myself as I first laid eyes on them. I wondered who in their right mind would have already brought Christmas presents and be looking to wrap them? Are there really that many people heading away on a 3 month vacation who will be out of reach of a reliable post service?

So, are the stores making a good profit and getting the cash flow running early? Is it just planning ahead and filling the space? Or possibly, could it just be to get people thinking about buying? Besides my suspicions, there are probably many other reasons that are better known to those in seasonal sales and marketing. However (and feel free to call me a cynic) but it doesn’t seem anything new for a group to manipulate a holiday to suit their own cause. Even a celebration seemingly originally founded from the best of humanity’s spirit.

Pinned to today’s Gregorian calendar there would be a 1 in 365.2425 chance of getting it right, however when Hippolytus of Rome put forward the suggestion and when Pope Julius the 1st and others declared the date of their Saviors birthday, it seems a co-incidence that they picked the date they did. Especially, when the decision came centuries after the event. I heard a line tonight, it was from the Deep Space Nine episode ‘Cardassians’ and it seems quite apt to share at this moment and it went as follows, "I believe in coincidences, coincidences happen every day... but I don't trust coincidences."

So it seems quite likely they were assimilating the winter solstice holidays to suit the pursuit of strengthening their belief system in the same sort of way that Patrick popularised Christianity in Ireland. That is by adapting what had already evolved to be the predominant cultural focus of a people and their communities, and to manipulate that to be an integral part of what you want it to become. Sure, it could have been the masses who, taking on their new beliefs, adapted them to their old festivals and celebrations. But all this without the drive or influence of those at the head of an organized religious group who would have had the biggest vested interest in controlling the hearts and minds of people? The best part of 2 millennia later and the themes and methodology of controlling powers of religions and states seem to have put to bed much doubt. So moving on, cultural change and through the centuries of developments, we meet with Capitalism and eventually, mass production. At this point, the most powerful ideas being sold are purely of financial implication. Those formerly able to control states (in what is now seen as the developed world) with religious dogma, now have to settle, on the face of things at least, for a control of spirituality. The door to the sale of ideas to the masses is largely in the hands of the corporation and the press. Along comes Coca Cola, and looking for a new marketing campaign, didn’t create, but adapted on an already popular image of the day, that of a popularised American interpretation of a religious figure - St Nicholas – aka Santa. Since that marketing success, Christmas has since become a quirk of the materialistic and consumerist western world. Both taking advantage of as well as adding substance to - as Christianity did - the good nature and goodwill of mankind. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, is an opinion entirely at the judgment of the individual.

So looking around town this weekend, where numerous shops like BHS already have some of their ranges of wrapping, cards, chocolate advent calendars, ornaments, toys and other festive decorations, it’s not so difficult to understand that it’s not really strange at all that we’re being offered such items at this time of year. For these items, which relate to the current convoluted symbols that now help us feel attached to our continued interpretation of an ancient celebration, are our link to our ancestors and to their hopes, fears and optimism relating to the natural cycle of our planet. For that, it is likely there will always be demand. As is the case in Britain and Ireland, where power and heat is largely taken for granted all year round. A sense of connection with the seasons, even though it may only be a case of whether it is dark when we wake. Or our sense of community within our families and with others. Still brings even the most secular of us to understand that Christmas, aka x-mass, the Winter Solstice, aka the winter holidays, is whatever we want to make of it. If that’s led people to wish to prepare for it 3 months early, then there doesn’t seem much harm. People and this celebration have been manipulated for a very long time but when we look back at what Christmas has been, Christmas only matters in what it means to you.

Personally I see a Christmas shop, even at this time of year, and it makes me smile. It gives me a sense of excitement and warmth as I recall and relate it to many fond memories. Sure, I’m as confused by the desire to sell or buy Christmas themed goods so early as I am by the Church and religious groups who advertise that we should remember ‘the real meaning of Christmas’ each year.

So, the PLC’s might have their foot in the Christmassy door first, the Church won’t be that far behind, but when it comes to the time when the traditions and festivities are played out this year, it will adapt to whatever we each make it. Hopefully the more hopeful and forward looking ethos, of those who first gathered and instigated a celebration (for whatever their reasons), will shine through.

In the meantime, there’s a good chunk of this year left to live. I for one intend to make the most of it before I even start to contemplate any major Christmas related plans. Time to put the Snowman back on ice.


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