“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, tis the season to be jolly.” OH, NO IT ISN’T, not if you’re a man and you still have your Christmas shopping to do.
Let’s face it, MEN and Christmas shopping just don’t go together. Ask any woman. We lack the stamina for it and that special ability that you females have to browse and stalk the shop floor looking for that elusive present. We’re hunters not gatherers and need a specific target to home in on. Shopping malls and shops are in general an anathema to us. But once a year we do have to come down from our tree or out from behind that rock.
The other day ‘we’ visited one of these emporiums of plenty where the shop floor stretches to the horizon and is festooned with all manner of bounty and provender. I had managed to negotiate the first challenge, that of actually getting into the car park and locating an empty space. Sometimes it would be easier finding a dodo on an ostrich farm. You can almost hear the voice, “Welcome motorist, you have entered the Chrystal Maze, but take care to remember where you left your vehicle, for you may struggle to find it when you leave.”
The doors shooshed open and I tried to look back for a re-assuring landmark. Too late, they closed and I was inside that Aladin’s cave, a novice within the temple of merchandise and about to worship at the altar of commercialism. Yes, it’s all very pleasant, light and airy, warm and inviting; and if you like Christmas musak, large hanging baubles, lights and giant wrapped presents. Enchanting in a shoppy kind of way.
The trouble is I find these places so alike and soul-less. Chain store multi-retailing at its best, or should that be its worst. So much so you could be forgiven for wondering exactly which High Street or Shopping Mall you are actually in. And then I find myself daunted and baffled by the array of goods on offer. The book shop’s boring and I don’t want to buy the books they are desperately trying to sell, the electrical gagdet store is predictable, the CD and DVD shop completely uninspiring, the clothes shops and shoe shops, well I don’t need any. “You’re supposed to be looking at things to buy for others, not yourself”, is the exasperated response.
But there was one shop that kept my attention for ages; the toy and model shop. Train sets, cars, planes and soldiers. Now you are talking. Only it wasn’t as it used to be, not as I remembered. There was no atmosphere; it was completely devoid of any wonderment or wow factor. In fact it was more like a toy supermarket, shelves piled high with boxed merchandise, than a toy shop with individual toys you could actually touch and play with.
That aside I did manage to suggest a few ideas for presents for family, friends and relatives. I happily carried the bags and waited dutifully outside a few shops, sometimes there’s a strategically placed bench. I had just plopped onto the end of one with the bags, there was a chap doing likewise at the other end when a middle aged woman approached to sit down too. I smiled and gathered my bags up. “That’s ok,” she says, “plenty of room unless you suggesting I’ve got a big bum!”
And you will be pleased to know I did find my way out of the Chrystal Maze. Unfortunately, though, I do have to go shopping again tomorrow. You see, I, didn’t actually manage to buy any Christmas presents!