Christmas shopping for me has to get done before I get on a flight. Generally it also involves me taking a day off work so that I don’t have to fight the braying hordes of porcine and bovine shoppers that clog London’s streets. This year, I’m living in Bristol and spending the week before I fly in London for some much needed city action: anger, aggression and cynicism. I couldn’t be looking more forward to it if it was the Second Coming of the Baby Jesus and he was bringing me all the free money ever.
As I don’t want to waste prescious time in London shopping – that most loathsome of activities – I will have to get everything wrapped up in the next six days. With any luck and a caring God, it will all be sewn up today. I am expecting this weekend’s house guests literally at any moment and once they arrive we are setting out to immerse ourselves in Europe’s longest road of independent shops. Or so I’m told that’s what it is. No idea what we’ll find, but I tell you this: it’s Christmas presents.
And if that doesn’t work then it’ll mean a trip to Westfield Stratford City – where, so Facebook tells me, they have live reindeer being held hostage to the braying mobs – and a quick spin around Uniqlo for my standby gift: merino wool jumpers in an assortment of colours. This trick has served me well over the years. Once, when I was living up in Glasgow and Scottish Boy took me to Paris for my Crimbo gift, I learned that Paris was getting its first Uniqlo and I thought: excellent, Christmas shopping sorted.
My family, adorable lot though they are, leave a lot to be desired when it comes to suggestions for Christmas gifts. Sometimes Crazy D gets right in there, end of November-ish, with an incredibly precise list. Which is tremendously helpful. Last year it was books about the Great Divide Cycle ride. I fired up tinternet and the good folks at Abe books (screw you Amazon) made his dreams come true. I supplemented them with a few choices of my own from the worlds’ best travel bookshop which was located close to my old office.
This year is proving to be tricky as The Mom is making requests that cannot be filled.
“Oh, can you pick up some of those fancy chocolates for The Americans?”
“Sorry, they come from Borough Market and I’m not going to be in town long enough to get to it.”
Also, one would have to be suicidal to go there on a Saturday in December. Or heavily medicated and I won’t be seeing my dealer whilst I’m in town.
“Oh, how about one of those cute dresses with the great prints for L’il Sis?”
“Again, as I don’t live in London, I can’t get to Spitallfields which is where those come from.”
And, again, as above, suicide mission in December.
“Something from Liberty?”
“Liberty of LONDON?”
“Oh, right. See where you’re going with that.”
So this year will be the year of Banksy I suspect. And Bristol. Though that means apples and cider and neither of those things mean good and easily transportable gifts. The Banksy has possibilities. For those wo are unfamiliar he is an extraordinarily good graffiti artist whose work sells in the gazillions – people have actually cut walls off their homes and sold them. He’s funny and no one knows his true identity. Quite in keeping with our lot in many ways actually.
Anyhow, if all else fails, everyone’s getting something from Duty Free. This year, to be nice, I booked myself on the 9am flight so I don’t arrive in the middle of rush hour traffic in Toronto. However this means I have to be at Heathrow for 7am at the latest. Which means I’m up at 5.30am to trek across London from the eastern end of zone four. To say it will be epic is not understating matters.
Add to that the good odds that I will be hungover in an unpleasant way and you can imagine how well duty free Christmas gift shopping is going to go.
Oh well, at least I”ll be there in person and can give the tales of adventure I’ve had to bolster whatever my meagre gifts lack.