I could have sworn a snowflake floated out of the night sky on Saturday and landed on the tip of my nose. It melted before I could check, but it was a sign. As if to confirm it, when I walked into the Asda at Newhaven today, an LED counter was flashing “31 sleeps till Christmas”. That was an actual sign.
Inside the store, the Asda DJ was playing All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey. I’ve heard that song a million times but I still like it. It burrows into my ear and snuggles there until the bells on Hogmanay. It’s not to everyone’s taste, though. Passing the checkouts, I heard one assistant say to the other: “If I hear that effing song one more time I’m gonnae brain someone.” “Ken,” said her pal, listlessly.
In John Lewis that evening, Christmas was in full swing. This is the place to go if you want something utterly useless to give to relatives you don’t particularly like. Where to start? Probably with the bars of “Luxury Gold Soap”, lovingly prepared with real 23 carat gold leaf. Right next to that was an eyemask “fragranced” with lavender seeds and embroidered with owls. Who do you hate enough to give that to?
And for somebody who is right up themselves but doesn’t realise it yet, a leather Rotating Watch Box with brass dials so you can adjust the speed you want your watch to turn at as you display it to yourself. You’ll be poorer by £250 if you buy it but just think of the confused look on the poor fellow’s face as he tries to figure out why on earth he might want such an empty gift. Yeah, you don’t even get a watch with it!
If that’s out of your price range, don’t worry. You can buy cheap, useless gifts at John Lewis, too. Like scentsicles. You don’t know what scentsicles are? OMG you are sooo 2014! They’re basically posh incense sticks. When you light them, they make the whole house smell of “Snow Berry Wreath” or “White Winter Fir”, whatever that smells like. Right next to the scentsicles are pebbles. Pebbles look like those pebbles you found on the beach at Whitby and decided to bring home with you. Only they’re not actual pebbles. They’re candles disguised as pebbles. That’s right, you can light the pebbles and your guests will think you’ve set some stones on fire. For £8 you get three big pebbles or six small ones. Every home shouldn’t have some.
They say it’s the thought that counts. Nobody actually believes that, do they? It’s the gift that counts. Get it wrong and it means the person you bought it for realises instantly that you don’t know them at all, you were just buying stuff indiscriminately, shoveling it all mindlessly into your basket like a duck guzzling pieces of bread.
“It’s a surprise!” is fine if there are two tickets to New York inside, a wad of spending money in actual dollars and a little something from Tiffany’s, all brought up to you on a breakfast tray with a big apple on the plate. (Geddit? Big Apple?).
But getting a 3000-piece “Royal Babies” jigsaw puzzle when you asked for an iPad? That’s the kind of “surprise” nobody wants. So tread carefully.
Speaking of which, did you know you can buy special Lego-branded slippers so it doesn’t hurt if you step on a plastic brick? I’m sure you can think of somebody who’s been bad enough to deserve that.