The cursed ‘stocking filler’ (and Tunbridge Wells trip)

Last Saturday I tripped to Tunbridge Wells (also called Royal Tunbridge Wells), which is a regency town just on the edge of Kent. You can get to Tunbridge Wells easily from Brighton, as there’s the 29 bus service (operating what’s called a “Regency Route” because it connects regency towns of Brighton, Crowborough, Uckfield, and Tunbridge Wells) which departs every hour from several stops including the Old Steine, Lewes Road, and Falmer. With a student ID, the 24h networkSaver bus pass costs you only £3.75 (£6.80 for two calendar days). So I used my £3.75 wisely and went to Kent for a few hours.

Tunbridge Wells was underwhelming, but maybe it’s just my standards. It was very crowded and there wasn’t an affordable cafe in sight where I could get a nice coffee and sit down inside, where it wasn’t freezing, unlike the outside. It was sunny at first but then the clouds came and the air temperature was actually rather unpleasant.

It wasn’t as fun as the scaled-up snowball in a Harrogate shopping centre that kids could enter and throw around fake snow by handfuls (I got a video of this from my mum, who visited me in the second week of November and used the occasion to trip to London because she loves that city).

I’m writing this now because I just had my first coffee of the day and decided to browse the Tesco free magazine to research some of the material culture of Christmas. After all, what do I study History of Design and Material Culture for, if not to have great opportunities to do fuck-all and call it ‘research’? And in the Christmas edition of the Tesco magazine, of course the phrase ‘stocking filler’ pops up pretty often.

The phrase ‘stocking filler’ frustrates me because it seems to encompass all that is wrong with Christmas. Christmas is like an empty stocking that you have to fill to feel fulfilled, to feel like you’re doing Christmas right. The stocking is the tradition – we’re used to celebrating Christmas every year because that’s what we do, the stocking is a tradition and so is Christmas – that we mindlessly repeat year on year.

Your kids expect you to fill their stockings because… why? Brits go into unreasonable debt every Christmas, and many of them don’t feel great about it, to say the least.

Maybe it’s just me being jealous about other people’s Christmas celebrations, because I’m spending Christmas in Brighton away from my family home. However, I’m doing it out of my own choice. I have deadlines in January and Covid in my home country is spreading pretty badly – mostly thanks to anti-vaxxers who are dying in heaps, allegedly – and I hate flying! So it’s difficult for me to make a decision to go home for Christmas, and if you don’t book your flight tickets then, oh well, you can’t really go. I’m shit at planning trips and I’m so glad I have my mum. She’s our family’s in-house travel agency.

Either way, I was gonna say that it’s pointless stuffing stockings for no reason, just for the pleasure of finding more and more stuff every time. You can honestly use this money and materials for a better purpose. What purpose? I’ll leave thinking of an answer to you.

[belated post because I’m good at writing drafts and then never finishing them]

Published by kotersey

Graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a First in geography, now studying history of design and material culture at the University of Brighton. Probably drinking iced coffee and thinking about buildings.

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