As the (northern hemisphere) summer rapidly disappears, the nights draw in and temperatures plummet, so the English are Christmas shopping. Seasonal foods appear on shelves, while the Selfridges Christmas store is now open and big supermarkets flag the approaching holiday. At Harrods, the Christmas range has been launched, while in Derbyshire Christmas pudding production is ramping up, and inns and hotels in towns such as Durham compete for Christmas Day meal bookings. For shoppers too impatient to wait, the 2014 British video game "Christmas Shopper Simulator" (play through). Days to go.
Sleaford Mods are an English Hip hop/Post-punk duo based in Nottingham. This year the NME asked them to record a Christmas Message (NSFW swearing) [more inside]
This year's festive Doctor Who Christmas episode will feature a new companion, a new theme tune and title sequence and a new look to the Tardis interior! But look out for those scary Snowmen! [more inside]
So those musicians who had Christmas hits in the 70s and 80s in the UK, what with them coming back year after year, must be made for life, right?
You may not know this but pantomime (overview for non-Brits) is a very lucrative business in the UK, especially for minor or fading stars of stage and screen (and Vanilla Ice) - Children's entertainers The Krankies (who have had a troubled relationship with panto in the past) have gone all out this year to pull in the punters via going to the gym (video), a lurid interview revealing their rather more adult private lives and a mind-blowing photo op with John Barrowman (SFW but what has been seen cannot be unseen and may prove traumatic for British people of a certain age) (previous)
As the UK coalition government plans swingeing cuts and students take to the streets to protest, one mother asks us to remember the 'Nouveau Pauvre'. Some commentators react unfavourably to her impending 'austerity Christmas'. [more inside]
Excuse me, have you heard the word? (SLVimeo, Possibly NSFW or sanity)
'Ten years ago, while working on The South Bank Show, Melvyn Bragg and I had a heated discussion on the pros and cons of film censorship. Broadly speaking, Melvyn was against it, while I, much to his surprise, was absolutely for it. He then dared me to write a script that I thought should be banned. I accepted the challenge and a month or so later sent him a short subject entitled A Kitten for Hitler. “Ken,” he said, “if ever you make this film and it is shown, you will be lynched.'That film has been made. The story behind it.
Christmas in the London Blitz, 1940; Making Christmas Crackers, 1910; Santa Claus, 1898; Christmas is coming, 1951: short films from the British Film Institute's wonderful Youtube Channel (including excellent playlists), which you can also explore through Google Earth using the kmz file found here.
Fairytale of New York... censored! No, not now... Shane will make 50 this Christmas... Sadly not Kirsty.
Lucky Soul's 'Lips Are Unhappy' isn't the likliest of contenders for the UK's coveted Christmas number one, but this is the track (from a shortlist) selected by listeners of Last.fm to receive Last.fm's backing. Profits go to charity, as is the norm for Xmas No. 1 entries.
Guidestar.org.uk offers detailed information on all 167,000 registered charities in England and Wales, as well as guides to giving and volunteering. And, should you wish to give Christmas gifts that make a difference, The Alternative Gift Catalogue and Good Gifts can help.
Was Christmas TV really ever all that special? 'Off The Telly' reviews three decades of Christmas Day television in Britain. "It's funny...that Christmas time is actually an excuse for some of the worst TV atrocities of the year to be inflicted upon us. Christmas telly does not equate with quality. And yet, never does TV become a more integral part of our own family or personal routines and traditions. And never are we so receptive to a gathering of disparate middle-of-the-road celebrities and their stale party pieces." And for the ultra-cynic, TV-Go-Home's Charlie Booker presents an alternative schedule.
Queen to issue spam. Since 1932 the UK monarchy has broadcast a christmas message (on TV since 1957). From next year, it may also be sent in "shortened form", by SMS. Meanwhile SMS usage has increased more than double in the last year, and British companies are considering banning unsolicited text messages to mobile phones. I've never received an SMS spam, but I'm not looking forward to it.