More filing and recycling from the old website. The references to ‘Futurama 5’ don’t apply this year, but that aside the whole Christmas shopping thing seems just as relevant today. Oh Joy…
So Christmas is coming, the goose, presumably (or nut cutlet if so inclined), is getting fat, and I s’pect, like me, most people are getting completely and pointlessly stressed out about maiden aunts and teenage nephews for whom it is pretty much impossible to find any sort of present that seems in any way appropriate or worthwhile, but for whom you have to find a present and would feel guilty giving a token.
Well, if it’s any consolation, for me it’s not just a surly, uninterested Kevin of a nephew or a tricky maiden aunt, but my entire family. Nobody, it seems, wants nuffink. Well, at least, nobody wants nuffink that costs somewhere in the region of 10-15 quid (which in my family is the tacitly agreed figure to spend on presents for siblings, nieces and nephews, rarely seen maiden aunts and other ne’er-do-wells who get drawn in to the extended family orbit for the festive season) that they haven’t, thoughtlessly, already gone out and bought for themselves in the months leading up to this one.
Now in a way it’s really great that to all intents and purposes there’s not a single member of my family who is on his or her respective uppers to the point that they can no longer afford to furnish themselves with the little 10-15 quid prerequisites that crop up in their lives, and I guess really we should all be counting our blessings. And I (we) would be, I’m sure, if it wasn’t for the ridiculous expectation that we find something – however awful – to swap either on or a few days before or a few days after Christmas for something equally awful, equally unnecessary and equally unwanted and go through the motions of pretending that we are surprised and delighted to be presented with whatever piece of crap they have presented us with.
‘Oh, thanks,’ we say, grinning inanely, ‘but you shouldn’t have, you really, really shouldn’t have’, and as we’re saying it we can only hope they can’t hear the italics we’ve mentally placed for emphasis on that second ‘really’, or, in the case of a particularly inappropriate or tasteless offering, the rather less family-friendly adjective we considered replacing it with entirely . I mean, how many pairs of Christmas themed musical socks does a man actually need, for heaven’s sake? And while leesure suit/pyjama sets are actually something you can never have too many of during the winter months how many pairs with a pissed mooning Santa on are you going to get the opportunity to wear over a four day holiday?
And let’s face it, how disgusting does it look when an unexpected visitor like the postman knocks on a Saturday morning in mid February and catches you wearing them out of season? I mean, he’s not to know you’ve not had them on since Christmas morning, is he, especially if like me you’re a bit dyspraxic with your breakfasts?
Of course, you could always play Christmas roulette and take people at face value when they say ‘let’s not bother this year’, but do you really want to live through the hell of watching an increasingly large pile of crappy swag build up under your section of the tree while the rest of your Christmas guests offer reassurances that no, they’re not offended or upset and you were perfectly sensible not to ‘waste money’ on them and yes it had all been agreed, hadn’t it, but it’s not the receiving it’s the giving, isn’t it, and personally they hadn’t wanted to miss out on that regardless of what anyone else did?
No. Thought not.
So like me, you’re stuck trawling the pages of Amazon and Argos and Play.com and Toys ‘r’ Us’ searching for something – anything – you can wrap up in glittery paper and hand over on Christmas morning without feeling like a complete and utter bastard. Even worse, if you do happen to find something, chances are it’ll be on extended delivery and they can’t guarantee its arrival in time for the 25th.
One of my son’s stocking fillers is the DVD of Futurama season 5, which for some insane reason is released on Dec 26th. I’ve pre-ordered it, of course, so hopefully it’ll be here by New Year’s Eve, but in the meantime I’ve spent about ten hours making him a little PowerPoint presentation explaining why he hasn’t got it in his stocking on ‘the big day’.
I don’t begrudge the 30 minutes or so I actually spent making the PowerPoint, but I do begrudge the nine and a half hours of extra time I spent getting the bloody thing ripped to DVD because I’ve only got PowerPoint 2007 which doesn’t export as wmv, and because I didn’t realise that sound files aren’t actually embedded in the presentation as standard which meant I had to relocate them all when I finally got access to another machine with PowerPoint 2010 on it that does export to wmv. All that because some idiot executive in the distribution department of whatever company it is that distributes Futurama in the region 2 market decided to launch it the day AFTER Christmas rather than a couple of days before, the wanker. And if I’d actually wanted to make some homemade crap I would have watched Kirstie’s Homemade Crap and knocked him up some soapy tasting misshaped chocolate truffles or some chocolate scented misshaped soap or something – not a 1 minute DVD of Bender and Co apologising for their late arrival.
Talking of chocolate and soap, these are NOT suitable Christmas presents, despite the fact that they are often given. Soap to me always seems like a suggestion that you think the person you’re giving it to stinks, as does perfume and talc. (Scented candles, BTW, imply that the recipient’s house stinks, which is potentially more offensive than the suggestion that they themselves do, depending on their particular brand of OCD).
Chocolate is doubly bad, because it firstly suggests that the person you’ve given it to is a bit of a fat-knacker, while simultaneously implying, if you are visiting them for the season, that you fear they will have under-catered in the Christmas chocolate department and don’t want to run the risk of running out of Quality Street before tea time.
Booze, likewise, is a double edged sword. In fact, it’s more of a Swiss Army Knife in terms of the number of blades it can simultaneously wield. A bottle of spirits can imply alcoholism, or can, like chocolate, be interpreted as concern regarding the host or hostess’ ability to adequately cater for the needs of his/her guests. The same applies to wine, but you then also have to consider the value of the product being offered, with a bottle of cheap wine implying that the hosts have no taste while an expensive wine implies they have no class and would therefore be unable to select such a fine wine for themselves. With the latter, of course, you also run the risk of seeing your good wine whisked off, never to reappear, to the pine wine rack beneath the stairs, while bottle after bottle of domestic vinegar gets served at table.
Last year my sister, unknowingly I suspect, came up with a cunning solution to the wine as a gift problem by presenting me with a bottle of dessert wine. This move cleverly sidestepped the whole issue of price and quality, because, whether cheap German weasel’s piss or the most expensive noble-rotted Chateau d’Yquem Grand Cru Sauternes, nobody wanted it opened, and nobody would have had a clue even if it had been opened. It will be there again this Christmas as an optional accompaniment to the Christmas pud and After Eights, and will be there again, I suspect, next year and for many years to come.
In recent years it’s become fashionable to give charity donations to people at Christmas, presenting them with a certificate thanking them for their donation of a goat to an African village or for their sponsorship of an endangered species animal at a sanctuary or rescue centre. If I ever get one of those I’m going to demand a refund, so that I can give the cash to a charity I choose rather than one that’s been selected for me.
This is the Christmas equivalent of ‘chugging’ (charity mugging), which is bad enough when perpetrated by total strangers who accost you in the shopping precinct but totally and utterly out of order when enacted by friends or family. It’s got nothing to do with YOU making a donation to the charity whatsoever, it’s just THEM making a donation and then expecting you to pay for it by going without a present. The fact that you didn’t really want the present in the first place is neither here nor there; it still boils down to them expecting you to pay for the privilege of making THEM feel smug, and there is then the double whammy that having donated YOUR money to charity they now feel justified in claiming to have ‘done their bit’. But they haven’t – they’ve just forced you, regardless of whether you wanted to or not, to do their bit for them. The selfish bastards.
Oh well, best get back to browsing the web for potential prezzies… The clock is ticking, you know…