Somewhere in the minds of each of those people who share your bloodline or your name, there resides a number. This figure represents an amount of money that these people – your family, basically – are prepared to spend on you at Christmas. (This is assuming that both they and you follow either the Judao-Christian perception of Christmas, or the more economically fluid Argos-Amazon translation.)
Either way, you have some gaudy, beribboned boxes coming your way in a few weeks – and how big or small they are, and how numerous, will depend on the aforementioned number stored in the brains of the familial co-stars in your grand drama.
Of course, these numbers are not carved in stone. Like pre-election poll results, they are able and liable to go up and down, being symbiotically linked to the general mood abroad – that is to say, how much you are considered by others to be either a genuinely nice sort or a genuinely enormous bellend.
My wife and I are having a baby. I mention this only because it is perhaps one of the only life events that will make our friends and family reassess that number in their heads. If your Aunt Michelle normally spent around £25 on you (the DVD boxset kind of gift), the fact that your wife has a small child inside her body is bound to make Michelle think twice. She actually has the opportunity to save herself a bit of cash. Throw £20 around online and she can definitely secure a nice woollen blanket or plush gonk that can be "for, you know …" as she nods at your wife's O2 belly.
Thus she keeps the other fiver, which she can add to the £40 she was already going to spend on Ian, her divorced lodger with the tight golf slacks.
We are grateful that she has forked out for the baby's blanket/gonk needs, and so won't bother to question why she has failed to give me the boxset of classic episodes of The Banana Splits, which I had specifically hinted would go down a treat.
The advent of the baby (and I use the word "advent" purely in its non-Messianic sense ... I'm certainly in no way suggesting that my offspring will have magic powers or anything approaching a halo), of course, also means that we can save ourselves a few quid. When Uncle Arnold starts thumbing a Robert Dyas catalogue in your face and bemoaning the quality of his old power drill, all you need do is repeat the nod towards Mrs MacInnes' belly and make a few noises about "keeping it real" and "everyone just having to understand that we won't be spending too much on anyone, due to the ... well, you know."
Leaving levity aside (at which I, of course, excel), if anyone is stocking up on baby stuff like us, you could do worse than sign up to your local freecycle.org network. We have already got an Ikea cot and nappy-changing table for nothing. And nothing is my favourite number of all.
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