Today, I suppose, I should really go out and start looking for Christmas presents for people. I have no idea, at all, what anybody wants; no idea what anybody needs; and no idea what I’m going to buy. I know what I’m not going to buy, though.
On the way between our house and the local library, there’s a bus stop, and as bus stops tend to, it has a space for advertising on the side. And at the moment, the advert is nothing more than: a giant picture of a lottery scratchcard. With a slogan something along the lines of: “The ideal present for Christmas”.
Now. Just wait a minute. No. No, it isn’t. Excuse me for wanting to rant, but a lottery scratchcard is, in so many ways, just about the worst Christmas present imaginable. If you can think of worse ones, please let me know. Never mind a gambling ethics debate, it’s wrong in so many other ways. It’s small, flat, hardly anything to unwrap, no box to shake, no wrapping paper to tear off with abandon. Its entertainment value lasts for all of, ooh, about 3 seconds. It’s completely thoughtless and says nothing at all about the recipient, the giver, or anybody: it has no emotional or personal value whatsoever. And, finally, the chances are that it’s valueless: a piece of litter. It’s less use as a present than a sheet of wrapping paper. Or a stick. If I was given one as a present, I’d be crossing that person out of my address book straight away. And then hire assassins. Maybe I’m not the target audience for the advert, but there’s no way in hell that a poster is going to persuade me that buying a scratchcard for someone is a good plan as a present for them. What on earth would it say about me, for one thing? That I have so little imagination that I’ve bought them, ooh, a coloured piece of paper with that silver rub-off stuff on it.* Because a poster said so. Because that’s how brain-dead I am.
So, no. That’s not going to be on the shopping list, at least.
* What the hell is that stuff, anyway?
First Christmas present bought already, but I’m still going to have to devote the weekend to running around the county hoping desperately to find something inspirational. I’m not saying what I’ve already bought. It’s for my dad, and I don’t think he reads this place, but you never know.
When I get up in the morning, I have Radio 4 on in the background. I like Radio 4, but I normally try very hard to avoid listening to Thought For The Day, in case of the very real risk that it will make me want to throw the radio through the kitchen window.* Today though, I caught a quick flash of it. I can’t remember the exact phrase I heard, but it was something along the lines of “lots of Christians use phrases like ‘God willing’ and ‘if God wishes it’ all the time”. Which left me rather puzzled, because even though I’ve known a large number of devout Christians over the years, none of them have ever said any such thing in normal conversation. Maybe one of the good aspects of Thought For The Day is that it makes you realise there are people out there whose view of the world is so partial and skewed, that they really do believe they are standard conversational phrases, just because that’s what all their friends say.
I was talking to someone last night about the next Book I Haven’t Read that I’m going to write about: House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. “Oh, I don’t think anyone’s read that all the way through,” she said. “I don’t think you can.” So maybe I should invite additional contributions to the next Book I Haven’t Read post – if you have read House Of Leaves all the way through without cheating, let me know.
Big Dave says he’s found a flat now. A “one-bed studio flat”, or what people Up North** still call a bedsit. At least this means he has the weekend to do his Christmas shopping in, rather than worrying about property-hunting trips down to Barking and Beckton.
* especially if Anne Atkins is the writer/presenter.
** apart from if you’re a property developer, of course. Or you live in Leeds, probably.
It’s not quite the Christmas season for a while yet, but it’s getting near the time when I’m starting to think about what presents to buy. And, particularly, what to buy for the parents. I never know. I always try to think of something unusual, different and interesting, and I usually end up buying the same old books and DVDs for them.
Last year, the mother received a fossilised fish, because
Colleague M Emily* had bought something very similar for her mother, so that gave me the idea. On paper it was a terrible present for my mother, because she hates ornaments. Everyone else at the office said “a fish? Why are you getting your mother a fish?” As it turned out, though, she loved it.
This year, though, I haven’t spotted anything equally unusual; and I have to think of things for my dad, too. Any suggestions?
* she asked I use her real name, in case you were feeling confused. Her mother’s present was a pair of polished stone bookends; I bought my mother’s fish-slab from the same shop.
This Christmas, I have received:
- Some of the CDs and DVDs that I couldn’t be bothered to buy during the year
- A new denim jacket, with a nice warm fleecy lining
- A cunning device to tell you when your parking meter is about to run out.
The parents have received, from me:
- One of those car navigation gadgets
- A fossilised fish.*
Well, at least neither of them was going to guess a present like that before they opened it. It is now sitting on top of the TV, in stony silence.
Naturally, we all gathered around the telly last night to watch Doctor Who. The episode could have been better, the plotline felt rather thin, but when the Doctor woke up and swung into action he was marvellous indeed. The main gripe I had with the plot was: the Doctor shouldn’t just be a deus ex machina, but in this story that’s effectively all he was. Still, at least Russell T Davies does know how to write a running joke.**
* Actually, there are two fish in the slab I gave, but one is faint and difficult to see. I didn’t spot it myself until after it was unwrapped and on display.
** and the Douglas Adams reference was a nice touch too.
I need help.
I have no idea what to get my mother for Christmas. No clue at all.
She’s the worst person in the world to buy presents for. She doesn’t like smelly things. She doesn’t wear makeup or perfume. She’s on a strictly-controlled diet. She rarely wears jewellery. She has so many unread books and unwatched DVDs that it’ll take her a year or two to get through them all. She doesn’t like ornaments, because they complicate dusting. In other words, she’s awful when Christmas and her birthday come around.
So, any ideas?