And so it starts. By the time you read this my own Christmas party will be a thing of memory. Or half-recalled fragments, depending how much fun it turns out to be. It wasn't the first festive party of the season and it won't be the last. But it was my own little mile marker indicating when to begin the dreaded Christmas shopping.
This is partly because I get paid mid-month, and partly because starting too early – and I firmly believe this – only encourages you to spend more. You think you get everything done, you vow to stop shopping, but something in the air – the distinctive smell of mulled wine mingled with the sweat of all the other Christmas shoppers, the sound of carols competing with the tunes blasting from teenage mobile phones – compels you to keep on going. Keep on going until the 25th finally hits, when you off-load your excess goodies and realise just how little you've been given yourself. Personally, I'd rather skip the first part and go in at the final hurdle. Truncating my shopping period does, by necessity, cut how much I spend. After all, there are only so many hours in which to spend my money.
Of course, not everyone subscribes to this view. On a trip to the hairdressers almost a month ago the lady cutting my hair claimed to have already finished her hunting and gathering. Yes. A month ago! "I've just got so many to buy for," she explained. It's having children, I suppose, that necessitates this level of pre-planning. Still, finished by mid-November? If that were me, "finished" wouldn't mean done, dusted, complete, so much as temporarily in repose, resting, awaiting the moment I get carried away on a tide of festive goodwill and decide to buy everyone a second round of gifts. So instead, I simply hold off the shopping and wait for that moment to hit. Which it did, midway through last week – just in time for my planned commencement of consumption.
In truth, I've picked up a few things along the way. Part of Dad's gift involves an order on Amazon and so, as soon as I thought of it, I put in the payment instead of waiting for the inevitable pre-Christmas delays to service. A couple of other things have been found, incidentally, while out shopping for something else (usually, clothes for me) and have been snapped up if they look like a particularly good deal. For the most part, though, the best (or worst?) is still to come.