Friday, 31 December 2010

The Pilgrim's Progress

A couple of recent conversations I had with my mom while staying with my parents over the Christmas break.
(Names have been changed.)

Christmas presents convo with mom

M: You know our friends Bob and Saffron? They don't buy their kids Christmas presents, you know.
L: Oh really? That's unusual.
M: I think it's tight.
L: Well, maybe. Perhaps they've got a reason. Perhaps they don't see the value in wasting money on gifts for the sake of it. Maybe they put more value on spending time with them. I do. I value spending time with my loved ones more than gifts.
M: Hmm. They're not very... Um...
L: Materialistic.
M: Yes, they don't have much.
L: Well, you don't need much to be happy. As long as you've a roof over your head and you're not hungry, everything else is just "stuff".
M: No, I think they're just tight. They'd rather not buy things for their own kids and save their money for the pub.
L: Is that such a bad thing? There's evidence to show that experiences and spending time with your friends and community make you happier than "stuff". They're not just spending money on booze...
M: No, Bob won't drink at home.
L: So they're spending their money on socialising with their friends in the pub, an experience that makes them happy. Better that than buying their daughter a jumper she'll probably never wear, wouldn't you say?
M: No, but don't they want to see her face light up when she opens something?
L: She may not have been brought up to value "stuff", mom. Look at our Edward - he's as happy playing with the box as he is with the present inside it. It's only us and society that will teach him in the next few years to put more value on a £300 X-Box. That doesn't mean you can get away with not buying me anything next year, by the way. You've brought me up for 30-odd years to value "stuff".
M: I'm gonna give you a box.
L: Don't you dare.


Gay convo with mom

M: Why does Angela's gay daughter have to wear football shirts, trainers and jeans, and cut her hair short? She looks disgusting.
L: You've just described nearly every man in Yorkshire.
M: Yes but she's a woman.
L: Oh, mom, I don't know where to start.... People are different. It's not to do with her being gay. You can't say all straight men are the same - look at the difference between the dad from The Royle Family and, say, David Beckham. Maybe that's just how she's comfortable.
M: Well, she wasn't like that before she was gay.
L: Maybe before she came out she felt she had to fit into a female stereotype but now she feels she can be herself.
M: Christine's gay daughter is pretty though. Looks lovely. And she's really bright and bubbly. Not like this one. Nobody likes her you know. Only her girlfriend. She's obnoxious.
L: Maybe she no longer feels she has to try to please everyone. Maybe wearing football shirts and being obnoxious is who she really is.
M: Well I don't know, I'm just saying.
[Pause....] But what I don't understand is why gay men who always dress themselves nice have to put on that gay voice.
L: Not all of them do.
M: Yes but most do. Why do they do that?
L: I don't know. Maybe they're not putting it on, maybe that's how men are supposed to talk but society tells them they have to sound manly and butch.
M: Well they could just talk normal.
L: Maybe that *is* normal to them. Just like Chinese people sound very different to us just because of how they've been taught, it doesn't mean either way is wrong.
M: Well maybe you're wrong, have you thought of that?
L: I'm just trying to give you a different perspective. I'm trying to explain that just because we're used to something being one way it doesn't make it right or better. I'm going for a bath, OK?
M: Alright, don't be long, I want one.
L: Alright. Dad, I'm going up for a bath, alright?
D: [Taking his boots off after returning from collecting his winnings from the bookies] Alright, kid.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Fizz Bucks

An article in the Metro recently stated that, in a blind taste test, 80% of participants couldn't tell the difference between a supermarket's £6 bottle of Cava Brut and the big name Champagnes at upward of £30. I mentioned this on Facebook stating it as further proof of my "emperor's new clothes" theory regarding Champagne - my mother has always insisted it’s overrated and I agree - and received a surprising amount of feedback from friends with several saying that one of the leading big name Champagnes is, and I quote, "shit". Apparently every year it's supermarkets' own brands that come out top in taste tests. Why, then, do people shell out considerably more money for an equal or inferior product?

Take bottled water for example. I get irritated by restaurant waiting staff who ask if I'd like sparkling or still water. Obviously, it's a trick question designed to get us to fork out upwards of a fiver for bottled water. I ask for tap water. Tap water is perfectly potable and tastes fine in the UK and I refuse to allow restaurant staff to make me feel cheap to boost their profits when I'm already in their restaurant paying for food, wine and service.

It makes me wonder: Why are we so easily influenced to spend silly money when something much less expensive – or in the case of water, free! - would be just as good if not even better?

Here's a question for you: If I was holding a Champagne party at my house and I asked you to bring a bottle, how long would you spend choosing it and how much would you spend?

Here's a slightly different question: If I was holding a Champagne party at my house and I asked you to bring a bottle and I categorically instructed all of my guests IN ADVANCE to remove all labels from the Champagne, bring it in a brown paper bag, pool the bottles together on the kitchen worktop upon arrival, and stated that guests are forbidden to discuss which drink they brought, how long would you take choosing it and how much would you spend?

Did your answers differ? Does this help us to understand our reasons for buying branded products? Feedback and comments invited. :o)