in here: An ox in Oxford Street

Heterosexual men simply don't have the shopping gene. They are as at home in shops as Michael Portillo is at parties for the deprived children of single parents
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The Independent Culture
This is, traditionally, the time of year when everyone starts grumbling about shopping. Grumbling about shopping is integral to the grand old tradition of grumbling about Christmas, which probably dates back to around two years after the death of Christ. If I were Jesus and had to put up with all that griping, I'd probably have given up on birthdays by now. But you see, I'm a Sagittarius Tiger and don't have the patience of the Son of God, who was a Capricorn Monkey.

Capricorn Monkeys, according to Suzanne White's The New Astrology have the following characteristics: resolve, wisdom, ambition, generosity, dependability, loneliness, epicureanism (well, OK, loaves and fishes and the odd bottle of plonk), self-doubt, improvisation, cunning, stability, self-involvement, wit, opportunism, loquacity, leadership and zeal. Sound familiar? Well, try this: "They imagine they must create the order and handle the planning and running of whatever constitutes private life". Or this. He has a "rather abstemious romantic life" though "there is no love more fervently pure" than his. He is also"a gifted interpreter of human life" and a "compassionate authority in job situations". If he'd been born now he would have been something creative in the media, a gossip columnist, a psychologist or an astrologer. Fortunately, there were fewer career options in ancient Galilee.

I have taken this book as scripture since I read this description of myself in it: "Grows so uncomfortable with the pressures of interaction in society that, out of embarrassment, he misbehaves. The Sagittarius Tiger can be that woman in the centre of the room with the big mouth telling off-colour jokes and secretly wishing she were anywhere but there." This phrase showed such an unpleasant insider knowledge of my life that I almost entered a nunnery on the spot.

Anyway, the point is this: Christmas is inevitable: it's in the stars. My preparations are already in full swing. When I rolled in last night, I wrote a list. It reads roughly "Dad... ?" "Mum... ?" "Cathy... ?" "Marco - bott Glenmorangie".

Marco is a heterosexual Virgo Ox man. We went Christmas shopping at Hamley's the other day. It was a big mistake. Virgo Ox characteristics include: nit-picking, negativism, crankiness, stubbornness and diligence, and heterosexual men simply don't have the shopping gene. They are as at home in shops as Michael Portillo is at parties for the deprived children of single parents.

Marco, who has a strong need to do everything correctly in the right place, insisted that if I were going to get toys for our mutual godchild, it had to be at a proper toy shop.

I think the experience was worse for him than for me, as, although I am most in my element in shoe shops, I am fairly happy in any place that takes credit cards. Marco blanched when we went through the hallowed doors and were enveloped by the ghoulish howls of a thousand toddlers in the grip of cupidity. He steelily ignored the wind-up yapping puppy dogs, the fluffy gorillas. Every time I stopped to play with a parrot that flaps its wings and squawks the last phrase you've said, or a remote-controlled Tyrannosaurus Rex with glowing red eyes, he made snorting noises and practically pawed the ground. I grabbed the bird for godson and a brill plastic sword and bounced in his bullish wake.

We scarcely paused in the doll department. I know you don't buy dolls for four-year-old boys, but there is a certain fascination in Ballroom Barbies and pregnancy dolls with detachable twins. A group of 12-year-old girls perused the Take That dolls, mourning the lack of Robbies. Marco stomped past en route to the escalator.

And got us to jigsaw puzzles. Where he picked out a 5,000-piece jigsaw with a picture of the Houses of Parliament on the box. "There," he said. "That'll do. Let's get out of here."

"Um, Marco," I said, "isn't that a bit grown-up?"

"No," he replied, Ox-like obduracy swamping Virgoan uncertainty, "it's perfect. He won't have finished it by New Year."

"Dead right," I massed my Sagittarian tact, "and he won't have started it, either."

He looked hurt. "I loved jigsaws when I was his age."

"Oh, come on. Little boys like hitting things, not doing jigsaws."

"Why do you always think you know more than anybody else?"

"Maybe I do." Well, it just jumped out.

He glared at his cellophane-covered box and its picture of Big Ben. "I don't care what you think anyway."

"Well, ditto," I said, as two children in anoraks and pink-rimmed specs stared at us with unbridled delight.

He tossed his head and charged the cash till. In the eight-deep queue, a million children whined for more. Marco puffed and snorted and stamped from foot to foot. I growled and refused to meet anyone's eyes.

On Regent Street, we both felt deflated. Marco actually looked quite distressed. He glanced at his bag. "You don't really think it's too old for him, do you?" "No. Don't worry about it." I looked at my watch. "It's four o'clock. Think the sun's over the yardarm yet?" He thought for a moment. "Yes," he said, "it bloody is."

But there are ways to make Christmas less painful. Never be tempted by mulled wine, however nice it smells. Don't expect to enjoy Noel's House Party Christmas Special. And don't even consider going Christmas shopping with a heterosexual Virgo Ox man

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