The Blame Game

Earlier this afternoon, I made the weekly trip to the huge Tesco on the edge of the local town. With all the leftovers to eat, I didn’t exactly have a long shopping list, but we needed a few everyday essentials. On top of those, we decided to have a ‘Tapas’ buffet on New Year’s Eve, so there was an extra list to see what I could get to add to that.

The shop was busy, something to be expected on its first full day of trading after the seasonal closures.

I headed to the aisle where you can get boring things you need, like bin-liners.
They were in stock.

In the same area is tinfoil. The shelves were bare. Well, not exactly bare as the usual long boxes of assorted sizes of tinfoil had been replaced by rows of ‘tinfoil containers’. Despite suspecting the answer in advance, I approached a young man who was removing empty cardboard from the shelf. I asked if there was any tinfoil in the stockroom. “We have these”, he said pointing out some takeaway-style tinfoil boxes with paper lids. I told him I couldn’t spread those on the inside of a roasting tin, or wrap up opened cheese in them. His reply was boringly predictable.

“Sorry, it’s Covid. Oh, and Christmas. We are short of drivers and are waiting on deliveries”.

I headed to the deli counter, to buy some fresh anchovies in oil, Spanish-style, to add to our Tapas buffet. There were none visible. I asked a man at the fish counter, his beard reminiscent of that sported by the famous W.G. Grace, and strangely contorted by his face mask. He looked perplexed, and went to get someone. He returned with a lady who looked very confident. “She’s the fish-buyer”, he told me, his beard moving like a furry glove puppet under the mask.

The lady knew her stuff.

“Anchovies? I can tell you we don’t have an anchovy left in the shop, not even in jars or tins, let alone fresh. Sorry, it’s the Covid, and Brexit. A shortage of drivers, and they are imported too of course. We haven’t had an anchovy in this shop since Christmas Eve, and no idea when they will be back in stock”.

I thanked her for her efforts.

Having decided to cook a Chinese stir fry at the weekend, I was pleased to find Pak Choi, Fresh Noodles in boxes, and a nice mix of Chinese vegetables, also fresh in a box. I added two duck breasts in plum sauce to my trolley, and the went in search of some Shiitake mushrooms. There were only white mushrooms on the shelf, so I asked a man who was loading spring onions into a section.

He didn’t actually laugh, but I could tell he wanted to.

“Shiitake mushrooms? Nah, none left. They are imported you know, and we have problems with drivers ’cause of Covid and Brexit. And it’s Christmas, don’t forget that. They get time off, like anyone else. Sorry”.

I smiled back at him, under my mask. I think he could tell I was smiling as I asked him who he was going to blame once there was no Covid, it wasn’t Christmas, and Brexit was ‘normal’. He shrugged as he replied.

“They will find something to blame it on, I’m sure”.

After Christmas

I have started to say it already. I caught myself doing it the other day. Putting off something that I really should be arranging or doing, and using one of those eternal excuses that I have in my repertoire. I will do that ‘After Christmas’. I vary this by sometimes saying, ‘When we have got Christmas over with’, or ‘Once Christmas is out the way’, but the intention is always to delay, using what I have long considered to be a solid excuse.

Since my teens, I have made good use of seasonal events to assist my compulsive procrastination. The summer provides one of the best. ‘When we come back from holiday’. That traditional two-week break was very useful indeed, as I could look months ahead, and not do something until I had returned from a couple of weeks in Greece, Turkey, or any other foreign destination. Of course, once I was home, I could then throw in my secondary armament with a pledge to do it ‘After Christmas’. If things worked out, I never had to do whatever it was at all.

I might even use the ‘marginals’, those things that don’t really qualify as natural stumbling blocks. ‘I will do that after Easter’ was a good one. I don’t even celebrate Easter, and even if I did, it’s just one weekend. Even more clutching at straws came with ‘After my birthday’. I could use that single day in March to avoid doing so many things. All it took was a lifetime of practice.

But now it is almost November, so I can dust off the ‘Big One’. Christmas. I don’t even like Christmas, but it is the longest-running festival, and one that most people seem to readily agree is an excuse to delay something. For some reason, ‘After Christmas’ is a socially-acceptable reason for putting off almost anything you can name.

All I have to do after that, is to wait until it isn’t too early to blame my birthday.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Seasonal excuses

I woke up thinking about Christmas this morning. So much still to do, and running out of days to do it. I sort-of resent all that effort, for what amounts to three days of feeling under pressure, hours spent cooking and eating, and then it’s all over until this time next year. That made me think about how we approach our year, divided into ‘before and after’ so many occasions.

We find ourselves saying things like, ‘I will do that after Christmas’, or ‘OK, I will get that done before Christmas’. Speaking personally, I have often used Christmas as an excuse to put off things I know I should be doing. It has become a convenient barrier in my mind, and an excuse accepted by most people too. For me, ‘I will do that after Christmas’ has become an annual standby to accommodate a list of chores or tasks that I could probably do just as well tomorrow. Following straight on from the 27th of December, the New Year celebration offers a short break to add to my list too. ‘I will do that after the 2nd of January’ is perhaps my least effective excuse, but that doesn’t stop me from using it, I assure you.

As well as Christmas, we have other seasonal breaks to add to that arsenal of potential excuses. Easter is a good one, as it moves around, with no fixed point. ‘I will do that after Easter’ is very useful, especially when it comes to those Spring jobs needing attention in the garden. The summer holiday is another classic. The annual two-week break is planned so far in advance that there really is no excuse to use it to put things off. But I always try. ‘I will do that when we come back from holiday’ has been a solid excuse in my repertoire, for as long as I can remember.

Of course, my birthday is the best. Despite knowing when it is every year, and the fact that it is just one day out of 365, (or 366) I can deploy this as a genuine excuse at will, with no hint of conscience or guilt. ‘After my birthday’ has long been my favourite, and my most stubborn excuse for not doing anything I know I should be getting on with.

If I was American, I would no doubt be able to deploy Thanksgiving too. And it is just as well I am not a devout Catholic, as there are at least 14 official religious days I am sure I would have to observe.