I have always loved Christmas, ever since I was a little girl. Like most children I quivered with excitement on Christmas morning unable to wait to open the presents in my stocking. As the years passed I discovered the joy of giving and to this day I get great pleasure from watching the face of loved ones light up at the sight of a present I have carefully picked. Likewise, I revel in buying seasonal treats and making traditional favourites. The only sting in the tail is the Christmas shopping.
Whether it is the shambling mass of humanity being coaxed into buying tat, the canned music in shops or the excessive commercialism of the season, trawling the bustling shopping streets of London is sure to turn me into a “boggling” wreck – to use my mother’s adjective. Over the years I have developed strategies for minimising the pain and this years these strategies and my values have come together to result in surprisingly pain-free seasonal shopping.
Internet is admittedly a big help here. With too few hours in the day, online shopping is a godsend all year round and I have built up a core selection of trusted suppliers who keep me stocked with everything from fresh milk to hosiery, not to mention books and CDs. As my friends and family generally fall into the “bookish” and musical category, Amazon comes into its own as do more quirky merchants with online facilities, like Persephone Bookshop and the V&A Shop.
The local high street also increases the enjoyment to be found in Christmas shopping as well as strengthening the local community. Admittedly I live in Greenwich, which boasts one-off shops and a market with some super stalls. My favourites include Bert & Betty – an old fashioned kitchenware and hardware shops which is super for gifts for cooks; the Theatre of Wine in East Greenwich – an Aladdin’s Cave of interesting wines and chocolates for Epicureans; the stall of master milliner Sue Dewhurst whose cloches are a steal; and Sophia & Matt owned by a couple of London bag designers whose girly purses and toilet bags are jolly addition to any girl’s book bag whether young or old.
The biggest trick to pain-free shopping has definitely been to know your friends and to focus on treats that they would like to receive. More and more I am turning to concert tickets or theatre vouchers as these are a gift of an evening out and time spent together. As it is so easy to hand over the credit card, I also focus more on other gifts that involve an investment of time. My sister, who has her “random” traits like me, admitted to being a fan of knitting and using “happy” wool from the local organic farm in Scotland to make mittens to keep her warm in the office. Having discovered that she is not adverse to the product of this old-fashioned craft, there will be an addition winging its way north to warm her – made with British wool so it will tick both her “buy local” values as well as mine.
And then, of course, there is food but that is material for an entire post of its own.