Frivolous Monsters

The American Holidays

     I’ve been spoilt by my favourite bookshop Fopp, which sells two books for a fiver, and so when the Spectre Trilogy – the three James Bond novels which apparently tell the rise and fall of that criminal organisation1 – appeared in my local remainder bookshop for ten pounds I thought them a little “pricey”.

spectreIt was late one Tuesday evening in November, just before the shop closed, when I found them reduced to seven pounds and so thought I’d pick one up on the way out. However whilst I was at the back, checking for a diamond in the rough which is their “wall of chick lit2”, the staff conversation drifted over to me: “You do know that we can’t let anyone have the green ticket items at that price until tomorrow. You know what they’re like.

I didn’t know what they were like, or what was so special about the next day, but figured that I was probably going to be out of luck. Having another look at the pile of Spectre Trilogy box sets on the way out I saw that they were marked up as part of their Black Friday sale which, another nearby sign told me, started on Wednesday.

Nothing made sense anymore.

I imagined the angry hoards of shoppers banging on the door at 9am the next morning, waiting to pick the place clean, but it turned out that the people of Bury don’t go in for the American Black Friday palaver because when I returned the next evening, twenty four hours later, I found that the small pile of box sets were still there.

So it was ten pounds, regular retail price £23.97, reduced to seven pounds, and with the points I’d accrued through shopping over the summer I thus scored a bargain in getting the Spectre Trilogy for £6.10. That’s the way I shop.


Reading them I got to thinking – with references to Tommy Steele, Rosemary Clooney, Donald Campbell, the Welfare State, and the “Ah! Bisto!” gravy adverts – that the books might not have aged too well especially because in Thunderball (1961) Bond seemed incensed that a pretty woman had a job, before violently forced himself on her, claiming: “You shouldn’t have a mouth like that if you’re going to an osteopath”, although I did learn that driving mirrors are: “an accessory rarely used by women except for making up their faces”.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) seems a bit more appropriate yet contains the bizarre scene where Bond is stuck up an Alp, needing to makes some invisible notes, and thus we got the passage: “There are hundreds of secret inks, but only one was available to Bond, the oldest one in the world, his own urine.” Cue the scene where we had our hero squatting on a bathroom floor and daubing all over his passport.

For some reason they left that scene out of the film adaptation.

However, as it’s since been revealed that British Secret Service agents actually used their own semen as invisible ink then perhaps we should be grateful that, for some reason, Ian Flemming saw fit to not go there.


Despite my careful book shopping after Christmas I’d go on find that the Spectre Trilogy box sets would still be there in the same local remainder bookshop, in their everything must go sale, reduced to five pounds. You win some, you lose some.


Due to my self-enforced austerity lifestyle, of a failing writer, I do keep an eye out for when supermarkets are selling off deodorant ranges for cheap and this led to me once smelling of London Playboy, but even with bargain basement prices I still drew the line at buying David Beckham.

I have to try and maintain some sort of self respect, after all.

I stick to body sprays because of historical scare stories, but did notice that there’s been a breakthrough elsewhere as scientists have finally cracked the 72 hour antiperspirant: the invention no-one was calling out for. With that done I’m guessing that those scientists will probably turn their attention to cancer now, or something.

The one I picked up the other day claimed on the front: “Contains Pheromone”, and I thought that this might be the answer to all my problems in life and that maybe it would help attract the girls. I checked out the ingredients when I got home to find something that might instead be served up as a meal on MasterChef3: “A seductive synergy of aromatic notes of white pepper and armoise embodied with birch leaf, magnetic sequoia wood and passionate hot amber, sits on a bed of rich sandalwood and sensual patchouli oils.

Tell me more about this “magnetic wood”, because that’s not going to help to bring in the girls, is it? That’s only likely to attract robots.

And then I realised that I had bought it on Cyber Monday

For a pound…

I’ve been had, haven’t I?



1 – The trilogy is Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice.

2 – The Wall of Chick Lit: impenetrable to any man as they look identical through all being pastel-coloured, with the same woman on every cover in soft-focus, usually in a period military or nurse’s uniform, with book titles you can’t remember, by authors you’ve never heard of.

3 – Something else that sounded like a menu that could win MasterChef was the list of medicines that the twelve arguing physicians administered to Charles II in 1685, on his deathbed, as it included: white hellebore root and plasters of combined spurge and Burgundy pitch; enemas of rock salt and syrup of buckthorn; an emetic of orange infusion of the metals made in white wine; white vitriol dissolved in peony water; a julep of black cherry water; and the oriental bezoar stone from the stomach of an eastern goat. The King had no room for dessert, after that lot, and kicked the bucket.


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7 thoughts on “The American Holidays

  1. I love the artwork on the covers of your books especially the toad wearing a fetching shower cap 😉
    I don’t know why we keep taking on these American habits. It seems to me that there are always sales on in the U.K. anyway. It has come to the point where I wonder why anybody pays full price for anything any more as, if they wait a couple of days, it will be on sale – or, failing that, they can buy it in Poundland. No wonder Black Friday was a bit of a damp squid – a sale is just not news any more. Here in France ‘Les Soldes’ are in full swing. They run from 6th January for six weeks and there is another six week period in the Summer. Unlike the U.K., they are not allowed to buy stock in especially for the sales so the reductions are genuine. I suspect, as with other aspects of commercialisation, France will soon catch up with the rest.
    As you are a thrifty individual, have you tried the rock crystal type deodorants? The initial outlay is relatively high but they last forever – and don’t think I’m exaggerating!! My last one only got relegated to the bin because I dropped it on the bathroom floor and it shattered. I don’t think they contain anything likely to attract women though – at least I haven’t found it to be so.
    Probably best if you don’t use any of JamesBond’s lines on prospective women friends because, no matter how like a Masterchef dish you smell, you will get short shrift – or possibly locked up.

    • As I understand it, it came in a few years ago because of the internet when people over here realised people over there were getting ‘Black Friday’ better deals. Shops did embrace the Black Friday madness the past few years but they’ve now drawn the line and said they won’t do it, but instead have an extended discounted sale before Christmas.

      I had been hearing of Black Friday for years, with American podcasts, but never understood it as there are similarly named days and they’re all the dates of financial banking disasters.

      And you are right I cannot afford books at full price and expect to get them – eventually – at a bargain price. I do make lists of books and am very patient.

      I’ve not really heard of rock crystal deodorants but have seen James Bond deodorant, or aftershave, or something, and I wondered who would buy that? It’s only the packaging that has a link to the films. Puzzles me.

  2. Talking American Holidays – didn’t I notice in the middle of last November some commentary about turkeys available on sale in the UK for Thanksgiving and strangely some Brits were celebrating this day? Perhaps they were getting into the Black Friday mood.

    • I didn’t see that. Although I did comment on someone’s blog – a young American living abroad – who was talking about how Thanksgiving wasn’t really visible in China and I tried to refer to it as a “local holiday” that has no significance outside America. Not heard much from her since so hope I haven’t upset her.

      There are links, though, between Thanksgiving and things like Harvest Festival which I guess is our equivalent. I have sorted Pumpkin Pie this year though. It’s a bit of a shock seeing as, by our standards, it isn’t a pie and it doesn’t have pumpkin, as we know, it in it.

  3. I pay $2/month rolling subscription to a journalist for access to her posts through Press+ so if you ever set up a paywall, I’d be happy to pay just as handsomely to read these posts. Keep up the entertaining work and Happy New Year 🙂

    • Thanks, but that sounds pretty steep for one person’s stuff! I can assure you that I’m not looking to put up a paywall – with WordPress how it is these days I’m lucky to get what readers I can – although I am hoping to shortly finish putting a 400 page book together. If I’m successful, and can find a publisher, then that’ll definitely cost a whole lot less than $2 a month!

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