Christmas shopping update Time taken: 5 hours Destination: all of Regent Street, all of Oxford Street Celebrity shopper seen: Vic Reeves Number of presents bought: 1 Number of presents still to buy: all the rest Amount of annual leave entitlement wasted: 4%
Conditions in the West End weren't too unbearable yesterday. The pavements weren't too congested, the shops weren't too crowded and the queues at the tills weren't ridiculously long. But that still didn't make my shopping any easier. I prowled the hallowed halls of Selfridges, but found only squirty smellies and labelled luxuries. I scoured high and low in Waterstones and Borders, but found nothing more recent than all the same old books that have been piled high since November. I investigated the absolute bargains in the closing down sale at Dickins and Jones, but was left unmoved by several floors of cut-price women's clothing. I ventured deep inside various well-known high street chain stores, but decided their pre-packed gift sets made less than perfect presents. And I even made it as far as the top floor of Hamleys, but the only thing I left the store with was a light sprinkling of snow from walking down their 'Narnia Staircase'. Abject failure.
I hate Christmas shopping, mainly because I'm not very good at it. I see other people swanning down the street trailing an abundance of bulging carrier bags, but I just can't follow suit myself. It shouldn't be so difficult. After all, the advertising and media industries have been telling me precisely what I ought to be buying since the middle of October. But where others see must-have gift ideas and purchasing possibilities, I just see lots of over-priced products that nobody (surely?) really wants. I just can't match up presents to people because I lack retail empathy. And by the end of yesterday's weary trudge round central London I decided I might eventually end up this Christmas without finding anybody anything worth buying. Where am I going wrong?
I think I worry too much about what I'm giving. I agonise over every purchase I make because I want it to be right, even though I don't usually have a clue what right is. A badly-chosen present reflects badly on the buyer, I reckon, so I take care to ensure that each person I'm buying for will actually like what they receive. I hope that when they unwrap my gift they won't just grunt semi-appreciatively whilst glancing briefly at the contents with a disinterested stare, then later (when I'm not looking) stick it unused in a drawer, hide it in a cardboard box in the garage or donate it to the Oxfam shop down the road. I'd rather buy somebody nothing than buy them thoughtless rubbish. Lofty ambitions, I know, and clearly very wrong.
What I really need to learn is that Christmas isn't so much about what I give, it's about actually giving something in the first place. People would much rather receive rubbish than receive nothing, because buying nothing looks thoughtless (even when it isn't). So I'll be back out on Oxford Street again today, ploughing through all the tat and trinkets in a continued desperate attempt to keep everybody else happy before I run out of shopping days to waste. Maybe I should just buy them all socks and be done with it.