Jayne Dawson: The ads are back '“ and it's time to enjoy the daftness
And we're off! The adverts are back, therefore the season has begun.
Whimper and whinge all you like, you can’t halt progress. And progress says the Christmas adverts launch the festive countdown.
Your granny might have told you ancient tales about far off days when the Santa season began on Christsmas Eve with the decorating of the tree.
But nuts to that. Did she tell you those decorations included real candles, all the better to roast little children alive? We’re better off with the modern ways.
And the modern way is for the battle of the big stores to kick off right now by booting us where it hurts - in our hearts.
The major high street brands fight to capture our emotions - and our cash - with adverts disguised as ever more enchanting tales to make us laugh and make us cry.
I know, I know. I too remember the days when a couple of coat hangers launched Christmas.
Oh, those innocent times. A Blue Peter presenter would wrap them with tinsel, adorn them with candles and, lo, the annual Advent crown was born. Each week one of those four candles would be ceremoniously lit. It was lovely.
But I think I prefer the festive adverts.
As has become traditional, John Lewis went first. It’s only fair because they are the inventor of what has become a major milestone of the year..
Back in 2007 they gave us a little thing costing a mere £6m about piles of gifts creating a shadow the same shape as their recipients. It was clever, but it wasn’t the heart-tearing tsunami of emotion that that later adverts would become. But it was enough. Enough to push up profits, and a cultural phenomenon was born.
Within a few short years John Lewis Christmas adverts had left behind all vulgar notions of showcasing the products in their stores.
Instead, millions were being poured into putting us through the emotional wringer: the boy counting down the days to when he could his gift to his parents; the snowman choosing a present for his snow woman.
Then came the bear and the hare, and Monty the penguin.
Last year was the man on the moon, and this year we are being given Buster the bouncing boxer dog, joined on the garden trampoline by an animal gang.
The adverts become huge talking points on social media. Spoofs are made, jokes are told, debates are sparked.
You didn’t get that with Blue Peter.
These days, the first advert of Christmas is as important as the first snowdrops of spring, the first golden leaves of autumn. They are a signifier of the jolly time of year.
At the weekend, viewers of the X Factor were given the first showing of the Waitrose Christmas advert, featuring a robin making an epic and dangerous journey from Scandinavia to the UK where a waiting young girl has put out a mince pie in hope of his annual return.
I’m betting many viewers enjoyed that little emotional roller-coaster more than the one on X Factor.
Aldi has gone for Kevin the Carrot, complete with an online spoof of the John Lewis offering, and Boots has created a story celebrating all the Christmas day workers.
But my own favourite this year is the M&S commercial, which features Mrs Claus. She’s smart, she’s stylish, she’s aged 55 and she Gets Things Done. What’s not to love?
Certainly beats the old-style offering - remember when a Christmas advert featured a bit of tinsel, and a man shouting at you about how cheap the prices were?
Of course you might not be comfortable with the commercialism of it all. I understand that - but you don’t have to buy a sausage if you don’t want to.
Just accept the daftness of it all. And enjoy.
ALL FOR THE LOVE OF OUR PETS
You could say it was all a bit much.
Mark Woods, heartbroken at having to end the life of his beloved old dog, appealed for others to join them on a final walk.
And so it happened. A crowd gathered to support the family as they took Walnut for one last walk across the beach. In fact, they had to carry the old and failing whippet, but he was able to smell the outdoors one last time.
After that, Mark said kind words to his old friend, thanking him for the joy he had brought into their lives over 18 years, before holding him as he was put to sleep, as we euphemistically say.
You would be right to say it was all over the top. There are children being shown less love as they endure terrible deaths, so it seems plain wrong to be so sentimental over an animal that has lived a long and good life.
All the same, I wept when I read the story of Walnut.
I remember the sadness of holding my lovely old cat in my arms as the vet administered the lethal injection. I missed the comfort of having my old pet around me very much and for a long time.
In fact, it’s embarrassing to admit how much we can miss a pet.
So maybe Mark has the right idea. Tell the world about your love for your old friend, celebrate them, mourn them. And get over the embarrassment of your grief.
It’s just a pet, but you loved them.
DIVIDE TO CONQUER THE LACK OF SLEEP
The stakes are high.
Almost a third of people say their partners are the reason they can’t get a good night’s sleep.
The snoring, the grabbing of the bedcovers, the stealing of more than their fair share of the mattress. Sometimes it’s a relief when morning comes, just to end the battle.
And poor sleep is a dangerous thing. It can contribute to depression, heart disease, divorce and, worst of all, prematurely ageing skin.
A study by the University of Leeds and the bed company Silentnight has revealed the nightmare of our resting hours.
The solution? Well it seems those old Hollywood films had the right idea.
The research suggests separate beds or even, where space allows, separate bedrooms, would solve many of our health and relationship problems.
Drastic I know. But you have, after all, your complexion to consider.