Seasonal Musings: Late Afternoon Walks, Good Books, and Black Friday et al

‘Tis the season, folks. The clocks have been turned back. The sun sets an hour earlier now. Some days Hubby and I are pressed to get our walk in before dark. It used to be a tradition for us on Sundays, in the late fall, to pop dinner in the oven and then go for our walk. Returning to the lovely smell of roasting chicken… or roasting something. Ironically, now that we don’t have to wait for Sunday, we don’t very often do the big roast chicken, mashed potato, and gravy thing any more. Still we love the late afternoon walks. And when we time it right… we are treated to views like this as we turn and head for home.
November sunset, near Rideauview Golf Course, Manotick Ontario
Our sunset walk along the edge of Rideauview Golf Course, near Manotick

Besides the early sunsets, another herald of the changing season is that I’ve had the winter tires put on my car. Whoo hoo. Exciting times on the Rideau. Then I cleaned and waterproofed (winterized) all my boots. And sharpened my skates. I’m preparing for the inevitable, which may or may not come this weekend. Snow flurries are predicted for Sunday. Only flurries, mind, so we probably won’t be skiing anytime soon. But it’s best to be prepared, don’t you think?
November field along the Osgoode Trail, near Osgoode, Ontario.
Farm fields along the Osgoode Trail

In other exciting news, south of the border, our American friends are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Followed closely by Black Friday. A tradition which has lately been exported to Canada… and even Britain, I hear. Last year, when I was shopping the week before American Thanksgiving, I was surprised when a store clerk “reminded” me of their “Black Friday” sale the following week. “Bu-ut,” I queried, “why are we having Black Friday sales?” She was astounded that I should even formulate such a question. But my research (limited though it may be) shows that I am indeed not crazy. Black Friday sales in Canada are relatively new, and began only a few years ago to combat rising cross-border shopping. I guess Canadian retailers want Canadians to shop at home instead of trying to cash in on the reputedly fabulous deals south of the border.

What a crazy, crazy day Black Friday has become. Stores started opening earlier and earlier on Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving. Then even moving into the evening (and now the afternoon) of Thanksgiving Day itself. I guess the idea is for everyone to have a nice holiday, except retail workers. Huge crowds of people looking for deals queue for hours and hours. And for a few years things seemed out of control at many stores. There’s the story of the Toys R Us shopper who threatened to shoot other shoppers when they protested her cutting into line. Or the story of a woman who, in what this article calls an “act of competitive shopping,” pepper sprayed other shoppers to clear a path to the discounted X-boxes. Or most disturbing of all, the fact that, in 2008, a Walmart employee in a New York store was killed. According to this New York Times article, the temporary worker was fatally injured when a growing crowd of 2000 impatient shoppers banged on the glass, and pressed against the sliding doors until they bowed under the pressure and shattered, allowing the mob to flow into the building trampling several workers in their path. Okay, I won’t go on. Except to say that it looks like retailers did eventually get the message. This NY Times article describes the elaborate safety and crowd calming strategies that many stores have designed to prevent other tragedies.
But… I have a fool proof method to stay safe and calm on Black Friday. One I’ve employed for years. And which I also use on Boxing Day. Stay home. Make a pot of tea. And curl up with a good book. I sound smug, don’t I? But, you know folks, I can’t think of anything that I want to buy that is worth hours and hours in any line-up.
Late afternoon on the dam behind Watson's Mill in Manotick Ontario
Late afternoon on the dam behind Watson’s Mill, in Manotick
And so what are those ‘good books’ of which I speak, you might be asking. Well, I’ve just finished Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Enjoyed it. I’m currently reading Green Road by Anne Enright. Enjoying it, too… even if it is a bit dark. And when I’m finished, I have Christopher Brookmyre’s Bred in the Bone waiting for me. I have a feeling that after Cleave’s depiction of the siege of Malta and war-torn London, followed by Enright’s dark and wonderful novel of Irish emigration, the AIDS crisis, and the despair of aid workers in Africa, among other things… I’ll be well ready for a good murder mystery with some wry humour. Which I know is what Brookmyre will serve up.
Afternoon sunset behind Watson's Mill on the Rideau River, Manotick Ontario
Sunset behind Watson’s Mill in Manotick
Now, back to those late season, late afternoon walks. For the past week, Hubby and I’ve been returning from our walk just as the evening chill settles in. Hubby will build a fire in the wood stove and, later, we’ll settle down with a glass of wine, and dinner on our laps in front of the television. We’ve been spending quality time each evening in the fictional town of Market Shipborough where the charming BBC series starring Stephen Frye is set. I adore Stephen Frye. We borrowed all three seasons of Kingdom from the library, and have been utterly captivated by the series. It’s gentle and quirky, well written and superbly acted. Kind of like Doc Martin, except with lawyers, and not in Cornwall.
 BBC series Kingdom, starring Stephen Frye
Stephen Frye in Kingdom

A long walk, a glass of wine and a lovely British comedy… the perfect way to escape, for an hour or two, from this crazy world. And just what we need to help us unwind from the travails of everyday life. You know, the usual things. Like the washing machine packing it in and flooding the basement floor (albeit only a little.) The gas leak in our sun room stove. The old rusted-on taps which could not be disconnected from the old washing machine in order to make way for the new one. The plumber (for the taps) and the gas man (for the stove) both scheduled to arrive in the same afternoon… until the power outage forced a reschedule. Oh, yea… the power outage which blew up our back-up sump pump, requiring an emergency repairman… if you’ve ever lived on a river, or in a flood plain, you’ll know how important a basement sump pump is. So…I’m counting… I think that makes three repairmen in one day. Oh yea… and the delivery of the new washer after everything else was tickety boo. Phew.

But afterwards…well… there was a sunny late, late afternoon walk and one final episode of Kingdom to watch. So. Life is good, again.

I may have my boots winterized, my winter tires on, and my skates sharpened… but you can’t prepare for every eventuality, can you? And, considering the season, I keep musing: Why would anyone put themselves through something as stressful and unnecessary as rushing to stand in a ginormous line to be able to save a few dollars in a Black Friday sale when everyday life provides quite enough diversion on its own?

I mean… seriously… I ask you…. why?

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate. And good luck to those of you who are braving the Black Friday sales.

So now…. it’s your turn folks? Any seasonal musings you want to get off your chest? About approaching winter, crazy sales line-ups, or other everyday madness?


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33 thoughts on “Seasonal Musings: Late Afternoon Walks, Good Books, and Black Friday et al”

  1. Your winter routines sound lovely. Very hygge, something else which seems to spreading on a par with Black Friday. Shops seem to constantly have sales and the seasonal ones start earlier and earlier. Enjoyed Green Road. Have read some Chris Cleve but not the one you mentioned. Like the sound of mystery writer you mentioned, New to me. Didn't get to comment on your last post. Thought your new boots very sassy and liked your green combinations. Interesting linking your irish roots to fashion post. Definitely a touch of the Blarney there. Missed opportunity not including The Green Road but glad you left out the leprechauns! Iris

    1. Ha. Thanks for that, Iris. Wish I had thought of including the book Green Road in that previous post. Too focused on doing research on the history of Gaelic in Ireland. I start reading stuff like that and can't dig my way out for hours.
      Re: Hygge. Read about that a while ago and totally forgot about it. Yep…our fall lifestyle is well Hygge-d:) See link below for readers who haven't heard of the huge hygge movement.

  2. I'm in my 60's, have lived in the US all my life, and I don't believe I've ever been to a Black Friday sale. Like you, they don't have anything I want that bad! And I just learned what hygge is from the comment above. Thanks for your lovely blog.

  3. Loved the comments you have made about retail frenzy…my husband and I are all for the simple things in life…great times with family and friends, delicious food and reading/travels to broaden our horizons. I love the fall and winter season when the fireplace can be lit, soft classical music played (or not) and the warmth of home surrounds us with tranquillity….candles lit and loved ones near and I am content! Yes…I love shopping too but there is not a single item in this world that would make me leave home at 3AM to stand in line outside a mall…truly crazy to my way of thinking! Canada is a beautiful country and a wonderful place to live…hopefully we can keep our sanity as Black Friday moves north across our border! There will always be 'stuff' to buy…let's savour the simple joys! Cheers, Alayne

  4. Thanks for another fun post. Sorry to hear that you had several "house" failures at once. That is irksome! I live in Vancouver and was planning to waterproof some boots this week so I am intrigued by you winterizing your boots. Can you tell us what that entails (looks weird-spelling??)
    Suz from Vancouver

    1. My using the term "winterize" was partly in jest. I can't make them any warmer, more's the pity. I simply clean my leather boots with saddle soap, polish them with shoe polish if they're a little beat up, and then waterproof them. Just to keep off as much of the salt and slush as I can. I'll do it again in a couple of months.

  5. Could not agree more re: Black Friday. I have a few cousins who consider Black Friday another holiday and go out early, hang out together and really enjoy themselves. Personally, I celebrate the ability to shop online and not have to get into the jammed parking lots, long checkout lines, and cranky, tired shoppers. BUT, I do end up shopping for gifts at some point and love being able to do so at odd hours now that we're both retired.

    We are just seeing our first snowflakes this morning, and have been prepping the yard and home for it. Hygge-d up at our house, too! Will have to check out those TV recommendations. I love having a series I can watch over the winter and am already mourning January without Downton Abbey!

    1. I remember when I was much, much younger working in retail this time of year, and standing at a cash register staring at the long line of customers that never seemed to get any shorter. Now I only shop for Christmas gifts, like you, at odd hours when the stores are not busy. Monday morning being a good time!

  6. As always a great post. With regards to Black Friday or any of those other crazy sale days I am with you all the way. I have never understood standing in line for hours, being panicked into shopping at all costs. I am like you would much rather go for a lovely walk or curl up with a book.

    As to your repairman issues, I feel that life is either feast or famine, and feast is not always a good thing! Sometimes famine is good (I am obviously not using these terms as they would be originally). We have had our first snow this week and the final job was to bring in the pots from outside before they became frozen.

  7. Another U.S. resident here who has never braved Black Friday. And I'm very very sorry for Canada that this tradition has crossed the border to infect you good people as well. To me it's the start of the "ugly" season – consumerism to the max on full display. Retailers put all their wiles into whipping up desire for material goods: BUY! BUY! BUY! And it's not people shopping for necessities, it's people shopping for useless crap that will end up in the landfill cycle within a year, broken, discarded, undesirable. Makes me depressed. Can you tell I'm a total Grinch about this shopping business?

    Now hygge, that is something I can get behind full force – in fact, we embraced that at our house decades ago. Candles, thick socks, woolly throw, cup of tea, a few sleeping kitties in front of the fire and each other – how can you top that? Remembering to stay thankful for the simple pleasures every day. –Catbird Farm

    1. Crazy isn't it? The rush to buy all that stuff so it can be tossed aside once the wrapping is off. I neither want to buy anymore useless, unwanted items…nor have anymore purchased to give to me. Enough. On another note…since we travel so much we have not had cats since out last pet died. I so miss a sleeping kitty in front of the fire:)

  8. Yes , we do have a Black Friday now in the UK but it passes me by . Summer means long sunny ( if lucky ) evenings sitting in the sun room – aren't they great in our kind of climate . Winter for us is an open fire in the sitting room , closed curtains & glowing table lamps . Both involve sleeping dogs & books . Most recent book by Jean Paul Didierlaurent – The Reader on the 6.27 . An odd little book but I did enjoy it . Thanks for those you've mentioned, I'll have to add a couple to the pile .
    Wendy in York

    1. I'm not surprised that Black Friday passes you by:) I am off, now, to look up that book you've mentioned. Odd little books being favourites of mine. Not sure if I told you that I enjoyed The Red Notebook which you had recommended, I believe.

  9. Winter tyres on-check! Boots cleaned-check (thank you for remining me to waterproof them)! Brookmyre checked out,as well as The Red Notebook."The preparing for the inevitable"- check,but I'm in denial about snow (hoping every year for a snowless winter in the city-there were winters like that about a decade ago. I love snow in the nature,nevertheless)
    How many months a year do you have snow?
    I'm so sorry for the domestic troubles.
    Black Friday has reached even my town-a store or two,but it's a start-I hate shopping in the middle of the crowd and waiting in a queues. I have to shop only presents and this would be done slowly,not in a rush
    I don't have open fire at home-it is beautiful indeed-,but love spending the afternoon in cosy home with a book

    1. I was in denial about winter until this afternoon…we 're getting a real old fashioned blizzard right now. Time for hungering down in front of the fire with my book… which seems to be my solution for just about everything:)

  10. Your late evening walks sound lovely! And dinner in front of the tv with a fire and glass of wine….heaven! I don't do Black Friday sales either. But, many US retailers have decided to cut back on opening stores on Thanksgiving Day,at least, so that is some good news!

    1. That is good news… especially for retail workers. I mean really… stores can't wait one more day to slash prices… and give their loyal workers a day off on Thanksgiving?

  11. This year, for the first time, I've noticed several U.S. retailers advertising that they will be CLOSED on our Thanksgiving Day. Hallelujah! Let's hope it catches on.

  12. I cannot imagine anything that would get me to shop on Black Friday, thankfully. In fact, I have planned the food shopping for my Thursday Thanksgiving dinner for 20 around being able to avoid grocery stores after tomorrow, so crowd adverse am I.

    Thanks for the book recommendations, I need to fit in a library run around the early food prep (spiced pears on the stove right now!).


  13. Hi Sue,as Wendy mentioned, Black Friday has made it over here too! I just let it pass me by …I hate frenzied shopping and in general I feel we end up buying more "stuff" we think we need (want) just because it's in the sale. I like early morning shopping when the streets and the shops are almost empty and it's worth getting up extra early to start the day with a good coffee in my favourite coffee shop whilst writing my list 🙂 …
    and I won't get started with my thoughts on shops opening hours over the festive season! Why why why!!? I think everyone deserves at least two or three days off to spend time with family or as they wish. It's not as if we don't have a year to prepare for it!! and some people will shop the sales regardless of when they begin.
    Obviously for those in the emergency and essential services rotas etc apply but even then it's usually possible for everyone to have their fair share of time off.
    Rant over …and I said I wouldn't start!
    Have a good week Sue! I've just spent a lovely "girlie" weekend with my daughter, niece (more like a sister) and her daughters. Yesterday we cooked a "Christmas Lunch" and exchanged presents…lovely!

    1. I don't know how people make wise choices in all the frenzy. But I guess maybe they don't. I like your early morning shopping routine idea…first the coffee and list making… then the shopping. I may adopt that when I start my Christmas shopping in a week.
      Your girls' weekend sounds lovely, Rosie:)

  14. Quick PS – finally got started on Clare Callen , been saving it for a patch of bad weather . Loving it .
    Wendy in Y

  15. Yes, I am equally puzzled by Black Friday which has become a feature of the British shops now. I couldn't care less especially as the shops have been crammed with Christmas stuff for weeks. Fairly soon, I imagine we will be having Thanksgiving too. Which would be historically barmy but…lucrative. Two turkeys in a month. No thanks.

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