Thursday, January 17, 2019

Shadow of summers

Time was, New Zealand basically closed down for the month of January, sometimes starting at Christmas, sometimes ending in early February. Those days are over, with the country’s globalised economy now virtually non-stop (apart from the three and a half days on which there’s a trading ban, only one of which, Christmas Day, is in summer). Long summers with lots of businesses closed and not much happening are mostly gone, but sometimes there’s a small reminder.

The above two marketing fliers were distributed together this week, and provided a bit of a remembrance, a shadow, of summers of the past.

The “Back to School” sales are because New Zealand’s new school year will begin between January 28 and February 7 (it varies a bit from place to place, but schools must begin their year sometimes between those dates). Because the summer break is the longest, some parents will arrange their annual leave so they can have time off with their kids, and that means they’re facing “Back to Work”.

These days, there are plenty of parents who can’t arrange their work/annual leave schedule around their kids’ school holidays, for any number of reasons, so for them the “Back to Work” isn’t relevant. It won’t be long, perhaps, before such a flier wouldn’t be relevant for anyone.

This is sad for some people: A part of New Zealand has disappeared. It was a way of life that I read about when I first moved here, but even by then the reality was that many people didn’t take lots of time off in January. Some still did.

Until very recently, it was common to have a hard time finding suppliers of some goods or services in the first couple weeks of January. I know from personal experience how frustrating this could be for someone trying to get projects done around the house while on summer holiday. However, home centres have become the norm, rather than local hardware stores, and pretty much everything needed for household projects can be found easily, with no more that the statutory holidays (and that Christmas Day trading ban) standing between them and completing their projects.

I have to admit that, since I never experienced the old ways, I’m fine with the way things are now. In the Internet Age, where we can order nearly anything online and get it delivered—sometimes on the same day—it’s natural to expect stores and service provides to be open, too.

As it happens, I’m off the month of January each year, so I’m kind of a throwback to older times. Also, I’m not: My being off in January doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s life or summer. So, for me, there really is a “Back to Work” time, and that flier is relevant. Like, it reminded me I really want to get a smaller desk.

Even though that particular flier was relevant for me, it’s still a sort of shadow of summers long gone, ones I had a small hint of, but didn’t actually experience. It's an unusual amount of social significance from an ordinary marketing flier.

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