The almost Scrooge guide to Christmas shopping…..

Charles Dickens is, by quite a considerable margin, my favourite author, and if you’re unfortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the works of Dickens then I both pity and envy you. Pity, because you have not been exposed to the sheer delight of his prose, richly detailed characters and plots that are both intricate yet graspable. I also envy you, because if you haven’t read any Dickens yet, then you have a literary treasure trove of delights awaiting you and no reading is better than the first time.

Except for one exception.

I refer of course to, ‘A Christmas Carol’, most specifically the character of Scrooge. For a large part of the story he is to my mind at least, a delightful character – but then I would write that, given that I am a misanthrope. It is towards the end of the story that it all goes horribly wrong for Scrooge. He shows us the hypocrisy inherent in religion. In order to be thought well of and to be loved after his death and to save his soul he becomes a different person. He in effect, buys a good opinion of himself. Even when saving his soul he calculates the cost of doing so. Or not doing so.

Such thoughts were uppermost in my mind earlier this week when I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping and I had the good fortune to happen upon a shop in Greenwich. Because it gave no clue as to what lay within, it therefore stood out because of the lack of any promotion. It was like an attractive yet haughty girl who has a dismissive attitude to boys and stands out because the rest of the girls in her company are eager to please and fawn over them. Her very lack of interest in others only serves to increase the interest others show in her. Intrigued by the black exterior, blacked out windows and total absence of any clue as to what awaited me, I ventured inside and jolly glad I was I did.

It was a cornucopia of delights. I could have done all my Christmas shopping here. ‘This is my kind of shop!’, I thought because rarely had my flabber been so gasted! Selling both highly inventive and practical merchandise that suited every price bracket, it was of course a shop wholly devoted to selling products that you could plant on the unsuspecting to really ruin their day. There were so many to choose from, that picking a favourite was well nigh impossible, but here are some of my favourites, (sadly there is no room to mention the dispenser that scattered convincing looking plastic mice droppings or the letters from an always engaged Harley Street clinic asking the recipient to urgently contact them, as a previous sexual partner had tested positive for a STD. Or from bailiffs threatening repossession of goods after fourteen days if no contact was made, their number was, of course, permanently engaged. Whilst they didn’t make the cut, they were nonetheless worthy of honourable mentions).

There were shower pellets that you could put in a showerhead and when a certain temperature was reached an indelible red dye would come out. There was also a non-smear Pritt stick like gadget that you could use to write a message on a mirror and would leave no trace, until the bathroom steamed up and the message would be revealed. A small stick could write up to fifty, fifty!, short messages. The display was of a mirror and one could write on the mirror, boil a kettle underneath it and bingo! The endless fun one could have writing ‘I’m watching you’ on the bathroom mirror of someone living alone, every time you visited. Or shaving foam, that worked as shaving foam until a few hours later there was an indelible stain on the face where the foam had touched the skin, the longer it had touched the skin, the harder it was to remove. Combine it with a deodorant which when first sprayed it gave a deodorant like smell but thereafter gave a repellent smell, much like having a porcupine squirt into your armpits and just as difficult to remove.

They also had a range of mugs some of which were designed that when a certain temperature was reached would do a variety of things; some the cup would disintegrate, some the cup handle would fall off and some mugs which when a certain temperature was reached would display a range of offensive and innovative assertions. There were also radiator drops, which you could sprinkle on a radiator and once dried and heated, would emanate an utterly repellent odour. There was also a similar gel that you could rub around a car’s air conditioning vents with predictably noxious results. They also offered a service where you could take a CD of your choice in and have it embedded with a computer virus. The disc would play normally and after a few days it would infect the system so it wouldn’t work. They also offered a similar virus for car electrics, and of course they offered a DVD service as well, which would affect both the TV and the DVD recorder. Naturally these viruses would be hard to detect and remove. There was also the predictable range of customisable t-shirts and hoodies but these were for the most part a bit too obvious and about as subtle as a swift kick to the testicles. I asked the shop owner why there was no advertising or window display. His reasoning was that he didn’t want any old Tom, Dick or Harriet just popping in to browse. He wanted news of the shop to spread by word of mouth only and this was the reason it didn’t have a website.

When I told him that I felt duty bound to blog about it, he asked me not to reveal its exact location. He truly was a misanthrope of the very highest order. I remarked that the selling of such goods might leave him open to legal redress until he pointed out a large disclaimer form which every customer had to sign before purchasing, indemnifying him against any legal action. It was exactly the sort of thing if I were in his position I’d want my customers to sign. It is the sort of place that the Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ would buy his Christmas presents. Except, of course, for most of the story Scrooge wouldn’t buy any Christmas presents. He would see them as an expensive waste of money. Only at the end when things began to go horribly wrong would he consider buying presents for anyone. If you find yourself in Greenwich I invite you to try and find this shop and buy a few things. Buy yourself the gift of happiness at the expense of others’ misery!

Next time…how I brought Stevie Smith’s poem to life…