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Joy to the World!

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It’s nearly here! Christmas is just over a week away and it’s a busy old time. There’s a frantic atmosphere at work where the printer is practically going into meltdown as I reel off prescription after prescription for people who haven’t even bothered to order their repeats for six months but had better stock up with their meds “because it’s Christmas and you’ll be shut.” Yes, for a whole two days! It’s not like we’re closing the health centre and heading off to the Bahamas for a month, is it? Christmas Day and Boxing Day – that’s what we get. 🙁 Mind you, I can’t complain (although I do!) because poor DH has worked every Christmas Eve and Christmas night for the last six years. In fact, the first night he gets off is the Sunday AFTER Christmas. So how can I moan? Well, it’s surprisingly easy, especially when lots of people I know get a whole week, or two, or more off work to lounge around, stuffing their faces with chocolate and watching Home Alone for the three thousandth time.

We’ve been very busy at home, too. Despite deciding that this year we were going to be very grown up and sensible and not put the tree up until Christmas week was almost upon us, we ended up decorating the living room on the seventh of December. That’s pretty good for us, actually. DH gets very excited about Christmas and when the children were small there was no reining him in. One year the tree and decorations went up on the twenty-fifth of November. I was so embarrassed I wouldn’t let anyone open the curtains until we were safely into December.

Of course, now it’s just him and me and a rather bemused dog, it doesn’t feel the same. We don’t hang shiny foil garlands from the ceiling or have bunches of balloons pinned up as we used to, and there are no chocolate advent calendars dotted around the place. We used to have five of them because we had five kids. Oh the fun we had every morning as the girls opened the doors of their calendars and wailed at the empty compartments while the boys chortled in the corner knowing they’d already eaten twenty-four chocolate pieces from each and every calendar in the house. I don’t know how many times we replaced those calendars. It must have cost us a fortune.

Our children may have grown up and flown the nest but it’s still an expensive time of year. We have grandchildren now – lots of grandchildren. This year I decided to get smart and saved with a national hamper company all year round for some gift cards that I could spend in lots of different shops. I also got Amazon vouchers but, as it turned out, they didn’t help much in the Christmas shopping department. Well, apparently I had an awful lot of things on my wish list and in my basket and, really, they’ve been sitting there for ages and Amazon may have taken offence if I didn’t buy at least some of them. So I did. And a very merry Christmas to me.

Anyway, back to the Christmas shopping. Those gift cards were very useful and I got almost everything I needed. By the beginning of December I had almost finished Christmas shopping which is unheard of. I’d even bought cards! (It took me a further week to write on them, and I only remembered to start handing them out yesterday but no matter…) Anyway, the thing with the gift cards is that you don’t have to spend the full amount, unlike vouchers. If I’d been sensible I’d have bought one card loaded with one large amount, but when I’d ordered them I’d thought of giving each of the children and their partners a gift card each, loaded with a smaller amount, which they could spend on whatever they wanted. When they actually arrived I decided that wouldn’t feel like Christmas at all, so I ended up with about ten of the blooming things to spend. By the beginning of December I had four cards left in my possession with varying amounts on them. I didn’t need any more presents so I decided to head to a well-known frozen food shop in the local shopping centre and use the rest of the money up there.

Oh. Dear. It seemed easy enough, and we whizzed round the shop and loaded the stuff onto the conveyor belt and explained we were paying by gift card which seemed to be fine. By the time all the items had been swiped a queue had built up behind us. Unfortunately, the next person in the queue only had a bottle of milk, and the one behind him only had a jar of coffee. It started to go downhill from that point.

Our shopping came to £37.64. The first card had £25 on it. Easy. The assistant swiped the card and the till deducted the £25. The second card

had £6.27 on it. The till appeared to accept it. I handed the assistant the third card which had £4.11 on it. She swiped it. Then she frowned. The second card balance hadn’t been automatically deducted. She called for help. A man came. He stood behind her, frowning as she muttered and moaned about stupid gift cards. She tried twice to deduct the £6.27 before finally succeeding. Then she had to figure out how to deduct the £4.11. She wiped the sweat from her brow and wailed, ‘My God, this is a right ball-ache innit?’ The man didn’t look too impressed – whether with us and our audacity in bringing in all these gift cards, or by the assistant and her colourful language I don’t know.

She peered across at all the people standing behind us who were shuffling and tutting and looking a bit, er, miffed to be honest, and cried, ‘You’ve jumped in the wrong queue ‘ere, ‘aven’t ya?’ DH looked as if he wanted the floor to swallow him up. I felt strangely exhilarated. How many times had I stood in queues just like this, a fixed smile on my face, assuring the checkout assistant and the customer that it was all fine and I didn’t mind in the slightest that I’d been waiting for fifteen minutes to pay for a loaf of bread and a box of teabags? This was my moment!

As the £4.11 was finally accepted by the till, the assistant beamed at me and said, ‘Thank God for that. That’s just £2.26 to pay, ta.’

I hesitated and then I said, ‘I’ve got another card.’

She gaped at me and said, ‘You’ve got another card? Are you joking?’

DH went pale and said, ‘You haven’t, have you?’

I nodded and rummaged in my pocket. The supervisor groaned. I handed the assistant the card which, after swiping it through the till, she told me had £2.97 on it. She handed it back to me and said, ‘For God’s sake, guard it with your life. You’ve got 71p to spend on that thing!’

DH apologised to everyone in the queue. They all glared at him. So much for Christmas spirit. The supervisor heaved a sigh of relief. The checkout girl handed me a till receipt that was about three feet long before slumping in her chair, and I sailed out of the shop thanking God I’d finally got rid of all those cards. I don’t think I’ll be spending that 71p somehow.

The actual receipt

We got home to find a card from the Royal Mail pushed through the letterbox. Apparently a parcel they’d tried to deliver was too big and I would need to go to the sorting office to collect it, but I had to wait forty-eight hours first. Drat. I knew what it was. I’d gone on Amazon (again) to browse for a book that I wanted to know about and had somehow – don’t ask me how because I can’t think how it happened – ended up ordering three boxsets of Paddington Bear DVDs instead. Now, I don’t know how these things occur, but look, I have two granddaughters just the right age to enjoy Paddington, and they were on sale at less than six pounds each so what the hell. And the third one? Well, I’m at just the right age to enjoy Paddington, too, if you ask me. So there.

Anyway, I waited feverishly for two days and then we headed off to the sorting office and yay! It was Paddington! Let joy be unconfined. I headed home feeling very content and satisfied, only to walk in to the house and find…a card from the Royal Mail saying they’d tried to deliver a parcel but it was too big to be pushed through the letterbox and would be returned to the sorting office. Sigh.

Oh well, at least now ALL my parcels have arrived safely and I’m done with Christmas shopping. Until next week when I brave the supermarket and a possible riot over the last bottle of advacaat in the shop. 🙂

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas! xxx

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