Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday 15 December 2007

I've reached the age where book tokens are what the young people in the family give to Uncle (i.e., me) rather than the other way around. Or in other words, in our family (perhaps in most) Christmas shopping isn't the stressful, anxiety-ridden nightmare we're led to believe it might be.

It helps me that I'm single, lazy and regularly expected at someone else's Christmas celebrations, so I've not had all that to worry about; and being peripheral to other people's lives puts me in the position of the Victorian child whose anxieties about her party frock were calmed with the assurance that "No-one's going to be looking at you anyway, dear". As long as I don't set out to give something downright offensive, whatever I give is unlikely to upset anyone else's equilibrium, so I don't need to worry too much about the balance between heart, head and wallet that comes into play when buying presents.

So once again, pacing myself over several Saturdays for some repeated trawls for books and consumables gets the job done. I can't claim to be as organised as my mother, who had a whole drawerful of "useful and acceptable gifts" bought throughout the year just in case anyone had been forgotten when the time came (not that stopped her fretting): but that's a useful reminder. It is the thought that counts.

If the weather hadn't been so perishing cold today, I'd have been able to linger and enjoy the decorations and entertainment in Covent Garden this afternoon - as you can see, a genuine balancing act.

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