I used to love Christmas shopping, all done in the week before Christmas - the hustle and bustle, the lights and Victorian markets, everyone willing to stop and chat to one another. The smell of the crisp cold air, the early dusk and thoughts of getting back to a warm, cheerful, tinselly and twinkly home on a crowded but happy bus with 18 carrier bags - of CRAP.
What a chuffing nightmare it was to become. For the last ten years or so, the shops have been ready for Christmas by mid-August and we're made to feel guilty if we haven't spent £1,389 on ‘designer’ presents by the end of September with another £2,652 by December to go on our credit cards to be paid in January!
As it is I’ve always had difficult people to buy for. A recent phone call to a parent:
‘Whaddya want for Christmas?’
‘Well, just draw us a couple thousand pounds out the bank and wrap it up, that’ll do.’
‘Yeah OK, and for a stocking filler?’
‘Well what do we want at our age? If we haven’t got it now, it’s too late to bother … whinge, whinge, whinge.’
I could ask my brother in law what he wanted, the reply would always be - ‘a new lens for my camera’. Seeing as I’d need to mortgage the house or take out mega life insurance on the grumpy old man and then hire a hitman just to be able to afford this little luxury, it’s never going to happen.
Since I’m now all grown up and I’ve turned more Scroogified, I hit on an interesting if slightly mean idea - lets buy our own presents, wrap them up and feign delighted - ‘Ooh, how did you know? It's just what I wanted’ - surprise, when we open them Christmas morning. And we can spend as much or as little as we want.
My sister instantly took to the idea - I’m assuming that this is because she’s always thought my gift buying was naff.
My niece saw the advantages straight away as she knew what she wanted and had the right people in the right places for the staff discounts that suited her.
My nephew, bless him didn’t quite get it - at first ...
‘Does this mean that if I get the trainers that I want for £?? that my favourite aunt will give me the money?’ My sister explained to him that no exchange of money was involved but he would henceforth be relieved of trying to buy ‘favourite aunty and uncle presents’ - he got it.
This works very much to my advantage as the GOM never wants anything - and who am I to go against his wishes? On the other hand I want lots of things - being ever so slightly greedy and liking all things that sparkle.
Therefore, half our pile of presents have his name on the tags - only fair - but they’re nearly all for me. Last year I decided to go back to an old hobby of wine making as I still had most of the equipment, the GOM was pleased to receive a wine making kit and 6 empty wine bottles ‘from’ my nephew. Now do you get it?
My sister is always more than generous, buying me exactly what I want by this method. The GOM moans each year that ‘Surely she wouldn’t spend that much on you’. My reply is always ‘Oh yes she would, I’m her favourite sister and she works in a bank!’
Ditto for my niece [just a different bank].
This method of Christmas shopping doesn’t entirely apply to my presents from the GOM. Apart from my main present - which of course I choose for myself - I require at least 6 surprises. Hmm, unfortunately they always turn out to be the same:
- Southern Comfort
- Terry’s Chocolate Orange
- Bar of Wholenut Chocolate
- Box of Celebrations
- Whatever is left over for emergency presents
- same as number 5 but in a different colour
The most disturbing thing is though - I fall for it each and every year.
But this is infinitely better than one of our first Christmas’s together, I'd been ‘admiring’ his collection of Beswick horses one day - not really, we were at that stage in our relationship where you ooh and ahh over everything, so I was just being polite - I commented that they were all brown horses and I prefer grey.
This was a stupid thing for me to do! Out of all the things I said I'd like as a Christmas surprise, he remembered this obscure - and nothing at all to do with Christmas - conversation!
Oh yes! He bought me a grey Beswick horse, I advised him - nicely - not to do any of this kind of thinking for himself again ...