Being very bad at Christmas shopping

I have never been a great shopper.  I am always puzzled by the idea of retail "therapy" and am mildly astonished that many perfectly lovely and intelligent people seem to enjoy spending time in huge shopping centres like Bluewater, Westfield or, my personal bete noire, the Trafford Centre.  Too much choice makes me shut down and too much pressure to spend turns me into a one woman awkward squad and makes me hang onto to my purse.

There is not a lot of shopping you can do up here anyway.  We are not totally in the middle of nowhere.  In twenty minutes or so you can be in any one of three nice small towns, Mold, Denbigh or Ruthin, where you can do a supermarket shop if you want to, find some good small shops and buy a decent cup of coffee.  There are some lovely independent retailers too like Homewood Bound and the Craft Centre just down the road at Afonwen but you have to travel forty five minutes or so to get to Chester to find a proper city.  In fact Chester is a very fine small city and has lots of individual shops, the antithesis of the out of town retail park, but even so I only get there a couple of times a year.

If you don't shop, oddly, if you are me, you don't want to shop. The less you do, the less you want to do.   I don't miss it or ever begin to feel like I need a fix.  That sounds both virtuous and puritanical which is misleading.  I am not a great consumer but I do love some particular beautiful things.  I buy some stuff online and most of my normal purchases are to do with the garden: plants by mail order, seeds and bulbs, especially bulbs and books of course.  It takes something like getting ready for Christmas to drive me out to the shops.  I would love to be able to tell you that, like Silverpebble and Thrifty Household I have been making winter.  I admire it hugely.  I aspire to do it.  I look at the beautiful things which are made by truly talented people and wonder if I could do it too if I just keep trying.

But all my winter projects take so long that they are very unlikely to produce any delightfully handmade Christmas presents.  There are the socks which are now entering their second winter under construction.

They are not going to be a present any time soon, and besides I labour over them so long I think I will have to keep them as no one else will appreciate them as I will.

There is the huge superkingsize blanket which is about a third of the way there.

It's too huge for a present.  It is for the house really.  The idea of giving it to any of my children is simply a joke.

There are things I have finished of course: the Christmas puddings are done and waiting in the pantry; the damson gin is mostly bottled, just waiting for a fourth bottle which suits the purpose to emerge from the recycling.

But somehow nothing that I have done can count as a present for anyone.  I am intrigued by the idea of giving only presents that I have made although I can't guarantee that some of the likely recipients wouldn't be appalled.   I think to do it properly I would have to plan for most the year.  There are things I am confident with: foodbased presents I could do and know that the results would be worth eating.  I might be able to sew or knit but I am not confident that the results would merit the time and effort it would take and how do you know that your taste would be the taste of the person you made it for?  How awful to have spent weeks labouring over something and to know in your bones that the receiver of the present was wondering how long it would be before they could give it away or hide it.  I think it is a confidence thing.  Perhaps it should be my project for 2012, or I could spend 2012 thinking about it and have a go in 2013, or 2014.

So in the meantime, there are no presents and there is shopping.  

I think shopping may be something that you need to train for and then practise to keep your hand in, a bit like tabletennis or ballroom dancing.  I stopped in Chester on the way back from work the other day, sure that I could do most of what I needed to buy.   It is not a huge amount: presents for twelve people since some will be done by gifts of money and with some we have mutually agreed not to buy presents in this straitened, recessionary year.  I didn't get past the first shop I went into.  It was a truly beautiful kitchen equipment shop.  I expect I was drawn in because my lovely new kitchen has been filling my head with kitchens.  It took me forty five minutes to stop looking at things for me, entirely theoretically as most of them cost an arm and a leg, and another forty to choose two presents which may or not be things my nearest and dearest want.  These were heavy to carry and my head was swimming so I came home.

Back to the internet for me I think.  At least the distraction level is lower and things don't make your arms ache.  Or I do make a very good cake and have a very quick and easy pattern for fingerless gloves. 


  1. I too prefer Internet shopping to real shopping. I find it easier to locate things and there's not the blasted walking from shop to shop. But I'm sure your Christmas cakes are lovely and make a wonderful gift. Who would not want to receive one? XOX

  2. Oh, I understand! I don't mind walking around and looking at things, but I loathe shopping as an activity. I find it overwhelming, and when I do end up buying something, it's only after a great deal of anguishing, after which I almost immediately see something that I suspect I (or my intended recipient) would have liked better. And I don't find fighting with crowds to be an invigorating activity. Such irony that I'm living in one of Asia's biggest cities and a true shopper's paradise!

  3. I'm not a good shopper and wish that internet shopping were more convenient out here. As it is, the shipping costs are eye-watering, so I head to the mall and get it all done in a couple of afternoons.

  4. I'll join in to say I'm not a shopper either. I have too many things already and am trying to get rid of stuff! Believe me-I have plenty.♥♫

  5. I'm great a browsing but bad a buying! (& I wouldn't describe myself as talented either- except at finding & remembering useless/strange/quirky bits of information)I'm going to post about my latest find- a recipe for limoncello that claims to take only 2 weeks to mature...(?) so could be ready by Christmas!

  6. Once again we end up blogging on very similar subjects in our own particular ways. We must share a particular thread of cyber ether that arches in a rainbow from the very top to the very bottom of Wales.

    I share absolutely your horror of big shopping centres (at any time and doubled and redoubled before Christmas). Even my computer these days is becoming almost a no-go zone bombarded as I am with advertisements into every mailbox from the big retailers and sites I have happened to visit. Buy, buy, buy they scream. Yet as I get older I find I want less and less (certainly of the things that my available money can buy) and all too often we buy and give for forms sake, rather than finding a truly useful and inexpensive surprise - which is what my blog was all about this week. Bah Humbug!

  7. What a shame you don't live nearer. I know a lovely little shop, in the middle of nowhere, where you can shop in quietude and then drink coffee and read the newspaper while they wrap it all for you......:)

  8. Nora - the trouble is my Christmas cakes are huge and heavy! Ok for a big family but that is about all.
    Caroline - Ah you sound like my kind of shopper. I didn't mention the sudden realisation that the thing you have bought is nothing like as good as the thing you are now looking at!
    Pondside - a couple of afternoons is good. I once did everything in one shop in a single afternoon but I am not sure it was my finest hour. I think I just ran out of time!

  9. The only way I can cope with shopping is by approaching it with military discipline. I know precisely what I want before I leave the house and work out the order in which I do everything so I can follow the most efficient route. When in shops, I look for an assistant straight away and ask where what I want is and if I can't find an assistant, I leave the shop.

  10. As my hand has packed up the making has gone to pot, and so I have done nearly all my shopping online and the rest incidentally when I have been out doing other things. I hate shopping centres with a vengeance, and find it much more rewarding to buy from real individuals with tiny operations, rather than keep the global corporations in business!

    Pomona x

  11. I used to be fairly good at shopping, but not since I moved to rural Wales. Hate crowds. Hate big shopping centres. I have to take someone with me!
    You should have come to the craft fair this weekend. You could have done all your shopping in one go and so justified the petrol costs!!

  12. Oh Elizabeth, I do know where you are coming from. I also hate busy cities and towns, the idea of carrying all those bags, and choosing presents in a rushed environment is really rubbish. Having Monday off means we don't get to visit these places at their peak times - which is fantastic.

    I think maybe I cheat and do as much of our shopping here at the centre, which really saves us time and at least we get to choose the stock also. Good luck this year. Remember we will help you all you like if you are brave enough to try a shopping experience with us, and Yes we will wrap your gifts while you have coffee and cake if you wish xx

  13. Love that blue blanket by the way.
    I often make presents for people but it does take a lot of planning and a certain amount of confidence. And I loathe, loathe shopping of any kind. (Currently waiting for my food shop, done on the "net, to be delivered.) The only Xmas shopping I've done so far is the stuff that's already made its way to England. Must get a move on.

  14. I've turned into a big maker of presents, partly driven by the fact that I love shopping for fabric and have built up a useful stash. I agree about the confidence thing, I started in a small way and did a fair bit of product testing first. I loathe Christmas shopping too which helps to overcome the confidence problem!

  15. I only understand the phrase "retail therapy" if it is applied to books or plants Elizabeth and have still to make my first visit to the Trafford Centre. I need sky above me when I shop although I can cope with Chester's 'Rows'. Good luck with your seasonal shopping :)

  16. *shudders* you mentioned shopping. I am equally adverse! I have tried making Xmas gifts and sending them to people who I think might welcome them or be of the kind of forgiving nature they wouldnt tell me how dreadful they were! As you say its all down to confidence. I made a card for a friends 60th birthday tomorrow, I am dreading what they think of it! I've made a few small gifts this Xmas, mostly to add to something small I bought, and I think long and hard what to get/make people. Internet is my saviour too, but thankfully I know what I want to buy and where to get it mainly.

  17. Marilyn - getting rid of stuff is the holy grail, or perhaps it is getting rid of more stuff than comes in!
    Thrifty household - limoncello might help with all sorts of problems!
    Fred - believe me I would be there.

  18. I've come to the conclusion that shopping is all about practice. I used to go to University in Newcastle and would spend a lot of time wandering around the shops and I was actually good at shopping. But in the last 6 years we've lived in a small rural village not far from a local market town which has a good selection of shops and not that far from Cardiff or Bath but I'm out of practice when it comes to shopping because I do it so infrequently. I dread having to buy an outfit for a party or wedding, whereas I used to love shopping for these sorts of clothes. When it comes to Christmas I plan ahead and use the internet to get ideas. Shops aren't so scary when you know what you want, its browsing for inspiration when the problems start. I can recommend craft fairs they never feel as daunting as shopping centres at Christmas.

  19. I'm with you - and Chester is soooo crowded and hectic and -- back to t'internet. I do give lots of homemade presses, and I love getting them (generally, ahem) but I do tend to confine myself to food. And your damson gin looks wonderful!!

  20. Shopping for me is a luxury, I just don't have the money most of the time. I also can't stand shopping malls, or centres. Too much of everything, people, goods, perfumes, big overheated barns of commerce. BUT I do like going to our local German deli, cheese shop, small bakery or butchers. I love finding things that are good to eat, or cook with. Clothing..Iam afraid I buy my jeans/boots/t- shirts at the local farm supply store,or online. I just hyperventilate when I start thinking about going to a fancy dept. store to "shop for clothes". I love cute clothes, just not the ordeal of shopping for them.
    Our Christmas gifts are limited to Hubby, Mothers,and close friends. So that makes things easy.
    Love the damson gin pic, it looks so gorgeous..Iam also curious about your fingerless glove pattern, would you be wiling to share it?

  21. I honestly think one of the Internets greatest gifts to mankind is the end of Christmas shopping on the high street!


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