Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The one where I review the Christmas ads

Work was crazy last week. I write about adverts, and the first week of November now seems to be when all the big U.K. advertisers release their Christmas commercials. I sat through, and then wrote about, at least a dozen festive offerings, then felt surprised when I went back into the real world and everyone wasn't making mince pieces or watching the snow fall prettily outside.

I'm sure virtually everyone in the UK has seen the John Lewis ad by now, but I'm going to post it here for the benefit of my non-UK readers. I like it, even though I know it's highly manipulative and designed specifically to appeal to me, the middle-class mother. The Doctor said it looks as if it was directed by Richard Curtis, and I agree (it wasn't. The director, Dougal Wilson, has done many of John Lewis's "hits", including The Snowman). Some people (including the lovely Melissa at Talk About York) said the little boy in it was too good to be true, and of course she's right, but an ad featuring grumpy tired kids who don't want to do their homework probably wouldn't have worked as well. A minority still said it left them cold -- one Facebook friend of mine said she just kept thinking the grubby penguin toy needed a good wash.

Marks and Spencer's, ad, meanwhile, is just as whimsical but not quite as winning, in my opinion. It concerns a couple of fairies who go around spreading their magic dust to better everyone's Christmas. I particularly noted that they manage to get a bunch of kids, who are sitting around watching TV and on iPads, outside playing in the snow.But that wasn't enough to make my eyes smart.

Maybe laughter is better than tears? Mulberry's ad is the one that made me laugh the most. Even though I'm not into fancy handbags, I love the humour and the portrayal of the snooty family.

 Waitrose, meanwhile, has a child who's bad at baking being saved by the lovely people at Waitrose. Now I sympathise with this child. I was/am rubbish at baking too. But if I went down my local Waitrose and asked for help with making biscuits, I can't really believe they wouldn't stare at me like I'm a crazy woman. Anyway - it's nicely done, and if you didn't know, the choir singing Dolly Parton's "Try" is made up of ordinary people who uploaded clips of themselves warbling the song.

Finally Vodafone has a bunch of people singing "Let it Go," in their Christmas ad this year. I wonder if they thought this would be a hit for anyone with small children? But perhaps these parents are fed up with hearing the bloody song, and will groan when they hear it yet again? 

Which is your favourite? Have you seen another one you like?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

What happened to October?

Stunning autumn colour in Germany
The University library, Leuven

Where did October go?

Oh I know.  There was a work trip to Amsterdam (fun), a family funeral (not so fun), a couple of three-line whip family events.... oh, and half the month was taken up with a bloody two week half term. That was what happened.

I'm really not sure about these two week half terms. (It's a private school: as my friend says, the more you pay for education in this country, the less you get). It feels like we're starting a whole new term now, and it's going to take everyone at least a week to get back into the whole routine.

As I was working for most of half-term, it wasn't exactly relaxing, involving either a) rushing the boys from one activity to the next while trying to fit in work or b) working with them in the house and having to fend off constant cries of "Can I write a story on your computer?" which seems to be their new favourite activity. I'm all for budding authorship, but I don't really want my Mac overtaken with stories called things like "Lord of the Pigs."

However, we did manage a four day trip to Germany, to stay with our lovely German friends from New York days, who we haven't seen since 2012. Apart from seeing them, which was the main thing, there was a a trip to the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, which kept both adults and kids amused, a stunning, autumnal hike to a castle, and an evening at a superb swimming pool, which had slides, various pools and best of all, a massive outdoor hot pool (the Germans do this kind of thing very well). We also ate a lot of sausages, potato salad and cake (the Germans do that well too. But November will be diet month). The boys also got to go to a German school for an hour, with our friend's son; they took part in an English lesson in which they apparently refused to say very much about Halloween.

On the way back, we stopped at Leuven, which is a beautiful University town in Belgium, full of gothic architecture, bookshops, bars and pubs-- a bit like the Belgian version of Oxford.  I hadn't been there since a school trip when I was 17 and everyone rushed off to smoke Camel cigarettes and drink Stella Artois (we were supposed to be looking round the town, but honestly, what did the teachers really think we were doing?). I also remember at the time that "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" was number one in the charts, and we went around singing "You've Lost That Leuven Feeling.". Oh, how witty we thought we were......

Now, it's back to the grindstone again. Littleboy 1 has just been asked to learn the capitals of all the EU countries for a test next Monday. I do not even know the capitals of the EU countries, so I don't have high hopes for him being able to remember, say Ljubjlana. He still thinks the Prime Minister is called David Beckham, so I don't think names are his strong point.

Talking of which, if we do end up leaving the EU, I think I would have preferred Beckham as the Prime Minister.....