This weekend, despite there being some serious shopping time yet before the season starts, I began a Christmas list.
I’m not especially proud of myself for it, and as yet, it’s not even all that long. But it’s started. And, when the time comes, I shall be issuing it far and wide.
Christmas can be a fairly stressful time in Family Blonde (and that’s before The Father’s had a row with the owner of the farm shop about there being no Stinking Bishop for the cheeseboard). And so, given the experience of Christmases past, this year I’m taking no chances.
The Mother is generally pretty good at selecting gifts - she subscribes to the “buy them stuff they can’t justify buying for themselves” theory of present-buying, and for me, large bottles of perfume; expensive coffee table books (or coffee tables, come to think of it); and Le Creuset all tend to feature rather heavily.
The Father is almost the opposite, and does love to give a practical present (boys: just… no). I didn’t think things could get worse than the Dyson Incident of 2005 (“What have you got Mummy for Christmas?” “A Dyson.” “Hah! No, really.” “Really. I’ve got her a Dyson. Why? Is that bad?”) until, in 2008, he pulled out the Vegetable Steamer Episode. He could just have gift-wrapped the divorce papers - they’d have been easier to wrap. But, to prevent marital discord, one supervised, 23rd-December trip into town later, and The Mother’s sparkly Christmas was sponsored by de Beers that year.
Sadly, many of the rest of the family seem to be cut from The Father’s cloth. Whilst I am always (read: usually) grateful for any presents the extended family wish to bestow, I do sometimes wish they’d not put quite so much thought into things and instead gone with the always-popular cheque (as I say: usually).
I will never forget the year that I was handed a present from under the tree by The Father, bearing a label from a well-meaning but actually deeply irksome aunt.
“Ooh, that’s a funny shape,” said The Grandmother who, at this point, was live, kicking and ploughing her way through her Nth sherry.
I gave the package a squish, and then peeled back the paper with some trepidation.
The fear was merited. For there, under layers of admittedly rather lovely paper, was a true Christmas travesty.
Whilst I would never deny that I’m a girl who loves her shoes, the versions that grace my feet are as far as my interest goes. I don’t have pictures of shoes adorning the walls; there are no twee shoe-shaped soaps in the bathrooms. I don’t have little models of shoes on the mantelpiece and I feel quite strongly that, in my house, that’s the way it’s going to stay. I don’t need anything extra to remind me of my weakness when it’s impossible to walk through Blonde Towers without falling over a pair.
So when I unwrapped the slightly peculiarly-shaped gift to find a shoe-shaped lamp - yes, a lamp, shaped like a shoe, complete with horrid bits of fringing around the top - I was, to be brutally honest, less than impressed.
The Grandfather summed it up in his inimitable way: “Bloody hell - that’s a monstrosity. She shouldn’t have bothered wasting the money.”
And so, this year, I’m making a list. It’ll contain some practical things for The Father to buy, and some beautiful things for The Mother to buy. And in case she really, really feels the need, there might even be some shoe-shaped things for the aunt - but they'll be actual shoes. And from Net a Porter. I'm not taking any chances.