Now, I don't want to alarm anyone (actually I do, you should see how funny you look when your hair stands on end and you shout "Ahhhhh! What the hell was that?!"), but it's only three weeks to Christmas.
Three weeks. That's, say fifteen shopping days if you don't go at weekends, which are always too busy. But, if you don't go on Wednesdays (because the shops close early) or Mondays (because who wants to shop on a Monday when you're all hungover and cross), then it's only about seven days. Ish. More or less. So. You've got seven days to find the perfect present for everyone in the entire world, you don't get paid until a week on Tuesday, your Amazon account is broken, your credit card accidentally snapped in half when you were trying to break into the cupboard at work that everyone refers to as THE CUPBOARD OF DOOM, when funny noises were coming out of it and you suspected that a hedgehog might have got in - all right, it's up five flights of stairs, but hedgehogs can climb stairs, can't they? - and M&S keep sending you e-mails telling you that everyone you know really REALLY wants a purple jumper with sequins on.
Yes, the annual panic is upon us. Well, it's upon me anyway. I start in September, carefully hand-selecting items of extreme personal interest to those closest to me, and yet, by the first of December I too have resorted to buying anything labelled '3 for 2' in Superdrug in a kind of ritualistic frenzy, fuelled by egg-nog and Cranberry Surprise.
I start with those on the outer fringes of my circle, the work colleagues, the cousins, the neighbours. These all get unfrenzied, thoughtful, hand-picked presents of personal interest and appeal.
Next we come to siblings, close friends and parents. These receive gifts slightly less personally chosen, because by now it's November, the shops are busy and I'm stressed. But still, nice things. You know. Not rubbish or anything. Useful presents.
Then the kids. Oh, yes, the kids. And when you have five of the little....things, this involves quite a lot of shopping. But, oddly, not that much thought.
Any and all of the above. Usually all. Walk into the first shop bearing any of these logos, fill basket, pay, walk out.
But by now it's the middle of December. Work is busy, there is writing to be done, I haven't yet written a single Christmas card, there's all the food to sort out and the dog was just sick on the carpet. And I haven't bought a thing for my husband.
Oh, I've looked. You cannot fault my research skills. I have surfed the net until my fingers went all wrinkly, I have made lists (which I then lost, but at least I made them) of super, innovative, fun, thrilling and wacky ideas. And then, suddenly - because 364 days is NOT ENOUGH WARNING, it's Christmas Eve. And we all know what that means, don't we?
Yep. He's getting it in purple. With sequins. M&S, you win again.
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