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Chill over Christmas

Shops have tried various sales gimmicks but their stocks have not moved fast enough to give them hope of a good Christmas, writes Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2005 20:05 IST

It has been chilly for over a week, with temperature between 3C in the day and -2 or -1 C in the nights. The High Street stores have, however, been suffering the chill for much longer. They have tried various sales gimmicks but to no avail. Their stocks have not moved fast enough to give them hope of Christmas rush of customers.

The High Street Christmas indeed began in August with the super top Selfridges on Oxford Street opening its Christmas shop. Others followed suit almost instantaneously. Discounts were offered. Then one day the whole street was closed for an extravaganza of jazz and skits, which was attended by popular singers and stars. Crowds massed to see the "tamasha". But then went home without many venturing into shops to buy the attractively displayed goods.

Oxford and Regent streets are illuminated with beautifully decorated high gates all along the two-mile span. This year's theme is the Ice Age. Its lighted- up animals move, sway and twist to the great delight of kids. But then they cannot spend. Only their parents can.

There is, but, some light at the end of the month. Britons are still expected to spend £1.7 billion before the festive season ends. The only snag that could possibly upset the prediction is the fear of extremists hurling their dreaded missiles and bombs. In fact one manager of a major store, who did not want his or his store's name printed said, many customers, particularly from Indian community, mentioned the bomb blasts in Delhi on the eve of Diwali. " The fear of terrorists striking suddenly is almost ingrained," he said. " This might scare away a large number of potential customers from coming to crowded shopping areas."

To make matters a school has banned its pupils from using the C-word until December 7. Parents are happy that by keeping Christmas off the syllabus the school has helped them, their children would not be throwing fits until then to take them to Hamleys and such like to buy toys, the robots, I-pods and what not which cost quite a packet. We have indeed so far missed seeing children lying flat on the pavements outside toy shops and wailing loudly and swinging arms and legs in the air, demanding their favourite games and toys. The sight is amusing for passers-by like us who have no little kids. We enjoy smiling at the parents who look helpless and sheepish.

The icy chill does not deter a child determined to squeeze out a present from his parents. This is understandable. But it is not so normal that the chill has failed to cool tempers of some. We had heard occasionally of a daroga trying to bamboozle and terrorise villagers getting beaten up but here a recent incident of girls giving a black eye and swollen lips to a police officer, only trying to restore peace, was the first of its kind. Hopefully it would not set a precedent, his fellow officers hope.

Many consider the incident hilarious but the beaten up officer is hardly amused. He was off-duty and was queuing up with his pregnant wife to buy tickets for a movie in Watford, about an hour's drive from London, when two groups of girls started exchanging fisticuffs and hurling unprintable abuses at each other.

As a Good Samaritan he went up to them and tried to separate the warring groups. He started by telling them he was a police officer but before he could complete the sentence they lunged at him. He was punched and pushed and in a jiffy he was on the ground with the girls standing belligerently all round him. Passers-by watched but not one came to his aid as he disappeared under the hail of blows. We hear one girl aged 13, was detained and then bailed out to appear in a court at a later date. But the officer is having difficult time, we learn, what with his colleagues coming up with smart quips. Mostly about his swollen lips and black eye.

Last but not the least

There is something important to reveal. A reincarnation society here has had the same chairman for 250 years.

First Published: Nov 30, 2005 00:00 IST