I’m thinking back to my birthday several weeks ago. As you may remember I did a blog specifically on birthdays at the time (Is it just me musings on the decades). So thinking about this is still on my mind. I love buying presents for people. I have previously blogged about my erring on the side of shopaholic tendencies (Is it just me wanting to join AA), so it is a natural progression to enjoy planning special gifts for those important people in my life. That feeling when you get a present just right, or even better; chose something the receiver didn’t even know existed, is priceless and makes all the time, effort and money worth it.
Some of the best presents are the out of the blue presents; the “I saw this and thought of you”, present, or the “because you needed a pick me up”. These are truly heartfelt and mean so much more.
But lately one of my lenses in my rose-tinted specs has fallen out. I’m musing on the whole present buying thing. There are times when it just doesn’t go to plan. Straight after Christmas, (yes I said that word!) we have exhausted all our ideas on everyone we know, and then if you are like me, the first half of the year is strewn with birthdays every few weeks. It’s like an activity course!
Sometimes it’s just a case of not being there to see the reaction, or someone who is a bit more blasé about something you worked really hard on. Other times it is just the case that you can’t always get it right and that’s fair enough. Sometimes people have a particular hobby but there really aren’t any news gifts you can buy on this theme. Or sometimes like me, people just don’t enjoy their birthdays.
Below are my Top 5 Situations
1. We all know someone who is impossible to please don’t we? My dad is like this. We all know he likes his end-of -the-world theory heavy books, but even then it goes wrong. On one such occasion when I was in London the family came up to visit me. We were rushing, which is never a good thing when you have presents to open. We were in Canary Wharf, in the shopping centre, all closed up. He sat down on a bench and went through each of the three books I had wrapped for him. I want to say carefully wrapped, but I’m diabolical at wrapping so I’ll not pretend otherwise! He opened all the books, peered at them, glanced at the published date, and then threw them back at me one by one. “Read it, read it, read it!” he triumphantly and hautily told me. “You’ll have to change them!” The family like me were shocked. Apparently it was my own fault for not buying books published in the same year. Even so it is the main memory I have of the day.
Another time on Father’s Day fared no better. The dogs had bought him a new pair of walking shoes, Mum aftershave and me a book on photography. Having recently got back into it, I thought this would teach him the real mechanics of his until now renegated to point and shoot DSLR. He opened it all, fussed about the laces being too long, and then gave a dismissive shrug. “What?” we queried confused. “Well, you’ve ruined it haven’t you. You’ve overdone it!” We were absolutely aghast. So the next year we really toned it down, but had the same reaction. “What now?” we again asked. “You haven’t bothered this year!” You have to just give up!
2. Then there are the times when people just amaze you. I always think it’s funny when you can work everyday with people and yet they get it so wrong. It seems the longer you work together, the worse this gets! There are the times when you get a weird present like a pot plant. You aren’t a particular fan of the pot plant; it’s either red or white (not the best colours in the world), but fair enough. You might not give a glowing response, in fact not really respond at all, but then the present giver doesn’t even seem to notice anyway, they’ve moved on already. The next year you get the same thing! Now there is nothing wrong with repeating a gift, but only if the receiver loves it and makes it plain they are very happy to receive more. Something like a Yankee candle as a Christmas present for example. They are a lovely gift and with all the different scents, there is always something new. But when the receiver is less than happy with the first one, please don’t buy anymore.
3. The next one is people you don’t want to buy for. There are some people you have to work with but being part of a big team, feels like a chore to buy for. The always miserable person who spends every day at work telling you they’re going to leave and get something better, but they never do, the person you wouldn’t want to get stuck alone in a room with, you know what I mean. One fantastic solution to this is Secret Santa. The year we did this, it was a real winner. Frustratingly everybody went around openingly telling everyone who they had to buy for rather marred this somewhat, but even funnier was the one person who flately refused to comment even though there was only one recipient left! So the gifts? Well, that year I got a book about the funniest traffic offences (I was taking my driving test at the time so very apt!) and a “How Clever is your Dog?” training kit. My dog was only partially amused, but I loved it.
However, even Secret Santa can go wrong. I knew a woman who came from a big family, loads of money etc. For some reason the family had decided to go down the Secret Santa route, even though another £200 on their Christmas budget would not have even been noticed, but hey, their decision. So the lady came into work one morning. She pulled out a pretty, glittery, evening bag, the sort of thing Accessorize are famous for. She asked us what we thought and we nodded it was lovely. “Guess how much it cost?” she asked. I’m not a fan of this game, but we played along. “About £15 if you got it in Accessorize” we told her. Her eyebrows shot up. “I got it in the charity shop for a quid,” she told us. “It’s for my favourite niece!” Is it just me? There are no words!
4. The next category are for the even stingier than the example above. This is for the people who give you the “3” on the 3for2. You know because it came from Boots and you spent enough time in there in the lead up to Christmas. They also recycle wine bottles, chocolates etc and hand these over. They then brag about how cheap the festive season cost them because of these tactics. “Well done, you’re a cheap sod!” I want to fake-grin back at them. They are also not adverse to knitting you something (no thanks!). I had a line manager once who headed to M&S and spent £10 on a scarf and gloves hat. She gave the scarf to me and the gloves to the other lady in the team. When she handed over the gift bag with the scarf in, she told me how she hadn’t written on the gift bag card so I could use again if I wanted. Clearly she already had! Is it just me who has had this?
5. Ok, so the final category. Here you are going to have to excuse me for a moment. This is going to come out wrong and sound greedy, I know, but bear with me. There are times when we are saving up for something and present time is perfect. When asked you say you want money. You are saving up for a new dress, camera lens, piece of jewellery, holiday, car, etc. Then you are happy to receive money. But outside of these times, gifts are good. We don’t decorate the bottom of the Christmas tree with envelopes and cheques, it is opening gifts we want. We love trying to guess what that weirdly shaped one at the back is, don’t we? So sometimes receiving cheques is nice, but it just seems a bit too, well, easy. You think of all the hard work you went to, to make their birthday special, give them something to open, and you get a cheque. I did warn you it would sound greedy, but think about it, you know I’m right!