Christmas Is Always Coming

So, let’s talk about Christmas, it’s obligatory with it being less than ten days away at this point and I do plan to discuss my actual day of Christmas with you on Christmas as it happens, a sort of sum up like last year followed by a retrospective of my year as a whole. However, for now, let’s discuss Christmas, in particular why some may view me as something of a Scrooge on the topic. I never really partake in festivities to the same degree as my friends – no antlers on my head, no Christmas jumper waiting to be sprung out come December and you’ll never get me singing along to Jingle Bells. A variety of reasons surround this, first and foremost is my social anxiety which insists that although everyone else in the room looks like a colossal dickhead wearing red noses and tinsel scarves, I will be the most dickheadiest of dickheads if I join in, that somehow my foolishness isn’t just fun, it’s utterly disgusting and degrading to watch and people will remember the display as a reason to hold me in slightly less high regard. On the other hand, there are some other reasons I’m not huge on Christmas as a whole, which I’ll cover over the course of this post.

Now, don’t be mistaken in thinking I want December 25th to be just another day on the calendar and we don’t bother at all, that’s not it, I think it’s nice that we all agree to dedicate some time of the year to togetherness and family time and so on – though it sucks to the nth degree not all of us get that. Christmas, forced onto the mainstream by a previously Christian dominated society and now kept around for people of all walks of life due to a combination of tradition and marketing, is fun when you’re in the right setting for it with the right people and resources and so on – hard to be miserable at Christmas when you have all you want. The problem is just that though, Christmas is such a beacon of light and joy that some of us expect it to cast out the negativity simply the grace of existing and we can overlook the pains, struggles and loneliness of our fellow men because we think “It’s Christmas, someone will do something for them and they’ll probably feel better with a belly full of turkey and some nice new trinkets to unwrap”. Here then. we have that phrase, that phrase that is the bane of my life every single year between the end of October and December 26th.

“BUT IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

You know what? So fucking what if it is? We’re aware what time of year it is, which by the way, I resent for creeping earlier and earlier into the year, partly because I’m a November baby and partly because it applies the pressure to be cheerful and excited on depressed folk like me before they’re even in the right frame of mind to adopt false happiness. Christmas isn’t some be all, end all cure to the woes of the world, whatever Bob Geldof insists on telling you. The reality is Santa doesn’t deliver world peace, bosses don’t always let things slide because the big day is coming and not every broken heart finds someone willing to bring them out of the cold, let’s not delude ourselves. If we perpetuate Christmas as being the best thing to happen in a year, it loses that status because we don’t need to do anything, it becomes that for the consumerist masses just by being Christmas – people already have their Christmas spirit pumping without the need for volunteering in a soup kitchen or checking in on their lonesome neighbour who doesn’t have kids to come visit or whatever. By doing that, Christmas becomes less and less like the fairy tales and slips more and more into what cynics like me have been calling it for years – a mass of over-excited meatheads stuffing their faces and buying shit.

So, Christmas lovers, maybe you’re think I’m being a Grinch hmm? I just don’t understand because I’m a misery right? Maybe you’re right, this year is seeing me be the most depressed I’ve been at Christmas time since my schoolboy days, for reasons too personal to disclose here. However, last Christmas (Don’t), I wasn’t as bad, I had money, friends and even though Christmas didn’t happen at my home, I did my fair share of philanthropic gestures and gift giving and even then I STILL wrote an article about how overhyped Christmas is and how unfair it is on children in particular. I love Christmas and that’s speaking as a staunch Atheist to whom Christmas has no religious meaning to give remembrance for, it’s literally just “Winter is shit but hey presents and food happen!”. but I still love this idea of a time in which we stop to think about people and how we can express our love for them, my only concern is that perhaps we lost sight of that.

You know the shpiel here, that Christmas has become about buying affection rather than earning it, in showing love through consoles and laptops rather than actual words of kindness or shows of support and many of you will roll your eyes at the goody two-shoe deal here but it is so important we remember that and we must remember that Christmas isn’t a time of joy for us all, no matter how much you wish it to be. Tragic story time, my Dad when I was young, despised Christmas, so much that seeing decorations filled him with dread and sorrow because to him, it didn’t mean joy and laughter, it meant a time of spending money and fulfilling other people’s dreams because if he didn’t, he had to disappoint them. We had no decorations in our house until Christmas Day itself and they’d come down again afterwards as soon as Dad could manage it, just so he didn’t have to see that tree for one second longer than he had to. I didn’t understand as a child, I don’t think my Dad ever realised that as a kid, I was always happy at Christmas with anything he got me – probably because kids are so shit at being grateful for stuff. We’ve always lived on the breadline in this home and to then have December 25th pop up “JUST A HEADS UP, YOU BETTER SPEND AT LEAST LIKE… £500 ON GIFTS OR PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU DON’T LOVE THEM” when you can barely afford £5, it’s terrifying and makes you resent Christmas as being a toll, a challenge to PROVE your love and selflessness, as if everything else you did all year didn’t count.

Christmas is getting a little too big for its own boots here and stomping on the poor and the heartbroken, it brings joy not only because we are all given what we want and are giving those we love what they want but because everyone looks happy when you push the unhappy ones out of the photo frame. I’m not even going to try and count the number of times my depression has been muddled up with a lack of Christmas spirit, that somehow all this obnoxious corporate money-grabbing and ugly jumper parties should be the strongest mood medication I could ever want. Somehow though, it is not but I still partake in Christmas – gifts have been bought, nice gestures done without the hope of them being returned have been performed and on Christmas Day, as is my tradition, I contact everyone I consider a friend to at least give season’s greetings.

So, what am I saying here, you ask? The article has sort of read as a general guilt-tripping Santa-bashing bitterness sandwich but I guess ultimately, I want you to read this and remember that Christmas in and of itself is not special, Christmas is as special as we make it for ourselves and others. If you think buying lots of stuff is all it takes, well done, you’re nothing more than a patsy Amazon and Wal-Mart will bleed dry year upon year, but Christmas is about charity and charity isn’t just giving to the homeless, it’s showing love. PLEASE take this time to check on people and that they’re ok, if that’s the only genuinely good thing you do that isn’t all about presents, please make sure that miserable fuckers like me are at least safe and comfortable this Christmas. I guarantee you that everyone who hates Christmas has a reason for it and it’s no good telling them to just cheer up; do something that makes this time of year a little easier for them.

Merry Christmas.

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A Problem In Pink

October is a month filled with many different things isn’t it? Halloween comes to mind first but let’s not forget it is also Stoptober for those trying to quit smoking and is the designated Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pinktober… yes not a very clever name, is supposed to be a month in which efforts are made to raise awareness about those diagnosed with breast cancer, though there are some issues I have with the whole thing. I never take too kindly to campaigns solely based in raising awareness, chances are we’re aware of what they’re campaigning about (except maybe things like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raising awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, something I’m sure wasn’t much in the public mind beforehand). So what’s wrong with Pinktober if you ask me? Well, where to begin?

The Pink Ribbon movement was originally a feminist ordeal to get the discussion of breast cancer out in the open because whilst breast cancer has been around for a long time, it hasn’t always been an acceptable subject of conversation. Ridiculous to think of it like that now but once upon a time, a time so recent that your parents or grandparents might remember it, you had to keep hush-hush if you had it, talking about your breasts in any context was vulgar, even if it was to tell people you have a life-changing affliction that affected said breasts. However, what started as a noble goal to make a taboo subject something the world had to pay attention to is now more of a money-making scam laden with sexism, commercialism and a small-minded attitude of focus upon breasts over cancer or indeed, the victims they’re supposed to be helping out. In fact, there’s even a term for this corruption, pink-washing.

Pink-washing, in this instance, refers to the sleazy efforts of corporations trying to cash in on a charity by slapping said charity’s label on a product they sell and assuring us a percentage of their profits goes to the charity they claim to represent. The pink ribbon is the most exploited of these symbols, having been stuck on even things such as beer bottles. Whilst many companies are happy to just give some spare change away and think themselves in the right, this easy way out fails to educate anyone on anything and some of these percentages and donations are so minimal they can’t be doing it for anything beyond good publicity. Of course, if you point this out to people that buying all the ribbons in the world doesn’t promote any awareness whatsoever and that pink shirts and pink pop bottles aren’t the answer, you get called out as a monster, strange though it seems. A campaign to discuss a serious health condition and the knock-on effect it has on the lives of those with it has been reduced to a garish pink mess of boob jokes and self-righteous parties. If you buy pink, you’re helping right? Well, no, you know no better so you’re not more aware and when these pink ribbons can be found attached to products that can CAUSE CANCER, it’s a real kick in the shins for those fighting for the cause. After all, you don’t see Oxfam branded caviar or British Heart Foundation branded cigarettes.

The media has dumbed down something as complex as the development of cancer into a popular viral branding scheme, dressed it up in pink and made it into a sexist mess? How is it sexist you ask? Free the ta-tas. Yeah, a breast cancer awareness campaign focused solely on breasts, on how wonderful and amazing boobs are. Forget the woman behind them, she’s dying, so what? Nah, save those perky pink orbs! A woman is more than a pair of breasts! Let’s not forget that men can get breast cancer, do we free his ta-tas too? I’m all for funny and interesting ways to get people to care but efforts lately have been warped into focusing on a sole part of a woman’s anatomy and forgetting about the men in the same boat, the women being oggled and the families who have to adapt or possibly even grieve. A study by Bright Pink showed two thirds of women they interviewed would do more to change their lifestyle if it prevented breast cancer but only about half of those women knew where to start making those changes. The Pink Ribbon stuff has been around for as long as I can remember but I’ll admit to a limited knowledge of breast cancer and I’ll bet most of you reading couldn’t outline how to get checked, how to prevent it happening and what happens if you do get breast cancer. One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime but only 10% of women know what to do to correctly estimate their risk of developing it… put simply, we know what breast cancer is, we as a society just know jack shit about it.

There is a certain kind of ignorance that surrounds this cause, a kind that I’m sure will have some who read this thinking I just don’t care and I’m calling this entire thing a worthless con, I’m not. However, when you reject the people your cause represents and turn a noble cause into a capitalist nightmare to feel like you’re the patron saint of all things good and righteous just because you wear a ribbon and attend a cake sale, you fall out of touch with the spirit of charity and you overlook the importance of your cause. I understand it’s difficult to get actual factual information circling in the public psyche but it is not impossible and sadly painting the town pink and calling it an effort to raise awareness isn’t the way to do it. We’re all aware, who really hasn’t heard of breast cancer these days? The people are AWARE of it, now it’s time to educate them on the reality of it, on the people it changes and what needs to be done. As it stands, this campaign has become something ignorant, something corrupt and dare I say it for the irony… something rather cancerous.

Passionate Contempt

First things first, not to let fame go to my head but I was recognised on the street today as Old Man Wolfe, or rather:
“Hey, isn’t that Old Man Wolfe?”
“Who?”
“You know, that wanker who writes about feminism and shit”
Genuine dialogue there ladies and gentlemen, I am a wanker that writes about feminism and shit. I’m a little hurt, feminism and shit? I write about feminism and David Cameron, Sonic the Hedgehog, Russell Brand… ok yeah, feminism and shit making more sense now… That aside, in sticking with my pages of wank upon this blog of shit, I’ve got more for you, a requested article even (not commissioned, I’m not THAT popular, just a “Hey can you do one about…?”). So, I won’t deny my fans, what few I have, here comes the famed Wolfe wanker to deliver his opinions on the subject of being passionate about our interests, whether or not that makes us ‘hipsters’ and why we feel the way we do about such matters.

At this point, the word ‘irony’ crops up nine times out of ten, more particularly in how it is misused and abused by the population, excusing their behaviour as acts of irony, completely missing the point of the word, we get it. Truth is, on that front, you either know better or you don’t, no amount of intellectual snobbery will fix the internet – people will keep doing dumb shit and call it ironic, we all know what the word means as it is defined in the dictionary, it’s a losing battle to try and fight when you come across some idiot being ‘ironic’ when they’re actually just being stupid or ignorant. I’m actually here about the other abuse of irony, claiming to love something perceived as tacky or awful out of ironic pleasure and how that branches off from a culture of disenfranchisement and distinguishing “I love He-Man because it is so bad it’s good” and “I love this obscure franchise because I genuinely love it, not because I’m trying to set a trend or be outside the box”

See, you use the word ‘hipster’ here and you think of two different types – the one with a profound love for the unpopular and unheard of, seen as a pretentious dickwad looking for new ways to buck the trend, and the one who is also seen as a dick because they hold everything in contempt, calling everything they see commercial crap or unoriginal or not as good as this or that or the other. A weird culture indeed, where does it come from? Well, it’s a flaw of my generation, the media plays us as generally disinterested layabouts – we aren’t the stoic heroes of yesteryear, we missed the hippie revolution and we’re weirded out by what comes after us as being the sort of cack we bought into as kids but now that we’re “grown up”, we’re not supposed to like any more. Growing up, it’s easy to be disinterested in the world around you, you’re full of angst and bitterness and raging hormones but once you hit your twenties, nostalgia kicks in, you pine for a more innocent time and suddenly all that plastic crap becomes wondrous through rose-tinted shades. Think Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, iCarly, hardly works of fine art but I bet one of them or something like them has a place in your heart for all its flaws. A generation raised on the devil-may-care too cool to give a damn mindset forked into two very different paths – passionate about discovery and passionate about not being passionate.

The latter culture, passionate about a lack of passion, breeds a psyche of “Effort is uncool, enthusiasm is stupid”, bred in the hearts of the grunge music of our cooler older siblings when we were young and a life revolving around hardening one’s shell, especially in the form of typical masculinity. After all, imagine being a fifteen year old and telling our friends at rugby practice that you’re thinking of having a That’s So Raven marathon and then imagine the state of your testicles later, considerably more swollen and sore one should imagine. A harsh disconnect with the world, born of a survival instinct and then later transformed into some warped sense of intellectual superiority or being too ‘cool’ for bursts of excitement, led to this grumpier sort of person of my generation, myself included to some extent. To this day, I rarely get excited, for me that “get hard or die” psyche was intensified by being the eldest in my family, the supposed smartest in my classes and the social outcast in a school full of violent thugs, I couldn’t afford tears or anything that could be exploited, occasions when word let slip I had feelings for someone in my class, myself and the person I cared for were bullied and heckled to no end, it turned me into a vengeful stone cold walking behemoth of irritability, something I’m still receiving counselling for to this day.

You should also consider we were born into a world that raced through technological advancements and yet dwindled in opportunities, the internet didn’t show us the world was better, it showed us the world was better than us, at that point it became why bother? Helicopter parenting only really got called out as a bad thing within the last twenty years, too late for someone like me who has already been moulded by such, it led to this generation of hearts encased in stone because it seems easier that way – never try so never fail, never care so never grieve. As more and more franchises get rebooted, retooled or live to the point of stagnation and lack of originality, perhaps for some it is easier to say sod it to having favourites and holding all things in equal contempt, only holding a soft spot for things that cannot be revamped or remade. Oasis, Nirvana, Arctic Monkeys, music and emotion that cannot be portrayed by anyone else, bands that won’t “sell out” or catch on with their shitty little brothers and sisters, relics of the time when stuff was ‘cool’

The other more optimistic road journeyed down was that of discovery, of branching out, taking passions and interests from youth and watering the seeds of joy into full grown forests. You start at Pokemon, you go onto Cardcaptors, you find Naruto and then so on and so on until you go so far through the looking glass, the Cheshire Cat puts his paws up like “Hell naw man, that’s some weird shit”. Such individuals were persecuted as nerds but responded to the bullying of their youth by just enduring it, not so much becoming as hard as a mountain but bowing like grass in the wind – a mountain doesn’t move in a storm but then grass doesn’t move much either, the land beneath it gets torn up but grass isn’t so much destroyed as strewn about. Of course, this passion for discovery led to creativity, to ‘nerdiness’, to an internet culture of memes and fan-fiction where people could unashamedly share their fantasies of making out with Sasuke Uchiha whilst exchanging information and recommendations, giving each other maps for the weird roads they had walked down. Chances are if you’re thinking of someone this reminds you of, they may well have a tumblr, not just a tumblr, I mean like one of THOSE tumblrs. Superwholock and so on. Personally, whilst sometimes cringing because of my underlying cool-guy bravado pressured upon me, such people can be held in admiration, they werent’ scared to be in love and let it grow, they became much more creative and inventive and broadened their palette, not bad considering they mostly started in the same place – commercial cartoon slop pushing toys down their throats.

Here’s where we go full circle then, back to the point of irony, a word that became a safe way of saying “I don’t want to admit I enjoy this inherently terrible thing”. Genuine ironic pleasure, liking something you know you rationally think is atrocious, is a good thing, it allows one to communicate with their true self, asking themselves why they might enjoy something so bad. I’ll put myself on the line here, my ‘guilty pleasure’ is Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Yes, a show meant for teen girls when I was only old enough to be interested in Digimon and Scooby-Doo but I watched it anyway, I loved it, mainly for Salem. On reflection as an adult, I found I probably liked it because I saw myself in the characters; Sabrina, the super-talented youth who must try to fit in even though she’s clearly leagues ahead, very true of my young self; Salem, the mind of a tiger-like man in a pussycat body who finds comfort in food, very true of my adult self; Aunt Zelda, the voice of reason and seen as boring or callous but in fact really enjoys intellectual stimulation and worthy peers, very true of myself as a rule through life. I acknowledge the shoe is bad, it’s a campy comedy for hormonal schoolgirls, the romance is strained, the plots are inane nonsense, the Salem puppet looks like a mitten with a face and Harvey’s actor is a generic “cool boy I want to like me” template, as is his character. Knowing that though, I still watch it with a smile, if only to hear Salem wail (Seriously, every episode, at least once, Salem will either burst into tears or shout “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”)

Guilty pleasures and ironic enjoyment are the way of the passionate about a lack of passion expressing themselves without breaking down and admitting to themselves they actually care, in this way, perhaps it is a really damaging thing to deal with, it’s essentially self-hatred. Guilty pleasure shouldn’t be a thing, if you aren’t hurting anyone at least. We let this festering feeling of apathy overwhelm us all as teenagers, we wanted to fit in and be cool and denied ourselves what we cared about, or at least some of us did. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why we hold such contempt for someone who declares love for something obscure and unheard of, we envy them for being so unafraid to have fun that they dedicated themselves to finding new ways to do it. Fun isn’t for us, fun is for kids, except it shouldn’t be, it should be for everyone.

To conclude then, enjoy what you honestly find yourself enjoying, embrace it without fear and when someone comes up to you and says they actually prefer some weird TV show or band from some place you’ve never heard of written by people with names you can’t pronounce, don’t hold it against them, try shit out. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you but do so honestly and with an open mind, don’t deny it because it’s weird or tacky or obscure, deny it on its own merits and your personal tastes. Guilty pleasures are a thing of the past, passion is back in fashion and you don’t have to hate yourself if you sincerely like watching My Parents Are Aliens.

Close Call Cafe

Set your mind back a while now, do you recall December 2014? Recall a blog post I wrote back then about an independent business that sold rare brands of cereal to those looking for a unique/quirky/hipster-baiting experience? No. Refresh your memory:

https://oldmanwolferants.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/this-is-cereals-business/

Why do I bring them up? Haven’t you heard? They were the target of a protest, not a peaceful picketing either, full on property damage and graffiti on the walls. Why? Their prices are in the region of £2.50 a bowl, quite dear yes ($4 upwards for the Americans in the room) but then again this isn’t a bowl of corn flakes and a mug of tea affair, this is “Hey, remember this weird cereal from your childhood that was nothing but chocolate, marshmallows and delicious tooth decay?!”. Essentially, Cereal Killer Cafe was one of the targets of the Class War Anti-Gentrification protests, ‘anarchists’ seeking a war against those who pursue personal profit over the community and fixing issues such as poverty in the area. The protesters argue that it is their mission to target these niche stores devoted to using their resources to sell overpriced goods to narrow markets, rather than setup businesses that sell affordable products to the masses and play their part in helping the community. A slightly misguided cause, the world of business is not so black and white, not every manager or business owner is a penny-pinching fiend nor is every charity entirely honest and above reproach, but I can appreciate their core drive. We live in an unfair society, I do think more needs to be done to tackle poverty and inequality, there are diseases that need cures, countries that need feeding and natural wonders preserving but this… this is not the way.

Independent businesses suffer to stay afloat, in a society where the coffee is always cheaper elsewhere and products are easily copied and made at lower production costs in another country, the savings are passed onto the consumer and those that know how to do it on the cheap, ethically or not, get ahead. Outsourcing jobs, inferior materials, dealing inventors and designers duff hands, there’s no blow too low for the top dogs of the global market. Scale that down to a small family run affair based on a street corner, you don’t have a vast network to rely on, no contacts or partners or sister-companies, you have your life savings, your best friend who needs a job and a dream. Coffee shops charge us through the nose because they have to compete with Starbucks and Costa. If you are the best-known name in a trade, you can afford to charge less because your customer base is so vast, what does it matter? A 50% off sale is easy for some stores because it will encourage sales but some places just can’t afford to sell their wares for less, every penny counts. Your money, to an independent business, is all the more important, the difference between breadwinning and just dreaming of bread. So of course, they have to charge more, any less is profit-shaving they can’t afford, prices are tailored to be enough, to get them by – when have you ever seen the guy running that little tea garden swan off to Cuba for a fortnight just because? Chances are if they did, they either had good money to start from their social standing or they scrimped and saved like fuck.

Anti-gentrification in and of itself is a loathing of capitalism and what it has done to us as a people, I understand that, I sympathise, but the independent businesses of the world are not the villains, they are like us but they just had the resources to hand to build a business and they went for it, many of us would do the same in their shoes if we could. However, blaming them for their prices is blaming the wrong people? Can’t afford tea and cake at Julie’s Sweet Treats? Blame Starbucks for driving her prices upwards with their loyalty schemes and vast wealth of ingredients. Couldn’t afford new threads from that Etsy dealer? Blame the high street for making the hipster-crowd their target, finding a way to mass produce that ‘vintage retro’ look at the price of a few sweatshop slave wages. Hate stupid trends brainwashing the masses? Don’t take it out on people trying so hard to make their business stand out from the common crap we devour every single day. The people of these crowds claimed to fight for their community and yet they came together as a collective to do what they could to destroy it, to tear apart businesses in their area for excluding them with their prices. Cutting one’s nose off to spite their face is perhaps a release of frustration but you look no better off without your nose you know?

I’m angry myself, I’m angry and upset to hear the word protest become smeared with the mud of violence. Protests should not be violent, protests are standing up and saying this is wrong but being damn decent about it, channeling that anger towards injustice into a creative force for good. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, not common thugs but souls that endured shame, humiliation and hunger to defend what mattered, they could have resorted to firebombs and punching the police but they knew that to be heard, they had to be seen as reasonable. If you use that anger for destruction, people do not respect what you represent, trust me, they merely learn to fear your anger and to hate the person behind it, to demonise them and view them as a mindless beast. I get angry, I blog, I give back to my community by just being a good person ready to help someone in need and by giving my free time to charity. Imagine if this gang of hooded vandals had decided instead of rioting and attacking small businesses, they would clean the streets or feed the homeless or do some mass participation event to raise money for Cancer Research or British Red Cross or Oxfam. Such efforts would speak volumes of the worth of this community, this has just caused us all to see them as thugs.

Look, don’t get me wrong, I understand this rage at the system, the divide between rich and poor is ever expanding and the two ‘most developed’ nations of the West have poverty rates that’d make their charity cases look on with sad eyes, successive governments have taken more and more power away from the common man in favour of the business owner. We are angry at those who have anything because we’re told we live in great nations of wealth but see so little of it, the people at the top however are so wealthy it makes me physically sick. The eighty richest people in the world own the same wealth as the three point five million poorest, that’s not even enough to fill a double decker bus. The riot here, or protest as you might see it depending on your viewpoint, is a symptom of a disease that has afflicted society since the dawn of such and that has only worsened with time. Mark my words, ‘violent protest’ will only get more and more common a phrase in the next few years unless something is done to bridge this poverty gap. You of the middle class upwards might say those in high positions worked hard to get ahead and deserve what they get, you might be right, but do you really think that the world is just a nesting ground for millions of layabouts? Honestly? That there are so few people of worth you could fit their names on two sides of A4? I think not, if nothing else then the ‘lazy sods’ of the lower classes deserve at least the bare minimum – shelter, security, food – then maybe they can ‘get off their backsides and contribute to society’

This Is Cereals Business

Trigger Warnings – None

Ah, yesterday’s post went down well it seemed, earned a few new subscribers – come on in guys, make yourselves a cup of tea or something, kick back and relax. So what’s the topic of the day? Well, following the news here in the UK, I decided to weigh in on the Cereal Killer cafe, the first ever cereal cafe in the UK, set up in London to provide breakfast cereals both beloved and rare at a bit of a hefty price but hey, it’s the current economy, what doesn’t come at a hefty price now? Channel 4 sent a reporter to visit the place and the reporter noted the cafe was set up in one of the poorest parts of the city but still charged the steep price of £3.20 a bowl and asked if the owners can really justify such prices. Yes. Yes they can, the owner fought his case poorly on the spot but he was distracted and not prepared for an interview, he later responded by letter much more eloquently but I thought I would say my piece as well because that’s what I do and that’s what you’re here for, I hope.

We live in a harsh economic climate really, independent businesses get it in the neck from all sides and I’ve even given bad reviews of one on here though I admit a personal motive was the basis for that and hey, that’s not cool but whatever, bygones and shit. Anyway, running a shop isn’t as simple as sell stuff, replace it, sell it, there are taxes, wages, bills, suppliers to keep happy, stocks to keep fresh, facilities to clean and maintain, the world doesn’t run on positive attitude alone, it runs on money and that’s just a fact of the world at the moment. If you are buying something, you are not just paying for that item alone, you are paying a value tax, you are paying the shop so it can resupply itself with more of that item and you are paying towards the profits and salaries of the business. You might protest “I don’t want to pay their wages, that’s their boss’s job” – Duh, of course but where does the money come from? Now this is less of an issue for big businesses with proper payroll and budgeting staff but a small business has to take all the money from one big pot and divide that fairly, it doesn’t have a head office or a human resources department to make sure every barista or shelf stacker is paid this month. You pay into that pot, you get your slice of carrot cake, your waitress gets her wage and if that upsets you then go make your own cake, simple.

Don’t get me wrong, £3.20 is probably steep for cereal but hey, this isn’t a bowl of Shreddies, this is imported rare cereal you can only find by obsessive hunting like the owners did and buying your own box of it would set you back a pretty penny so be grateful. The reporter said this wasn’t practical, they never set up their business with the intention of being a community service kitchen, it’s a luxury, it’s a once-a-week/once-a-month treat like a trip to Nando’s or Zizzi’s. The business certainly seemed busy anyway, you build it and they will come, perhaps for the novelty but as long as they make money then good on them and the owners even stated that if they’re a success, they’ll set up a charity programme to bring healthy breakfasts to local schools. I didn’t know it fell on the shoulders of two hipsters in a cafe to save us all from starvation and poverty but it’s been thrust upon them apparently so go buy a bowl and help them become a big deal so they can use their vast wealth to buy me a solid gold unicorn for this advertisement… I mean, save orphans, whatever.

Britain is currently trying to push this ‘support your local small business’ thing whilst also berating them for steep prices and pretentious attitudes but maybe the prices are so steep because these guys pay their taxes? Just a wild idea but perhaps a real push to support small business would be turning the critical tongue on Starbucks and getting them to start paying us back, how’s that? Prices would increase, sure, but then your small business has a chance of competing and at least you can feel morally righteous in paying for coffee that is tasty and giving back to the local economy, not just a CEO’s pocket. As for the attitude, the guy came off in the interview as a twat but hey I’ve been in management, if it gets busy, you become a twat, you reduce everything to priorities and run around doing everything whilst this annoying alarm goes off in your head like “But what about this? Is someone talking to you? Is everyone working as hard as they could be? Smile! Smile! Smile! Happy manager means happy customers, why aren’t you smiling dickhead?” so fuck, if I was being interviewed on the job, I’d probably slip some sort of faux-pas like saying the business isn’t for poor people or whatever, cut him some slack. Incidentally, in relation to my small business attack on here ages ago, my apologies, you were quite aggressive in your disposition and I took it as you being a stuck up cow but maybe you were stressed too, I appreciate customer service either makes you a ray of sunshine or a dormant axe murderer verging on being not so dormant.

Ok, this cereal cafe won’t save the world, heck, it might not even last past the novelty stage but if we’re expecting small businesses to fight the fight for a fair economy, let’s play fair with them and give them a fighting chance. The owners of this place don’t need me to fight their battle for them here, he was pretty on point in the letter but still, I’m sick of the media and the government looking to blame anything for anything. Steep prices in a capitalist society? OH NOES, THAT’S EVIL! No, it isn’t, it’s the price of not wanting your investment to make you homeless

Can I have a free box of cereal now?