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18th Dec 2015: Ready, Steady, Shop!

Leaning towards the old, traditional and quaint is what we do at Christmas. This is fine, but not when it comes to shopping – I urge you!

There is nothing quaint or festive about being sandwiched into Bluewater, Lakeside, Westfield etc. in December with a less than useful christmas list for your loved ones and mile long queue for the tills.

Internet shopping people! The modern development that has truly revolutionised christmas for the better.

A mindless slog around the mall and supermarket – or feet-up on the sofa with a laptop and glass of Crabbies ginger wine. You choose.



The ‘Christmas cold’ is fast becoming a tradition in UK households. As the month of December arrives, one by one, family members, friends and colleagues start to drop like flies. Commuters stare mournfully at the opposite passenger whose nose is red, eyes watery and is prone to coughing fits. Will that be me tomorrow?

Okay, it’s the bleak mid-winter and we can expect an increase in these types of illness, but is there more to it than that? Have we made that period of weeks leading up to the 25th of December so daunting and stressful that our bodies literally invite some form of malady?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and there are certain parts of the run up to the season that I treasure, such as trimming the tree and turning on the lights for the first time. However, for the most part I look forward to that day when work is done for the year and I go home, shut the door and spend the next 10 days or so with my wife and family. The shopping is complete, the presents are bought and the endless Christmas parties and events that you don’t really want to attend are over.

Unfortunately, those two weeks that lead up to the euphoric door-shutting moment are fraught with stress, panic buying and hangovers. It’s hardly peace and joy. In between life’s daily trials of work there is the frequent crisis of trying to figure out what an earth you buy for people. This becomes even harder the less you know the person you’re buying for. One of my particular annoyances is the office ‘Secret Santa’ present exchange.

Unless you work in a very small, close-knit office where you truly know these people as good friends, this is an absolute nightmare. Some people opt for the zero effort approach of buying chocolates or something from the ‘Body Shop’, but I can’t help but want to do something a little more. So, since you’ve usually got such a small mandated budget to play with, my instinct is to go for something funny, but how funny? If you don’t go far enough it’s just lame and if you go too far without knowing the person very well it could be offensive! No, the minefield of ‘Secret Santa’ is something I steer well clear of these days. Buy presents for those you know, love and WANT to buy presents for this season. Everyone else will take care of themselves.

Okay, so you’ve got a cold. It’s annoying, but not totally debilitating. You are commuting to work every day; spending every free moment buying your presents online for loved ones; spending lunchtimes searching for an appropriately funny but not offensive Secret Santa present for a colleague you don’t really know; and looking forward to getting home of an evening to self medicate with soporific TV. However, your evenings are not entirely your own. Why?

The office parties.

Back in October, these looked like a great idea, but as they loom closer and your horrifying schedule becomes clear, you start to have second thoughts. There is only so much turkey and wine you can consume and it’s never easy to predict whether the party will ‘swing’ or not.

I remember being in my twenties and loving the office party, but as the years progress and priorities change, it can start to be more of an obligation than a perk. This is particularly true if you are the boss. It is never possible to entirely relax as the boss at a Christmas party. Alcohol loosens the tongue and whatever you say, whether in jest or not will be played back to you as ‘policy’ at some point in the next year. Additionally there are always a stream of people who once sufficiently lubricated, decide to either tell you everything that’s wrong with the company or alternatively try to ‘sell’ themselves to you for that new promotion or role that probably doesn’t even exist yet. I have been on both sides of that conversation and it’s rarely pretty!

Every now and then, one of the parties surprises you and you have a whale of a time, but more often than not it’s the final week before Christmas, you are on at least your third Christmas party (possibly more) and you just want it to be over.  Either that, or your ‘Christmas cold’ peaks in ferocity and your body just says ‘enough!’ It’s time to sit this one out.

Let me stress, my intention in writing this is not for it to be an extended ‘Bah! Humbug!’ – not at all. The message at the heart of this is – don’t let the peripheral mayhem get you down. There will be light at the end of the tunnel. It will be your illuminated Christmas tree, next to the fireplace or television, once you close that front door on Christmas Eve or before if you’re lucky.

The runny nose and sore throats will retreat and when you find yourself in the company of real friends and family, whether or not your internet shopping has arrived on time, you can enjoy the true warmth and happiness that it brings. Only then will you re-discover the peace and joy that was actually there all along.

Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays…..or whatever greeting works for you and yours!


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