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Black Friday: the Weeklong Day

23 Nov

How many people in Spain had heard of Black Friday a decade ago?  I had through my American relations and then through its stealthy creeping into England, but when I came to Spain some 9 years ago it was not a part of the run up to Christmas.  Though other aspects of US cultural imperialism like “Trick or Treat” and Santa Claus (both purveyors of manipulation and greed) had made their presence felt, the Christmas lights did not go up until early December and sales were safely consigned to January.

Yet over the last 4 or 5 years Black Friday has steadily been gaining traction in Spain, where it has become a weeklong festival of buying, even though the discounts are often not that great.  But a bargain is a bargain, even if we don’t need it, right?

Advertisers, in pursuit of mythical ever-rising profits, constantly bombard us with the message that in order to be happy we have to accumulate more and more possessions; must always upgrade to the latest model; buy the products endorsed by our favourite celebs; and rubbing our neighbours faces in it when they can’t keep up:  Black Friday is our chance to steal a march on them.

Yet, for the majority of folk in the developed world, “Working long hours to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t care about.” (Dave Ramsey) has become the norm.  This strikes me to be a perspicacious evaluation of life in the 21st century.

Black Friday – like its on-line counterpart, Cyber Monday – is symptomatic of our age, the Material Age, in which people are judged more by what they have than by who they are; more by vain words than by actual deeds; where the financial rewards of the “money men” far exceed that of surgeons, teachers or scientists; and where greed for material things has been recast as a virtue.

While it may be that “Money makes the world go round”, Mammon is a heartless god who can never be satisfied and the supposed gains of our greed, as with all such delusions, are but transitory: none shall pass through the grave.

Yet there is a small band of people who counterculturally eschew this American lifestyle export by boycotting vendors who have “Black Friday” sales or by foregoing shopping entirely on that particular Friday.

Jesus warned, “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21).  Where is your heart going to be on Black Friday?

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Weird Weather

5 Jun

Let me start by saying I work in a wine distributors in a small city.  The city lies on the Castillian meseta but within a stone’s throw of the Sierra Gaudarrama.  Usually, the weirdest weather we get is snow in June (and that only but once in a blue moon), but today was perfectly normal; warm (28ºC) and sunny with a scattering of puffy, white cumulus.  So the weather phenomenon I experienced this morning came as a complete surprise.

It started while I was out in the bodega, stacking a pallet for this morning’s deliveries.  As I was immersed in selecting the boxes of wine listed on the delivery notes, I heard a strange sound.  I couldn’t work out what it was it, so I went out into the shop to investigate.

My first thought on entering the shop was that someone was cleaning our window with a high pressure hose as that is what it both looked and sounded like.  Naturally, I rushed to close the door to avoid the inevitable flood. But as I got closer I could see that it was sand that was blowing in, not water.

When I reached the door, which I rapidly closed, I saw a mini-whirlwind (complete with vortex – about 2m high) sucking all the sand up out of the area in front of the shop and spinning it around.

It lasted less than 2 minutes and vanished as quickly as it had appeared.  The only sign that it had ever been – apart from the mini-desert that had taken refuge in the shop – was the rocky nudity of our normally, sand clad tow-away area.

That’s the first whirlwind (or dust devil) I’ve ever seen; and I got to see it right up close too.  However,  I certainly don’t want to see one any bigger than that,  at least, not anywhere that near.

A Pleasant Surprise

31 Aug

Last night I saw something I’d never seen before.

I was strolling alone through what was once called “the blind man’s holiday”[1], the usual walkers having long gone home to be replaced by dragonflies which skimmed low over my head and pipestrelles [2] that zigzagged their way round me in hot pursuit of the insects that shelter under the trees.  As I ambled along the path at the side of the embalse[3],  something caught the very edge of my sight.

It was a brilliant light shining through the canopy and reflecting indistinctly in the waters.  I couldn’t see it clearly until it had fallen below the treeline, when I was able to see that it was a small ball of fire with a blazing tail streaming behind it.  As I gazed, it started to break up, small pieces falling away in a shower of huge sparks that quickly faded to darkness.  Then, just as suddenly as I’d become aware of it, it was gone.

A meteor!  A beautiful meteor. The first I’d ever seen.

 

 

[1] the time of evening when it is too dark to read but too bright to light the candles

[2] a very small bat that is common in this area

[3] a reservoir caused by damming a river