Culture

Never too late for Christmas shopping

Each year it is the same rush, race, organized chaos for Christmas shoppers and sales assistants/shop owners.

For Londoners, the choice is vast.

Christmas shopping London

Christmas shopping London

There is also the alternative: the mighty internet… However, this is not the same experience.

There is a certain beauty to go out and to enter a carefully decorated store – whatever the size – to feel that unique atmosphere of Christmas.

For some reasons, people want to buy expensive and big presents. Sometimes it is a real headache for sellers and buyers. It is about guiding, giving support and directing customers towards the right gift. In other words, there is no room for error! No one wants to have their Christmas ruined.

Have people lost the actual sense of Christmas?

It can be worrying/surprising to see decorations for 25th December in some shops from late August.

Technology is taking over nearly everything. From toys for toddlers to gadgets for adults. There must be WiFi, USB and other mandatory connections. Some are after the latest tablet or perhaps the newcomer that are wearables!

So, now time is running out. Just a few days to go and some are literally running after work to some shops looking for THE present(s). Late night opening and Sunday extra hours seem not enough to reach the “golden ticket” which will make that December day special.

Stepping back from the mayhem, all can look slightly over the top. We do have 11 months to plan that day. But… the last minute thing is currently part of our “busy” lifestyle. How can we be so busy? Technology is supposed to help us to have a better and easier life?!

We certainly are spending too much time on social media sharing this and that with other followers, friends and contacts.

Let’s scrap this for a short time and concentrate on the most urgent task to complete then eventually “instagram” the moment. There is always a solution to purchase something for someone. What is important to remember: it is all about the thoughts and not the price tag or the size of the Christmas gift. Everyone is after a little something! It can be a book instead of a Kindle, a voucher instead of a garment.

In the recent years some people have decided to orientate their choices towards hotel stays or fishing holidays in order to give something different and usable whenever it is convenient for the recipients. Tastes are changing and receiving a pass for a holiday or leisure park is certain to please everyone and there is no worries to have about sizes, colours…etc

What does this mean?

No need to stress, rush and panic as in most cases the simpliest things will please everyone. A Christmas present is not just for Christmas… but for the entire year.

Keep Calm Christmas Poster

Keep Calm Christmas Poster

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Culture, Design

The English countryside is buzzing

A few weeks ago, we decided to head to Devon for our well deserved break from London.

It is true that a few Londoners like to go to the Southwest to enjoy peace and quiet around seafronts, long beaches and green Dartmoor.

This year, there was so much to do and see.

Last year we attended TLB Revival first edition and couldn’t wait for this year’s event.

We knew that it would be something special because more classic cars and bikes would fill Barnfield Crescent.

We were also anticipating the visit of Velo Vintage for their tea break. It was like a trip back in time. So close from the city centre, so far from the urban hustle & bustle.

Velo Vintage Exeter tea break

TLB Revival 2015 had more participants and the brilliant lawn received food and drink stalls as well as quality music from The Siren Sisters. What caught our eyes was the camera obscura from Sam White.

The fantastic meeting point couldn’t have been better. Beautiful blue sky, great architecture and the atmosphere was second to none. It is this kind of feeling when you meet someone once a year and can share things from previous meetups: a real sense of community despite the distance.

TLB Revival 2015 Exeter - jaguar

TLB Revival 2015 Exeter - motorbikes

TLB Revival 2015 Exeter - dashboard Chevrolet pickup truck

We mustn’t forget to mention the place where we stayed. This may surprise you but we opted for something slightly off the beaten tracks: Hazelwood Holiday Park.

On the outskirts of Exeter is Dawlish Warren – accessible by train, car, bus and bicycle too, thanks to the brilliant infrastructure that is Exe Trail, the newly developed cycle path.

Cyclists on the Exe Estuary Trail

The weather being rather summery we decided to commute on two wheels passing by the legendary Turf Locks Pub – a true destination pub. Walking, cycling and boating being the only ways to reach this unique green space surrounded by water! Fear not, if you don’t own a boat, there is a  local business Saddles & Paddles where it is possible to hire canoes and bikes. This shop welcomes dogs such as our holiday park – so we could take the pooch on the canoe and enjoy our daily discoveries and explorations.

Being in Devon just as Rugby World Cup 2015 kicked-off, we visited Exeter’s Fanzone and managed to get some tickets (thanks to Toby and Clarissa), to see the a live game at Sandy Park for Tonga Vs Namibia. Here again very friendly and Devonians know how to make you feel welcome instantly.

The short train journey from Exeter Central to the game venue only took a few minutes and there was a real party atmosphere between supporters and families whatever teams they were encouraging.

There are plenty of outdoors occupations in the English countryside, it is not just plain and boring. It is sometimes therapeutic to go away from your daily routine and enjoy what open spaces have to offer. Some prefer to actually go to a city in order to spend and purchase something special.

You just need to step back and realize that shopping can always be completed another day – nature doesn’t wait!

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Business, Culture

Unlimited urban shopping

Bank Holidays seem to be something special for a lot of families and 9 to 5 office workers.

That Monday off becomes an extension of a Sunday.

In general, shops are open according to Sunday trading hours.

People seem to like those lazy Mondays. There aren’t a lot of things to do except… going to town.

Bank Holiday Shopping

Bank Holiday Shopping

I found myself in a High Street – stepped into Boots just after Midday. It was heaving – tills really struggled with people queueing. It was like a rush of buyers. After observing closer what they actually purchased, it was nothing more than shampoo, soap or other products widely available on a daily basis.

There were people everywhere. Coffee shops and restaurants terraces were almost full.

But why going to all these places on a Bank Holiday Monday; it is very busy with the staff members literally running in order to maintain everyone happy. Yes… people are grumpy and very impatient if they don’t get what they are after rapidly. The World seems to have changed!

Food shopping on Bank Holiday

Food shopping on Bank Holiday

Technology is driving people into the nearest Apple store to see if there is something new they want but don’t actually need. It is all about having the latest accessory to complete the full look. Currently thinking of the connected watch (whatever the make and manufacturer).

Life can be good and peaceful without all these Apps, firmware updates and other social media status where users share their views, photographs and thoughts/opinions about what celebrities are doing/saying/wearing. It is a constant stream of information and it is “so important” to be aware of what is a hit or a miss.

A handful of “bank holidayers” can decide to escape all this urban chaos for a few hours to discover and enjoy the beautiful British countryside and green landscapes.

In the Southwest of England Exmoor and Dartmoor offer so much and… it is free. It happens that Londoners visiting the County have their eyes on some estates as property investment in that particular area can be a great asset too. Prices can be way lower than properties in the capital and the potential can be immense.

However, when parents are mentioning a day of hiking, too little families do see such day out as “fun”. Nature is important but is nearly rejected because green spaces and fields are associated with farming – which is not “cool”. But why ignore that farms are in fact producing most goods which end up in our fridges/on our dining tables?

Maybe shopping is more important than the well being of our planet?

What is driving people to city centres instead of going for walks and fresh air just at the outskirts of their cities/towns/villages?

Cycling has made people jump on their bicycles mainly after Wiggins and Froome wins at the Tour de France. But, this is only applicable to certain groups who enjoy regular outdoors exercises whatever the weather.

During the Summer (whenever it exists), the usual Bank Holiday combination is beer and barbecue! And this is still taking place at someone’s home/back garden. These party goers will once again rarely decide to leave their comfort zone. It is as if life must be about excess of food and alcohol and this costs money.

Their surroundings are still free of charge. A bit of effort would make them discover something which is at their doorsteps and the memories wouldn’t be blur when they wake up the following day.

Luckily for the global economy, people love to spend money – even if they don’t have enough to purchase whatever they are dreaming of. Owning things is becoming a kind of past times. Accumulation of items might be a twenty first century disorder, because people are stressed, depressed and unhappy about many points in their own lives.

Buying can be a therapy to balance the yin and the yang. And then there can be a feeling of regret… It is a bit like a roller-coaster.

What about going away when next Bank Holiday is around the corner? It is truly possible to have a great time without spending money (or just a little) and not being sucked into the modern whirlpool of city chains just to believe to be part of the fashionable movement or even that what you just bought will make your life better. It is all artificial – a bit like a subliminal message through clever marketing campaigns.

For a short time, just forget your smartphone, Kindle and all modern addictions which make our daily lives so busy.

By looking back at the early part of this century, it was rare to have a digital device and no one thought that Twitter, Facebook or Instagram would influence our personal and professional decisions.

It also happens too frequently, that when texting a friend/colleague the expected answer takes hours and something along these lines appears on your screen “thank you for your text, will reply later as I am very busy”! Surely the time it took to type these few words could have been the actual reply?!

What does “being busy” mean? Again, everyone seems to be busy between emails, texts, hashtags and other downloads. Can we not prioritise human to human relations rather than human to technology/device?

Touchscreen technology

Touchscreen technology

By just sitting on a bench or by a bus shelter, have a look around you. People are like zombies. Eyes glued to their touchscreens and there is no conversations. The only noises are ringtones and laughs when sharing/seeing a “funny” face or viral video.

Is our Society regressing and/or becoming superficial?

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