Completely wrapped up in Christmas

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THE football season has begun. In Scotland they have got to the semi-finals of some of their football cups. The Pakistani cricketers have nearly finished their final match. The skies may be blue and the air mild, but the first brown leaves are being blown around the streets and the autumn television schedules are no doubt about to be sprung on an apathetic public.

What does it all mean?

It means Christmas is nearly upon us, and instead of burying your head in the sand again until Christmas Eve leaps up snarling, why not do what you always meant to do and get ready for it in time, or even early?

Here is a checklist of all the things you'll need to do long before December snuffles in.

Wrapping paper

Remember how ruinously expensive wrapping paper was last year - often more costly than the present you were wrapping up? Remember how you half-seriously thought of giving wrapping paper as a present this year? And how you were deterred only by the thought that you would have to wrap the wrapping paper up in something expensive? And then you thought that there must be some way of getting wrapping paper wholesale, perhaps by buying a wrapping-paper manufacturing company on the rocks and producing paper for your own use, which wouldn't be cheap, but would probably be cheaper than buying the stuff in the shops?

And do you remember one day you were in a florist's and your eye fell on the enormous roll of quite pleasant paper that florists keep for wrapping flowers, ripping off a length at a time to girdle your bouquet with, and you thought: 'Hello, hello, hello, that's just what I need for my Christmas wrapping - a roll of that would do all my presents, and it can't cost that much, otherwise florists wouldn't be giving it away, I wonder if it's easy to get hold of?'

And you kept meaning, next time you were in a florist's shop, to ask where they got those wonderful rolls of paper, and whether the public could buy them, and if they couldn't, could you buy one from the florist yourself? And every time you saw someone carrying roses in decorative wrapping paper, you thought: 'Damn] I was going to ask about the availability of that to the general public]'

But you didn't, did you? And you haven't, have you?

And at the rate things are going you'll find it's 16 December and you still haven't got any wrapping paper and you'll find yourself buying sheets of the stuff and you know it's not going to be enough, right? And you're going to kick yourself for letting another year slip by without going to the bother of getting one of those huge florist's rolls of paper. Aren't you?

So do it now] Go to a flower shop, buy some flowers and, while the flowerperson is wrapping them say: 'Um, I know this sounds silly, but these big rolls of wrapping paper - where do you get them from? And do you think I could get hold of one?'

You won't succeed at first. Florists, like all tradespeople, like to keep their sources to themselves, and your flower shop is bound to pretend that the public can have no access to the trade supply. Oh, no, that's purely for the flower trade. No, that's not available to the public. You'll be made to feel like someone who has gone up to a postman and asked where they can get some of those bags they put the letters in. Or as if you'd gone up to a brewery drayman and asked him where you could get one of the perfectly delightful aluminium barrels he rolls his beer round in.

But sooner or later they will succumb, especially if you go on buying flowers at their shop, and by and by you will be given the address of a little warehouse, back of town, and you will turn up there with your Volvo estate, and say that the Garland Flower Shop recommended them as a good place to get rolls of paper from, wink, wink, and reluctantly the warehouse will give you a roll for cash, and you'll go home with the warm feeling that it's only October and already you've made a major step towards Christmas.

Won't you?

And then you'll sit back smugly and leave everything else till Christmas Eve, as usual, won't you?

Well, not this year you won't, not if you collect our Christmas checklists - and do something about them] This is No 1; look out for the rest]

Coming next - why not buy a live turkey now, and get it slaughtered nearer the day, or learn to do it yourself?