Well, I've done it. For the first time ever in my life I have done all my Christmas shopping with three weeks to go. At least that is the theory. Sadly when I spread everything out all over the bed with my list by my side I discover that what I have actually done is buy a lot of things for me and for people who are like me.
Damn it. I always do something like this. I have a general cheery sense in the run up to Christmas that there are quite a number of people to buy for who have very similar likes and dislikes to mine: both older and younger daughter, my mother, my sister. Then, to a slightly lesser extent but still within the comfort zone, my daughter in law and my older niece. So out I go, or in I sit at the computer, and wander around shops or cyberspace thinking "That's an interesting book. Ooh, lovely little evening bag. Mmm, heritage seeds and here's a garden diary. Gorgeous embroidered cushion. Cath Kidston slippers. Provencal soaps. More books. Gossamer scarf. Oh this is easy, no problem."
And then I really look at what I have bought and see that it is:
1. pretty exclusively female
2. quite hard to give away because it is all stuff I like
3. no good at all for my dad, my brother, my son in law.
I can in fact make myself give away some of this lovely stuff to all the female members of my lovely family because I know they will like it too but it still doesn't help with the perennially difficult people. My Dad seems to already have everything he wants but hates to be left out. Ian buys what he wants for himself and then insists that the new chainsaw/router/hedge trimmer is his Christmas present - easy but deeply unromantic. My brother loves sailing and old motor bikes so should in theory be easy to buy for but he seems already to have every sailing gadget under the sun and motor bikes are a mystery to me. My son in law's passions are Japanese, Go (a fiendish Japanese game), poker, basketball and my daughter.
Then there are the emotionally tricky ones: my ex-husband and his wife with whom we are warm but ever so slightly distant friends, where the present clearly has to be for both of them with no undertones of a shared history. My sister in law, whom I rarely see but don't want to cut out of my life altogether. Until they both died in the last few years there was my grandmother, in her nineties with diabetes and failing sight, her lifelong interest in sewing and making things now beyond her, and my childless aunt, insisting on providing presents for my then teenage children who would much have preferred a fiver. Buying for them always seemed to have with it an edge of guilt at my own good health or my own good fortune.
I might just do a lot of food to give away. At least it doesn't add to all the piles of waste going into landfill, another source of guilt these days. In fact, if I give all my menfolk drink and get them to piss on the compost heap they will be happy (if cold) and I will be green (with an accelerated compost heap).