This morning was the Art Society's monthly lecture, which was of course Christmas themed. I imagine that as the years roll by it might get difficult to find a fresh topic each December. Today we got the Three Kings, who are not actually described as Kings in the bible, but as magi, and while they are described as bringing three kinds of gift there is no record that there were three of them. Never mind. Their bones are now interred in a very splendid sarcophagus in Cologne cathedral, though when the contents were analysed there were remains from more than three bodies. I have enjoyed the Art Society enough to sign up for another year. Indeed, I liked the sound of the January study course on the history of architecture, but really can't spare three Mondays.
As I was in Colchester I stopped to do a little shopping, and bought crushed oyster shell for the hens and a new and superior cat blanket to go on top of the cupboard in the study, and most important of all a 2018 classic boats calendar for the hall. The latter is the work of a local photographer, and we have had one for more years than I can remember. I suppose at some point she will retire, but with any luck she has a stock of images that will keep the calendar going for years to come.
Colchester wasn't looking too bad. Fenwick keeps expanding down the High Street. A branch of Hotel Chocolat has opened, which is good, and The White Stuff, whose clothes are pitched at the middle to upper end of the high street, though I have never actually bought any, but I like Schuh, which opened a couple of years ago. There is a very good independent bookshop as well as a Waterstones. Letters to the local paper always seem to bewail Colchester as a litter strewn dump full of pound shops and drunks, but it isn't remotely that bad. It is about to acquire a branch of Wahaca. My travels took me to Marks and Spencer, where I bumped into somebody from the garden club, and the book shop, and Millets because when I was looking for my winter gloves a couple of days ago I could only find one.
Millets had a whole rack of gloves, stretching away out of reach up the wall, but when I moved to climb on to a step to get to the ones on the top row, an assistant whisked the step away from me and said she would get them down for me. I wasn't able to tell her which ones I was definitely interested in, since I was still looking, and she thrust a pair of black and a pair of grey knitted ones into my hands and flounced off. Both were size nine, while I take a seven and a half. In the end I bought some by The North Face with furry backs, that felt as though they should be warm but allowed me to move my hands, and were reduced in the sale, and left. The irony of a shop that sells outdoor equipment not allowing customers to climb on to a step a foot high seemed lost on the assistant, along with the idea of offering any kind of helpful advice to customers. There is another outdoor shop further down the High Street, so I will go there next time, if I don't give up and simply shop online. Although it is quite nice to try gloves on. One pair I tried were so fat my hands felt like the Michelin man and I couldn't move my fingers, a second were too tight over the palm, while a third had the thumbs in completely the wrong place.
It was all rather a waste of good gardening weather. Retailers and town planners take note, you really need to make the shopping experience more like the independent bookshop and less like Millets if you want people to haul themselves into the middle of town and pay £2.70 for parking, when they could be spending the day doing something else, and do their shopping in the evening from the comfort of their own armchair. I have my calendar now, and Christmas comes but once a year.