Oooh, it’s getting closer! #5 on our countdown to Christmas! 😉
Today’s writer needs no introduction (but I’ll do it anyway!). The fantastically funny (and rather handsome) Nick Spalding!
Nick Spalding on the joys of Christmas presents…
In what is a spectacularly obvious piece of lazy recycling, here’s an excerpt from my first comedy memoir ‘Life… With No Breaks’ all about the joys (or otherwise) of gift giving at Christmas. Enjoy!
I’ve received some extraordinarily silly presents in my time.
I seem to have one of those personalities where people think I like quirky and strange gifts, normally purchased from gadget shops.
Would you believe a friend once bought me a kite? When I was thirty two?
I’m all for staying young at heart, but do I really need to express it by running round the park on a windy day, trying to get a kite in the air for more than three seconds?
There I am, wondering how long it will be until my hair falls out of my head, grows on my arse and gets thicker in my ears – and I unwrap a gift more suited for a time when I was as hairy as a cue ball and still thought Batman was real.
The epithet written on the card that came with the kite said:
‘For when you want to get high!’
The kite went in the shed and I conveniently ‘lost’ the friend’s phone number for a while.
Because I’m a writer, I tend to get presents related to that pursuit. Nothing useful though, like a new keyboard to replace the one I’ve broken the letter B on, or a book telling me how to write a best seller.
No, I get bought quirky things.
Like a pen with a radio in it.
Yes… a pen with a radio in it.
How desperate for friends have you got to be before that sounds like something you’d actually want?
Small earphones extended from the pen on a cable, which was slightly too short to be used without bending your head over to one side, looking like you were a tad mental.
I gather the person who bought it for me – a relative this time, so no chance of severing ties – thought I might enjoy the chance to write flowing script and listen to the radio at the same time, all from one convenient device.
And who could blame them? After all, it’s not like it’s possible to do those things easily and efficiently any other way, right?
They were a good one.
You put the socks on, pressed a button on the side and they warbled a tune at you. The song in question was ‘Tiger Feet’ by Mud (which is available on Spotify, I believe).
The socks had a badly stitched picture of a tiger on them. The small electronic device that controlled the whole thing rubbed irritatingly against your skin.
I wore them – once – for the delight and edification of my wife, who found the whole thing hilarious.
I can’t really blame her. There I was, standing in my new socks, with a seventies rock song wafting from around my ankles and a green flannel dressing gown covering my modesty.
The expression on my face could best be described as perplexed.
At this point, it’d be nice to launch into a tirade about the companies who produce this crap.
I’d like nothing more than to vilify the fools who sit in product meetings and decide upon the latest crazes to fill our shops from floor to ceiling and drain our bank accounts with frightening rapidity.
But I can’t do that because it’s not really their fault.
The simple fact is, if we didn’t keep buying this crap then they wouldn’t keep making it. If we didn’t keep buying pens with radios, singing socks, cardboard moo machines – or any one of a thousand other completely useless items you’ll find in the shops – then these people would stop producing them. They’d then find more constructive things to do with their time, like inventing flasks that keep the contents hot, or office chairs that don’t make your arse numb.
Have you noticed the kind of stores that sell this stuff only exist for a short period of time before disappearing into the ether?
They usually spring up at Christmas in otherwise disused shops, promising quality presents at rock bottom prices. They’re generally manned by people who are on day release from minimum security, or haven’t been caught by the police yet.
They tend to get out of town long before you come back, wanting to complain about how the novelty indoor fountain you bought for your auntie Jenny has stopped working and started making disturbing farting noises in the middle of the night.
There are many reasons why we keep buying these weird and wonderful gifts, but mainly it’s because they make Christmas shopping a whole lot easier.
Unless you’re buying for children – who are happy with anything, provided it’s plastic, brightly coloured and incredibly expensive – it’s hard to come up with gifts that aren’t as dull as ditch-water.
I’m as guilty of it as anybody.
My father is the kind of man who’s always had the money to buy what he wants and the sense to know what he doesn’t. Therefore, purchasing presents that elicit any kind of positive or heart-felt appreciation is next to impossible.
This makes the Christmas Eve shopping trip even more of a nightmare.
The amount of time I’ve stood in front of the gifts section at Boots, wondering whether to buy dad a ceramic miniature garden gnome or bathroom set – you know, the ones that invariably contain shower gel, talc, deodorant and an amusingly shaped bar of soap – doesn’t bear thinking about.
I’ve settled for the fairly stress free option of buying him a bottle of whisky every year. He may not appreciate it, but he’s normally so pissed by the time I talk to him, it sounds like he does.
A small, guilty part of me thinks I’m turning him into a raging alcoholic. I’m convinced at some point he’s going to decide I’m trying to kill him in order to get my hands on an inheritance.
I might swap to cigars in the next couple of years. Give his liver a rest and his lungs a wake up call.
My mother, bless her, is grateful for whatever I buy and I love her for it. She keeps everything.
There’s a dusty box in her bedroom closet that contains Christmas cards written by me at the age of seven.
I had a look through them once. It disturbed me that my handwriting hasn’t improved much.
Much like my father, I have a distinct inability to show gratitude when I receive an unwanted or ridiculous gift. I have a big problem with what I like to call the post-unwrap pause.
This is the time when you’ve successfully unwrapped the present enough to see what it is and registered the fact it’s the worst present in history. You then have to fake a look of gratitude at the wizened old carbuncle of a grandmother who bought it for you.
It’s very difficult.
I find myself making a rather high-pitched keening noise, accompanied by my face twisting horrendously into something approximating joy and surprise.
I’ll then come out with a comment along the lines of:
‘Oh! Thank you, Gran! I was just thinking the other day it’d be nice to write and listen to the radio at the same time.’
To me, I sound about as convincing as Hermann Goering’s defence lawyer at the Nuremberg trials, but she seems to take what I’m saying at face value, concludes the festive transaction with a kiss, and a short anecdote about how she was passing The Gadget Shop, saw the offending item in the window and immediately thought of me.
It’s a lot easier to open presents when the giver isn’t in the room with you. You can safely express your feelings about the quality and suitability of your new possession by swearing at it, or burying it at the bottom of the garden beneath the miniature gnome.
Bearing this in mind, I’ve resolved to open my annual Christmas haul from now on in the toilet with the door locked.
Enjoyed that, did you? Then why not buy the whole book? Available on the Kindle and in paperback at AmazonUK:
If you want more Spalding in your life (and who doesn’t? …well, my ex-wife for one), why not buy the rest of my books here
They all make excellent Christmas presents.
…for every member of your family.
…buy them two copies each just to be sure.
Merry Christmas everybody!
Tee hee. Oh, Nick, you are a one! 😉
Come back tomorrow for a FIRST for SM0D&L! The one and only Mark Williams (yes, my partner in crime) will be popping across to entertain you!