Licentiate Column 08/12/11

Christmas shopping, eh? Does anyone ever enjoy it? The thrill of going into a shop on Christmas Eve, carefully selecting boxes of socks for forgotten cousins and Kris Kindle work mates, all before enduring several elbows to the face and negotiating a queue for the tills that brings to mind the lunchline in a Gulag.

Worry not, because here’s a super-handy guide to making it through the Christmas mire without bruised arms and pulled hair and (hopefully) with lots of gracious smiles for all the lovely presents you’re about to give.

1. Make a list of several possibilities for each person. Do you hate her? If yes, buy her a box of socks. If you really hate her, buy an incredibly passive-aggressive present. One year, my Gran bought a tub of glutinous ‘bust-firming cream’ for my mother, who ever so thoughtfully gave it to me the next year. Thanks a bunch, mom. Keep passing on that torch.

2. There is no shame in buying a person a voucher. Incredibly useful is the One 4 All voucher, which covers bars, hotels and restaurants as well as many shops. It covers literally hundreds of places, so it’s ideal for the person who has everything but really wants a cocktail in Captain Americas after a heavy session in TK Maxx. This has been a paid endorsement for the An Post One 4 All voucher (TM) (it hasn’t). Book tokens have also gained a sort of vintage, quaint cachet, so if you’re the kind of hipster who wants to give an ironic voucher for an incredibly convoluted reason, then this is your best bet.

3. Shop early. Through intense scrutiny by shopping at all times of the week (oh, the things we do for research) I’ve determined that the quietest time to shop is on a Wednesday morning. Sundays can be particularly deceiving. Because everyone thinks that the shops will be quiet, Sundays in a large chain store will eventually devolve into a massive free-for-all to the soundtrack of a million crying toddlers. The toddlers have the right idea. Hit a shop up bright and early and you’ll be in a calm environment where shop assistants will be able to help you efficiently without steam coming out of their ears. Plus, you’ll get the very best bargains and can peruse rails of beautifully neat dresses with no problems.

4.Stocking fillers are tricky. The aforementioned socks are only a good idea if the gifted has said ‘You know what I need? Some socks. Not just any socks, no – I need a box of socks, preferably tied up with a fancy ribbon’. If you’re really stuck, a nice pair of gloves, a scarf or a pair of cufflinks will do just as well for your homogenous present needs.

5. You definitely know the kind of woman who always has a cupboard of spare presents for ‘just in case’ situations. She has a coin purse and a shopper with wheels. She is probably your great aunt. Take a leaf out of her book. Great aunts are the Wise Ones. If you’re in a bind, it helps to have a spare gift or two lying around. For women and men, coffee table-books are an excellent cover all – cooking, fashion (but of course) and photography being the two most likely culprits. This is where the great aunts fall down – one year I was given the APPENDIX of an encyclopedia, the other volumes being passed out to unsuspecting cousins a la Joey from Friends. One cousin instantly became an authority on sloths, synesthesia and Edith Stein – which made the family New Year’s party just that little bit more interesting.

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