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Family Guy: Gift shopping? Bought the T-shirt

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One Direction

One Direction

One Direction

WE'RE having a family Christmas shopping night," announces my wife, making me flinch inadvertently. "Everyone gather around the computer," she adds.

It's with some relief that I realise we've finally become part of a national statistic relating to the apparent rise in number of those making the majority of their festive buys online. I think we might be one in three, which feels sort of cosy.

"Lists at the ready," she howls up the stairs, to which there comes the sound of much thumping. Our four, or the three still at home this year, are well and truly teens now. Their lists are quite specific. They often contain various pricing options.

"Hold on," comes a muffled yell from the loft where the younger middle teen resides and there's the thunder of socked feet first down the stairs, then the sound of him falling back up them again.

This could be the start of something wonderful, I think to myself as I nestle in to the keyboard and wait. Teens submit their wish lists; suggested items are keyed into search engines; Santa dispatches successful items proportionately on a naughty/nice ratio. Sorted.

As usual, we're kind of late to the trend - 20 years of children kind of late - and through all those Christmases we have at one time or another tried almost every method of gift shopping.

There was 'Observe and Report', whereby we'd take our youngsters to some giant car park with a hangar-sized repository full of deafening children at its periphery, then let them run riot among the toys for a migraine-inducing hour, taking mental note of which over-priced box of bewildering plastic parts they seemed most fixated on. The eaves of our attic still creak with chocolate coin making factories, shaved-ice machines and the like. If we ever have a house fire, the ensuing molten plastic inferno will be visible from space.

We've done the 'Shop Early and Avoid the Rush' method also, whereby we squander our money on hoarding the latest High School Musical or One Direction paraphernalia, only for it to be unwrapped to a wrinkled nose when, just three months after purchase, our daughter is, like, "so" past all that.

Shopping early has also resulted in my buying and hiding items which I then completely forget. Six months later, I could be flailing around the top shelf of a cupboard with my fingertips only to trigger an avalanche of expired milk chocolate baubles. This, I might add, is not a total loss.

Shopping early and immediately wrapping things may also seem, in theory, like a wonderfully organised approach, except the one time I tried, I forgot the labels, then swore I could figure things out purely by prodding and squeezing the packages, which may be why the second eldest to this day is unable to maintain eye contact after having, at the tender age of 12, excitedly unwrapped a bumper tube of intimate tingle massage oil that I'd mistaken through the gift wrap for a Jelly Belly Harry Potter Sweet Feast, a mistake anyone could make, surely.

humanity

Then there was the 'Wait Until Last Minute' method, less of a method than a descent into chaos, and inflicting any sort of Christmas shopping on yourself and others in a public place 24 hours or less before the Big Day should be somewhere on a list of crimes against humanity - your own humanity.

One such death march into the Hades that is Christmas Eve in the city, dragging my own weight around in tat crammed into bags with cheese wire for handles, saw me shuffling, haunted, into a pub for a break, only to have my ears assailed by the six hundredth rendition of Fairytale of New York.

Noticing the bartender was clearly Asian, I brightened.

"Bet you don't have to put up with that where you're from," I blurted, grinning weakly and motioning to the tinny Christmas music with my eyebrows.

"Wha'," he drawled, in perfect Ronnie Drew, "in Rat-moines? Naw, it's Pogues all day dere 'swell, man."

Why I found this so utterly depressing, I'm not sure, but that fine young man gave me one on the house after I swore that next year I'd shop local.

Now, we should all support small business and shopping local is a noble aspiration, but it can be ever so limiting, especially when combined with that 'last minute' methodology, whereby certain kids, now clawing for the computer mouse over my shoulder as our rather war-torn credit card is produced, have been known to receive pine-scented car fresheners and packets of spearmint gum among their paltry stocking offerings.

If I could have a T-shirt that I only took out every 12 months that perfectly summed up our hope for the season, it would say 'This Year Is Going To Be Different', even though experience has taught me that 'different' doesn't always mean 'better'.

"Hold on," I tell the eager bodies jostling for position beside me. "There's just one thing I want to look up first." And I click on 'Custom T-shirts'. Sorted.


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