Here’s my guide to shopping for Christmas presents…

by Pseud O'Nym

Buying presents for Christmas 2016, that is.

If you are looking for present ideas for Christmas 2015 I’d suggest that you are leaving it far too late and most importantly, you haven’t been paying attention to what people say.

My reasons are as follows and based on evidence based observations, painful yet instructive, of how not to do things and yet most of you are guilty of some of these. Thankfully I have my parents to thank for me being so good at buying presents. Not because they were so good at it – because they weren’t. As a child, the lowlight of one Christmas was getting a pair of socks, and in answer to my understandably crestfallen demeanour there then followed a long explanation of everything they did for me throughout the year. That was their present to me; the usual functions of a parent somehow transformed into a never-ending feat of selflessness on their part for which I was meant to be grateful.

My brother and I out of necessity developed a coping mechanism for this, as we both knew instinctively that our parents were worryingly unencumbered by parental responsibilities and to make matters worse, upon return to primary school, there’d be an outbreak of competitive bragging about who got what and what they got could do. So, what I’d do – and decades later discovered he did as well – was listen carefully when someone described in painstaking detail to a crowd of hungry ears what a particular toy did and when it was my turn, repeat some of the details. At a frighteningly young age I discovered that fiction could be woven into fact if I wanted it to be.

So chastened by my childhood experiences, I understandably prided myself on never making anyone I ever gave a present to feel as aggrieved as I had as a child. It’s quite easy, this giving thoughtfully appropriate presents thing, although some people – most – conspire by their inactions to make it is difficult as possible.

The most pitiful of all excuses for this  is the line “Christmas crept up on me this year”, (or variations of) as if Christmas can happen at any time of the year, with a weekly global lottery draw to decide if Christmas will take place that week. Then, if Christmas is indeed to be that week, it’s as if the global audience – well just the wealthy citizens of it – act as if a kind of air borne compulsion to spend without reason has been released. As opposed it to being on the same day, every year, since before they were born and after they will die. Or that advertisers blitz the media from mid-November with novel and emotive ways to separate consumers from their money. ‘Look, they’re buying this and they’re happy, you can be too.’ Or ‘Look at these people, hosting a party full of attractive people enjoying themselves because of the table laden with food. Are your friends that attractive?”

It is therefore no surprise to learn that it’s estimated that this year the total UK spend on Christmas presents will be £24.4 billion. Equally, it is no surprise that UK advertisers are spending £310 million on adverts to promote the idea that you can buy your way to happiness. This leads me onto my second point, that given a substantial part of the expenditure goes on presents it therefore makes sense to spread the cost of the presents throughout the year. This isn’t being mean, just practical.

If you listen carefully to what people say they often give you unconscious clues as to what they really would like as a present. It also has the happy benefit of allowing you to spread the cost throughout the year, and also to display a degree of thoughtful consideration which is sadly lacking if you leave it to the last minute.

A good example of this occurred earlier this year, when I said to my Trilby that I’d never watched the Eurovision Song Contest – not all the way through, only bits – and she made me watch the whole sorry spectacle. At one point, she mentioned that she liked Abba – let’s face it, who doesn’t? – and then some time later she mentioned she was partial to a bit of Richard Clayderman. I ignored this comment, but as soon as she was out of the room, I got out my computer and looked on Amazon to see if he had done an album of Abba covers. He had, and six moths later when I gave it to her as one of her birthday presents, she was amazed. My theory being that ultimately you don’t buy presents for the recipient, you buy them for you, as a way of reminding yourself of what sort of person you are. This allows you to avoid taking part in Christmas present bingo.

Christmas present bingo is whereby the recipient unwraps a present, stares at it blankly and then gives fulsome thanks but is careful not to tear the cellophane wrapping. Because they know that they are going to wrap it up themselves and give it to someone next year, most probably to an annoying friend of their partner, a relation that they especially loathe or a hated in-law. I suspect that countless presents suffer this fate.

So, my advice is buy throughout the year – the January sales gives you the chance to get things at a fraction of the price you’ll pay in December – and listen and more importantly act on what you hear. Online shopping means you have no excuse.

As if to prove my theory, the one that posits that you give presents ultimately for yourself, to remind you of who you are, here is my present to you – one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard, courtesy of ‘the twisted brain-wrong of a one-off man-mental’ that is Chris Morris.