The Victorian Christmas Shop

Over the August bank holiday, Sarah and I booked an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast in Broadway. Not THE Broadway, of course. We didn’t fly over the Atlantic and into the bright lights of New York, but drove to the picturesque Cotswold village bearing the same name. From here we took a trip to one of our favourite locations, Bourton-on-the-Water, an equally picturesque village boasting the charm that is often associated with Cotswold stone buildings. It is arguably too idyllic for its own good, its charm often spoiled by teems of tourists from far and wide who converge on it during the holiday periods, making it difficult to see it for what it really is.

It is here that we stumbled upon The Victorian Christmas Shop. I’m not a fan of Christmas. I like the feel of Christmas and the sentiment of goodwill, but I don’t like what Christmas does to people. It’s no secret that, for many, it can be the most stressful time of the year. The perceived happiness of the world around you only serves to accentuate your own problems and family losses. People are conned into buying things that nobody needs, to obscenely over-indulge kids with unnecessary presents that often get tossed aside, and to spend huge amounts at the supermarkets in preparation for an orgy of gluttony when surely beans on toast would feed everyone nicely.

Nonetheless, I was drawn by the temptation to experience the feel of Christmas in August. We stepped through the door, leaving the summer behind, and into the warmth of the festive spirit which continues throughout most of the year here (they close during January and February). All manner of Christmas gifts, cards and decorations were on display while Christmas carols unashamedly filled the air, creating that seasonal glow during the wrong time of the year. Or is it the wrong time of the year? I liked the anarchy associated with turning the seasons upside down and to be able to switch on a feeling at the opening and closing of a door.

The man behind the counter sported a white beard which was about three or four months growth away from being the full Santa beard. We chatted to him and, presumably, his wife, and asked them about people’s reactions to the shop. You see, I have noticed that people are often offended by anything “Christmas” before November or December. If I pick up my guitar and play Christmas music in the spring or summer, I’m sometimes met with exasperation bordering upon anger. But it’s only music. And musicians often need to practise things well in advance. The man with the beard told me that most people love the shop, but occasionally someone will come in and make sarcastic remarks about it being too early for Christmas. Well I’m sure that nobody forced them to open the door in the first place, and I doubt that they’d be much fun at Christmas anyway.

After a merry chat, we left the shop with a new bauble for our tree (we like to add one to our collection every year whilst on our travels), and wished them a happy Christmas. I will continue to dislike Christmas for the aforementioned reasons, and continue to dream about going on one of those “non-Christmas” Christmas holidays, whilst also hoping that everyone has a merry Christmas if they possibly can. I enjoyed my visit to The Victorian Christmas Shop in Bourton-on-the-Water, safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t trapped inside a day of forced, reluctant celebration, and that I was able to soak up the atmosphere and walk back out through the door with one of those “faith in human nature restored” feelings.

Have the best Christmas that you possibly can.

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