I finished the hard bit of my Christmas shopping two weeks ago. Or so I thought.
This is down to two things – a lucky location and books. First, as an Irishwoman, most of my family and friends live in Europe. If you want to send a package from Australia you need to allow for at least a month in transit so Christmas shopping for them tends to start in October or – more often – tends to consist of buying items online and having them shipped within Europe to save on the prohibitive postage.
Second, as it is my firm belief that absolutely everyone loves books in their various guises (may I suggest short story anthologies and graphic novels for the swing voters on this one?) presents from me are likely to be uniformly rectangular, easy to wrap and all bought in the same place in a bulk purchase to save on shipping. Friends of mine who don’t love books often get a charitable donation made on their behalf instead giving them more of a reason to love books next year.
Smugness, thy name is Booklover.
Well, it’s not just about feeling smug, I genuinely dislike Christmas shopping. Some people thrive on the shopping excesses of the season and to them I say you’re welcome to it. I am not one of nature’s bargain hunters and hate being swirled along in the Brownian motion of massive crowds. Mariah Carey’s Christmas album tends to inspire me more with thoughts of homicide than seasonal cheer. Santa can get stuffed and you know where you can stick your holly.
So, sitting in the living room surrounded by books, books and more books (and also some chocolate so people could nibble as they curled up with a book) I felt quite proud of myself for having the whole thing in hand and avoiding the Christmas crush.
Then I realised I had nothing to wrap the darn things in. Not a scrap of bright paper in the house, and even the sellotape was more of the gaffa tape variety. I seriously considered wrapping the gifts in bin liners and duct tape. (This is not, oddly enought, a method recommended by a book I found on the matter, called “Gifted Wrapping”. I tried looking for a book called “Getting Some Other Bugger To Do It For You Wrapping” but unaccountably failed to find it. Publishers, take note.)
I would have to brave the shops to grab some wrapping paper. As it was a Monday morning, I figured that Sydney CBD would be reasonably quiet so I hopped on a train to pick up some wrapping paper.
My mistake. When the doors opened I was whisked out the doors into a teeming mass of frantic humanity. It was like the apocalypse had arrived and it turned out you needed red and green knickknacks instead of food and water. Carol singers on every corner. Shop doors impassable with people.
The stationary shops were thronged. Trapped in between two prams, three mothers and a panicked looking middle aged man who had “I have forgotten to get my wife a gift” written all over his terrified face, I got my taste of the Christmas spirit when he wheeled around and hit me smack in the face with his bag before trampling over me to get to the till.
Toes crushed and nose bleeding, now that I’m safely home I can see that it’s not all bad. My sore nose is a timely reminder of the importance of getting all aspects of the seasonal shop well out of the way while the shops are still promoting Halloween. And, it must be said, few presents look as lovely as books when wrapped – rectangular and shiny and perfect for a ribbon and a bow. Under the tree, the gifts look fantastic. You can hardly even see the bloodstains.
And for those of you will stockings left to stuff who’d prefer to keep your nose unbroken, consider a voucher. A happy holiday to you all, and may the New Year bring you lots of books from all your favourite authors and new wonderful authors to read.