The tree is raised and decorated, the lights are on and the cupboards are being systematically cleared to make room for the annual influx of Christmas food and, of course, presents.
Most of the presents women of my age receive tend to move slowly from the front of the bathroom shelf to the back, like a sort of gift glacier. There’s a cupboard under my sink that could pass for a Body Shop package design museum featuring examples from every year of product development.
Last-minute present buying? Well, if the recipient is between the ages of zero and three years old, I would suggest the box the gift came in.
It is not a myth. Every child I have ever known has watched as the fabulously expensive, doubtlessly educational and ruthlessly on-trend toy has been removed from its wrapping with the care and attention usually accorded to the making safe of a Blitz-era unexploded bomb, then whooped with joy and seized the box to put on their head. In the case of my own BoyChild, he once insisted on wearing the box for virtually all of Christmas Day, which was odd, because that was only last year and, as of this year, he is legally permitted to drink in pubs.
Children between the ages of five and ten scream like banshees at the mere glimpse of shiny paper. Be careful. This does not mean you have cracked the present-buying, because the lung power utilised in deploying the Santa Scream of Joy can easily veer into the Howl of Horror as they realise the gift within is not some goodie from the Claus empire, but the Haynes Owners Manual for a 1967 Ford Cortina.
On that particular Christmas morn my husband was admittedly baffled at first, but had a happy afternoon playing with his Fisher Price Light-Up Whack-A-Mole Game.
My mistake. What can I say? Gin and wrapping do not mix.
The teen is the nadir of the gift-giving ideas. Nothing pleases. I gave up years ago and settled on annoying them instead. At least that way you got some sort of conversation out of them as you explained why you thought that a novelty jumper with ‘IT’S CHRISTMAS’ on the front was a better present than the XBoxPlaystationNintendo 500.
One year, exasperated beyond belief by a then moody teen (the female one), I ditched the idea of a new tablet and bought an Etch-A-Sketch instead. Laughed myself sick watching her trying to switch it on. It’s alright, the real tablet was under the tree.