Last one to the pub gets the gifts in

Garreth Murphy

Like most straight men, I hate shopping. If we did enjoy shopping, it would be called something far more manly like 'research'.

The only reason I ever go is out of sheer necessity and, even then, it's an operation which should mirror a well-orchestrated military campaign -- quiet, efficient, preferably conducted under the cover of darkness and force only employed when strictly necessary.

Blokes are not programmed towards spending time in overheated, packed stores. If we're in the mood to be pushed, shoved and jostled, we simply go to sporting events. At a game, we at least get some sort of a tangible reward for queuing -- a beer or using the toilet.

Shopping is why Christmas traditionally fills me with dread. Although few of us have more than a few cents to rub together, shopping for presents becomes something of a hellish national pastime over the next few weeks.

My approach to Christmas shopping has always been thus: put it on the longest finger until I run out of space. Then, when Christmas Eve rolls around and I still haven't gotten anything for my loved ones, I seek solace in the pub with fellow males.

It's there -- in the warm and comforting embrace of sweet mother booze -- that we menfolk formulate a foolproof strategy to get our shopping done, preferably in the time that it takes pints to settle. Notes are compared and lists are made. The plan is simple: whoever comes up with the best idea for gifts is spared the agony of actually heading off to buy a half-dozen identical products. The rest of us draw lots.

Depending on how late in the day it is, this can sometimes lead to comical results: one year, a particularly (and drunk) inept friend went on a run for perfume. Unfortunately, after making our collective purchase, he got waylaid and left the substantial bounty in McDonald's.

Book vouchers didn't quite cut it in comparison. And although a night on the couch was ruefully reported by one of our number, as a consequence of our friend's ineptitude, it was a small price to pay. Result? Shopping avoided for another year -- result!