Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Do not use the C word...

If you happen to bump into me, whether you know me or not, never ever (ever!) ask me the following question; “So, have you done all your Christmas shopping?”.

For me, it’s a conversation stopper.  My eyes will glaze over, I’ll feign a smile, rotate 180 degrees and walk slowly off in the other direction.  You are almost guaranteed the same reaction if you also ask me; “Have you booked your holiday?”, “Are you doing anything nice this weekend?”, “Are you all sorted for back to school?”. 

Yes – I have most of my school uniform but my mum won’t let me wear my suede pointy pixie boots and I can’t find a Culture Club pencil case anywhere…  

No – I have no idea where I’m going on holiday but it’s pretty likely to be somewhere  in the world and yes, I expect I will be doing something nice this weekend and hopefully it will be so nice that it won’t become buried under the piles of ‘not nice’ like ironing, housework, supermarket shopping and X-Factor but right now, I don’t know what it is.

Oh and while I’m on chit chat, never try to have a conversation with me about Downton Abbey. I haven’t seen it, I have no desire to see it and yes, I can live with the fact that I’m missing so much excitement of the period drama nature.

I’m not a miserable person (honestly), nor am I The Grinch.  I am just not that into small talk.  I can talk for hours about many other things, mostly of a spectacularly trivial nature but when it comes to small talk, I’m just not that into it and when it comes to Christmas small talk, I just don’t want to do it, so don’t even go there but I will give you this, just in case you may be tempted to ask.

I have not done any of my Christmas shopping.  I have not done any of my Christmas shopping because every year, I say it’s going to be different.  I’m going to approach it from a new angle.  So – I’ve done the ‘This year, everyone will get a book as a present’.  I’ve done the ‘This year, I will limit all presents to £X amount’.  I’ve done the ‘This year, I will do all my Christmas shopping in January’, and I’ve done the ‘This year, I will do all of my Christmas shopping online with a glass of red wine and a mince pie’.  I’ve done the ‘This year I will mostly make gifts because they’re more meaningful and it shows the person that you really love them.’

So I know the following to be true. 

You will never feel that a book is enough to give as a present, no matter how special the book.  It could be a £5 paperback or a £100 glossy coffee table book but you will always (always) feel the need to go out and beef the present up with something else, and maybe another little something else, and just another wee something else.

You will never be able to limit presents to a certain amount.  One person’s £40 is another person’s £5, or at least, it can look that way.  “Look at that amazing big rattling full box of boy stuff vs “Look at that tiny little parcel the size of Tom Thumb’s pinkie.”  

You end up adding presents to presents to make everything look amazing or at least, passable and non-mean, and then you realise you’ve spent 36 hours in a weekend trying to find presents to fit your ‘per person’ limit online and still need to get to the shops at some point to do the weekly shop and buy all the other things that creep on to a mum’s shopping list.  Another gym kit… Name tags…

You will never do your Christmas shopping in January and that will be it, done.  You may feel a warm, smug, bursting at the seams satisfaction at beetling your way round Depressville, which is ‘The British High Street in January’, gathering your knock down bargains, so much so that you want to punch the air and start your own ‘Mums Who Christmas Shop in January’ tips forum online, leading crowds of grateful mothers through the shopping desert to reach the promised land of saved pennies and perfectly wrapped presents where you’ll be crowned The Shopping Messiah.  You’ll probably feel so great you’ll want to write a book about it.  Don’t.  The final chapter of your book will go something like this, “And as I stood, looking at the piles of neatly wrapped gifts, the memories of Christmases gone by came flooding back to me.  The wrapping paper, the gift tags, the Christmas cards…there was something so familiar about all of them.  Yes – it was like a déjà vu, and as I gazed upon last year’s presents wrapped in last year’s paper, all dressed up with last year’s ribbon and sparkle, I realised that something was missing.  Joy.”

You will never do all of your Christmas shopping of an evening, snuggled up with a glass of red wine, a mince pie and Michael Buble, unless of course, you’re Michael Buble’s wife, or a more attractive proposition to Michael Buble than his wife, which means, you’re an extremely lucky girl, forget about the Christmas shopping, I think all your Christmases have come at once.  Jingle Bells…

What will happen is that you’ll virtual shop for a while, just popping things into baskets in various online stores (you will have twenty tabs open in Google).  You’ll be feeling that you’ve almost reached the end of your list, just around the same time as you finish your first glass of wine.  Aaah – smug feeling washing over you, you’ll pour another glass of wine, maybe another mince pie and a couple of sips in, the Festive Fairy will have visited you without you even inviting her.  You’ll be feeling a bit warm and glowy and very, very generous.  To all.  Mostly yourself.  By the end of the evening you’ll have spent three times as much as you can afford, but it’ll be worth it, because you have a themed outfit for every day of the festive season.  The “Cosy Winter Romance”, ensemble – all cosy whites and tactile fabrics with some sheepskin thrown in for the walk in the snow with loved ones.  The ‘Sparkling Me’ outfit – all swishy, sparkly, shiny, glittery, cocktail fun! The ‘Good Mummy!’ get-up, all girl next door America, jeans, boots and a lovely, lovely Christmassy jumper. 

You will never mostly make gifts for everyone at Christmas unless you’re Kirsty Allsop or someone who spends a lot of time shopping in Laura Ashley, a lot of time cleaning an Aga and lots and lots of time putting your Mary Berry cook books into chronological order, placing ‘Mary Berry’s Cook Book’ (the original one of course) in an outward facing position, just to show the world that you knew who Mary Berry was even before anyone had heard of Paul Hollywood or GBBO.  

We’ve all done the homespun Christmas thing but unless you’re very creative and crafty.  Don’t.  You’ll spend what you could have spent on Christmas presents buying jars, tags, quaint little accoutrements to fancy things up, glue, glitter, general ‘stuff’ and you still have to make whatever it is you wanted to make for people.  Believe me, it doesn’t show people that you love them.  To do that, mostly you need to hug them and say “I love you” and not present a jar full of jellied slop with glittery glue running down the sides, all held together by a big gingham bow.  

It doesn’t tell them you love them.  It tells them that you’re a bit rubbish at making things and it all just looks a bit Primary 2.  No offence to Primary 2 little people.  We love your creations.  We keep them forever.

So, can you see where I’m coming from?  Christmas shopping isn’t all about hitting the shops, grabbing a few gifts, wrapping them, putting your feet up and having a glass of wine with a mince pie.  It’s all about the approach.  The style.  The kind of vibe you’re going for this Christmas.

At the moment, the kind of vibe I’m going for this Christmas is sheer last minute panic.  I haven’t tried that approach for a few years but since I’ve exhausted just about every other approach, I figure I should keep with most peoples’ tradition and do it all in a blind panic the Saturday before Christmas.

Who knows?  It may be the most successful approach to Christmas shopping I’ve had for years.

I’d prefer the online shopping, glass of wine, Michael Buble experience but until ‘Celebrity Christmas Shopping Experiences’ become something that you can buy in one click from Amazon, I’ll be sticking with the Great British Christmas Shop Off.

I’m sure by next year they’ll have made a BBC One series about it and it’ll be “all the rage!”.


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