When I first went to New York, I went to have Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I was in love with Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, and had been touched by the book and film, particularly was in love with the notion that there could be a place in the world where everything was alright, when the mean reds would disappear just by being there, and so bought a bagel and a coffee from a street vendor and found my way to 5th and West 57th and broke that fast in front of the elaborate window displays.
The world did feel better after that.
Years later, I went down on one knee atop the Empire State and we actually made it into Tiffany’s to look for engagement rings and the old adage that the man should spend three times his salary was blown out of the water by the prices in the ornate old jeweller’s. We went instead to the diamond district and Eddie did us proud whilst Reginald Dollar serenaded us with Beatles songs.
All of these lovely memories and more, came back to me this week, when the latest John Lewis advert was aired.
John Lewis and Waitrose are similarly places where, I think, everything will be ok.
We venture up to Waitrose in Formby once a month, get the magazines, get our free drinks in the café, B gets lots of attention off the elderly Formby set and the likes of David Fairclough or John Parrott and I waste lots of money on luxury items, but any time you go into there or John Lewis you are made to feel special and valued.
John Lewis as a brand has re-invented itself over recent years, here in Liverpool it was always George Henry Lee’s until a move dock wards and now has even more of an aura of being somewhere special. It’s not just the L1 version, mind, we had a nice trip to the Reading store recently and the consistency across the chain is highly impressive especially in terms of customer service.
Indeed, my good friend has fallen in love with the company too: he has started dating a JL merchandiser, and we discussed how the brand has become a monster over recent years, mainly due to
their Christmas campaigns.
Somewhere, someone is presumably locked in a room planning an advertising campaign for next Christmas. Already, they will be strategically designing a couple of minutes of TV that can bring the nation to a standstill, hog social media for days and raise millions of pounds for old JL.
It’s strange really that every year their advert should be such an event, given that it’s only three years ago that I can remember their entering my advent mindset. Perhaps it was the Smiths soundtrack, anything that uses La Moz as its vocal will gain attention, but nationally, the little boy with the box presumably got parents everywhere thinking about the true meaning of Christmas and giving.
A friend who was expecting at the time, explained how it got to her big time… Charlie Brooker changed its message forever when he suggested that the box actually contained a severed head, and if you watch it with that in mind it does lose its sentimentality a little.
The next year came the snowmen and Lisa even bought me the CD of “>Gabrielle Aplin singing what another friend calls ‘the greatest Christmas song ever’ (to reference the hooded claw) and again, childhood innocence akin to The (actual) Snowman which I guess is what John Lewis want to tap into amongst us thirtysomethings.
Last year, a year ago tonight infact, we were introduced to an animal who had never seen Christmas (nor indeed a Christmas advert) the bear and the hare were introduced to the world in the style of Watership Down / Brother Bear and a plethora of parodies were released online however the idea of giving remained central: that the department store somehow bridged troubles and solved problems and this is where the consumerism debate arrives, in that we probably shouldn’t embrace the commercialism of Christmas quite so much, we should turn our backs…
But that’s impossible when you become a father.
Because this year’s ad had me in floods of tears and I wasn’t alone, Jonathan Ross and Clint Boon were among many who tweeted their emotional response to watching Monty and Mabel.
What got me the most, though, was the similarities to B with her bear Cashew; the love of watching Pingu (nook nooook!) walks in the park, their constant hugs, the tears if they’re not around, the imaginative play, the feeding of fishfingers, even before the advert, we were looking for a partner / replacement for Christmas too… so much so I went to John Lewis yesterday.
The mission accomplished, then – get gullible parents to spend money, those cynics sneer – but I came away with a lovely baby grow and carrier bag and the knowledge that the authentic replicas cost £95 to show that it is a money making scheme after all, and I wasn’t quite ready to go that far just yet.
It’s a beautiful couple of minutes, and has very little to do with Christmas.
It’s all about childhood, friends, giving. Of love.
Yes…. It’s all about love, as Lennon sings.