27 November 2011

25 November 1972

Thirty-nine years ago last Friday two fresh-faced youngsters with very little sense gathered with some friends and a couple of relations and made some crazy comments and absurd commitments. What were we thinking!!? And who would have thought that it would still be working all these years later!

To celebrate, Ms Playchute and I had dinner at the Butcher’s Arms in Priors Hardwick just up the road. I suppose this is our equivalent of Hemingways, an absolutely excellent restaurant in the middle of nowhere which has played host in its time to absolutely everyone who was ever anyone. There are photographs of famous sports personalities, celebrities and movie stars as well as the occasional politician adorning the walls, usually in the company of the owner, Lino Pires, a Portuguese émigré who took over what was, at that time, a pub in 1973. Since then he and his family have transformed it into an excellent restaurant of some renown. Naturally, he was keen to have his photograph taken with us but I had to tell him to back off – this was a quiet, romantic celebration.

And, indeed, we had a great meal but how do they have the audacity to charge more than four times the “normal” price for a bottle of wine?

We had a nice, brief chat with Ben on Thanksgiving evening. Of course, we had forgotten the significance of the day as it is of no consequence here. However, purely by chance, I had been to the supermarket that morning and had purchased some sliced turkey breast luncheon meat. So, I indulged in spite of myself.

As we were chatting with Ben we stumbled across the expression “Black Friday” with which Pen was unfamiliar. I have to confess that I don’t remember it being in widespread use when I was younger but perhaps it was and, like so many other things, it just passed me by. Still, it got us to thinking about its derivation and so I raced across to that font of all unbiased and reliable information, Wikipedia.

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at 4 a.m., or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the shopping season, similar to Boxing Day sales in many British Commonwealth countries. Black Friday is not actually a holiday, but many non-retail employers give their employees the day off, increasing the number of potential shoppers. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005, although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate, have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time.

The day’s name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1966 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that “Black Friday” indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are “in the black”.

For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00, but in the late 2000s, many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohls, Macy’s, Best Buy, and Bealls) opened at midnight for the first time.

There is some “dispute” which Wikipedia acknowledges, about the meaning of the use of the expression “Black” to describe the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. While admittedly shopping for Christmas is not the most enjoyable activity one could imagine (especially in the days before one could acquire virtually everything online), it still seems a bit mean to describe the run-up to Christmas in such bleak terms. The notion that this marks the period at which retailers begin to turn a profit also seems a bit flimsy and more likely the use of the adjective by traffic police to refer to the congestion and traffic chaos seems more plausible, to me at any rate.

I wrote last time about Molly barking at inanimate objects. As her hearing and sight deteriorate, she seems increasingly excited about the possibility of meeting anyone or anything and expresses her excitement with a continuous barking as she bounds towards whatever it is which has excited her attention. The other day Pen and I were walking with her across the Edgecote estate and she suddenly started barking and bounding ahead up a small rise. Pen and I looked at each other in some confusion as there was nothing in the vicinity – no animals, no humans and no inanimate objects other than the usual trees, hedges and fields. There was literally nothing for her to be barking at. So, as well as being deaf and partially sighted, it seems we now have to add senile to her list of complaints.

Finally, I saw this from Shoe the other day. Sums up my recent health concerns rather well.

Medical Breakthrough

Love to you all,

Greg