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Friday, November 30, 2007

Shopping mad

This Life column from Day and Night magazine in today's Irish Independent

Morning radio is supposed to light, perky, and should have some content that has potential to inspire in you some kind of good will towards mankind. Otherwise, how on earth could you get up out of bed on a freezing, wet November morning and face the world? Morning radio is not meant to make you feel bad about yourselves and others, as happened to me last week.

There I was, minding my own groggy business, sleepily tucking into my porridge, when this woman popped up on a morning radio show and pronounced that she had all of her Christmas shopping done since the end of October. All that was left for her to do now was enjoy the festive season’s abundant opportunities to be jolly.

Thankfully, the presenter was in tune with my thinking and told her, ‘You seem nice, but I hate you’. I can’t even begin to fathom the organisational skills and commitment it would take to be that prepared for Christmas – or ‘Chrismoween’ as it’s now apparently known ever since our capitalist overlords decided to merge the world’s biggest pagan festival and the most important date in all of Christianity into one convenient, if hard-to-dress-for, holiday season.

I’m not a fan of shopping at the best of times. Don’t get me wrong: I love having, you know, clothes and stuff, but whenever it comes to actually having to venture into town to buy them, I revert to my default state as a whimpering four-year-old, tugging on my mother’s sleeve, wailing that I want to go home as she drags me into yet another shoe shop.

Now that I can no longer rely on my mother to buy all my clothes – and if anyone old enough to read this is still in that position, put the paper down, and slowly back away- I try to make my own shopping excursions quick and painless. Well, as painless as something that’s so easily hindered by the random and infuriating behaviour of the general public can be.

My plan always is: get in early, wear clothes that are easy to change in and out of, have your Laser card and/or all ATM needs sorted out first, and get the heck out before the hordes of merciless consumers arrive en masse like an invasion of zombies from a George A. Romero horror. And whatever you do, for the love of all that’s holy-pagan, don’t attempt to shop at weekends.

But in the two-to-four months that constitute the Chrismoween period, all those rules disappear faster that a pot of mulled wine and your dignity at the office party. Every day is like a weekend in terms of trying to navigate shopping centres. There’s no such thing as ‘early’ because everyone else now plays by that game too. ATMs have queues long enough to rival a run on a Northern Rock branch no matter what time of the day it is. The list of festive mood-sapping shopping hurdles just snowballs.

So what’s one to do? Internet shopping seems like the best option, but you better get clicking now. Also the problem with that plan is that you really have to know what you’re buying for the person beforehand. Otherwise, you’ll end up doing the cyber equivalent of running around Dundrum frantically trying to find the right PJs and Brut toiletry set for your dad.

As for me, I think I have no choice but to resurrect my adoringly charming, if not very well-received, gag from my impoverished student days when I cheekily gave people imaginary “boxes of love” as gifts. Or maybe I’ll give them “my time” or send them “best wishes”. Anything but brave the crowds and go shopping. I don’t wanna Mammy, I wanna go home!

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