Grandpa Webb's blog

Monday, 25 November 2013

It’s not Christmas already - is it?

When I was a young single man, Christmas was a time of merry-making and getting slightly tiddly. I didn’t think much about it beforehand. On Christmas Eve, I would join the last-minute rush and buy what presents were still left in the shops for mum, dad, my sisters and maybe my girlfriend if I had one at the time.

Grandpa WebbNow it’s different. Christmas preparations locally started in August. That was when full-size Father Christmas figures appeared in a local store. From then on the tinsel and glitter in the retail sector have steadily increased.

“Who is doing Christmas this year?” asks grandma, sometime around September. Last year our daughter Sarah and her husband Scott did Christmas lunch.  We have volunteered this year, so Sarah is doing the morning drinks and nibbles for neighbours and friends.

My Christmas present list which once included five people has grown to 45 and every year we go through a little ritual of carefully matching presents to people.

You can’t go buying presents willy-nilly as I did in my youth. If you buy someone a very expensive present and they give you a cheaper one, they feel awful. On the other hand, if you give someone a cheap present and they give you an expensive one, you feel awful.

When you are giving to a large family, do you give individual presents or one overall present, such as a good bottle of wine for the grown-ups and a big tin of sweets for the kids? But what happens if the kids aren’t allowed sweets?

What about a Lego kit? A popular choice, but how do you know whether they have got it already? I suppose you can always include the receipt so they can take it back and exchange it for something else, but then they know how much you paid for it – embarrassing if you got it cheap in the sale.

How about something to wear? This can be a veritable minefield. If you buy a lady who is a size 12 something in size 14 you could have inadvertently made an enemy for life. And what about the colour? People can be very picky about what colours they wear. Grandma doesn’t like me in green because she says it reflects in my face and makes me look like I’ve been dead for a week. So no green pullovers for me thanks.

It’s not Christmas already - is it?As you get older you accumulate lots of things. Like me, most of my friends of a similar age have got enough stuff. Over the years we have collected all the wineglasses, coffee mugs, flat hats, clocks, socks, watches, photo frames, paperweights, scarves, table mats and novelty key rings that we need. We don’t need any more stuff.

So what’s the answer? Well, something you can eat or drink is fine. We have an arrangement with fellow oldies that we all take ourselves out to a decent lunch after Christmas and split the bill. That way we all get to enjoy our present together.

Or you can do what I do: buy your own present. This year I have invested £17.98 on grandma’s behalf on a Radio Controlled Robotic UFO. It’s a sort of helicopter in a cage that I hope I will be able to fly round the living room. It’s not for me, of course, it’s to amuse the grandchildren – but if I bought it for one of them, they wouldn’t let me have a go. When everybody was out I gave it a few secret test flights and it works.

On the knotty problem of what to give younger friends and relatives, grandma has the foresight each year to make a list of who gets what. Last year’s list comes out at present-planning time and if we gave someone a scarf last year, this year they won’t get another one (unless they say they want one, of course).

Which brings me to the greatest help when choosing presents: find out what people want. One of my grandsons is getting a walkie-talkie set this year because his dad had the presence of mind to photograph it at the local shop and email it to me. A few discreet enquiries among mums, dads and friends will often throw up a few clues.     

If all this fails, you’ll have to make an educated guess. But if the recipient is above pensionable age, try to avoid green…


The opinions expressed on this blog are of the author and not reflective of RIAS’ views

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