WE LIVE in austere times, but at least most people look forward to Christmas as a time when we can forget the woes of the world and spread a little cheerfulness.
People will be tightening their belts this year and not spending as much as they would like on presents and festive indulgences, which is why communities need to come together and do all they can to make towns and villages that much brighter this Christmas.
Most towns have colourful festive lights in their main streets to help do just that. But it has taken a campaign organised by a local mum to get the lights shining in Bodmin this year.
The town council announced there would be no illuminations because it didn't have the money.
Enter Hayley Lang, a mum with three young children who instead of simply shrugging her shoulders decided to do something about it and started a Facebook page calling for support to get the lights shining.
Within days people started donating money: but, more importantly, the strength of public opinion forced the town council, traders and others to get together and make Christmas happen in Bodmin.
I've started my Christmas shopping and went to Truro on Saturday, intent on finding something suitable for my loved ones.
Fortunately, I missed a book signing by Dawn French in Waterstone's by a matter of minutes: not that I have anything against Dawn – she's hugely talented – but large throngs of eager people in bookshops doesn't sit quite right with me.
Waterstone's now has a complete section dedicated to chefs. No, not a cookery section, as is normal, but one just marked "Chefs". Their recipe books always top the bestseller lists, with zillions of people purchasing them. Why? Unless one has a fetish for food or holds countless dinner parties, I very much doubt if a fraction of the recipes these books contain are actually prepared by people. Two or three cookery books in the kitchen is understandable, but some people must have bookcases full of them.
Weekend newspaper magazine supplements are also full of recipes, so I presume many are cut out and put in a folder for future use – except they aren't used, and sit there gathering dust.
Then we get countless television programmes on cooking, such as Masterchef: and who would have imagined a whole series about people baking cakes would be a ratings winner?
Most of us, I'm sure, tend to have a stock list of maybe ten meals which are easy enough to prepare and which we alternate from time to time, but mostly we eat variations on the same meals every week: so why have thousands of recipes in our homes if we have little intention of ever preparing them?
I didn't buy a book by a chef when I was in Truro last weekend. In fact my attempt at Christmas shopping was a failure, except when it came to purchasing something for myself, often the case when I go looking for gifts for others.
In one charity shop I bought a coat, and in another I bought a book about the Rolling Stones circa 1969 and their infamous American tour.
I visited a number of charity shops that day; they were full of cookbooks and tomes by chefs.
As it became dark, the Truro Christmas lights came on and brightened up the gloom of Christmas shopping.
Festive lights will also be illuminating Bodmin now, which will cheer up its residents and its traders, who I presume will be opening their doors for the switch-on and hoping the festive spirit prevails.