“Can we do a ten pound Christmas this year?” The missus asks me. I’ll be honest, I take a resolutely male approach to these things, and as such I’m so delighted and relieved at finding gifts that other family members will genuinely like I’m prepared to pay almost any price within reason to achieve closure. Added to this, everything I have ever wanted in life is already standing before me with a pleading expression on her face. So of course we can do a £10 Christmas.
Ultimately this is a useful lie that the whole family participates in and promptly ignores, but at least it brings some check to the headlong spending spree we might otherwise embark upon.
My considerably better half is, as so many women, massively thoughtful. She begins her Christmas planning sometime around August, beginning a conversational data mining process that asks all kinds of innocently leading questions to solicit gift ideas which are then held at the forefront of her mind so that no opportunity is missed during subsequent shopping trips. Typically she will have a comprehensive suite of gifts prepared, wrapped and catalogued as we cross the threshold of December.
Conversely she could turn off the TV, stand in front of me and shout a list of present ideas at my open face and I will still sheepishly ask for ideas as I start to think about my own shopping needs sometime around the middle of the month.
All this by way of preamble. Today found me building a crippling pair of ring fingered hands as I hauled my carcass through the sparkling arcades in search of neatly packaged joy of the ten note variety. I was moderately successful, but here we come to the real matter at hand. Part of the £10 challenge that my lady does so well involves packaging up a selection of homemade items and smaller trinkets to eke out the budget. Biscuits, cakes and jam are standard fare here, supplemented by shop bought comestibles as necessary, and here we find yours truly tasked with getting a few ‘extras’ to pad the hamper.
On the short but specific list: two packets of mini belgian waffles and a packet of miniature biscuits. These to be recovered from a well known coffee franchise who shall remain nameless. Suffice to say, the experience was somewhat less than stellar, but it relieved me of more than a few bucks. Three items. Three very small items. Almost more packaging than content. When the till driver rang it through and asked for the better part of £9 pounds I had to ask him to repeat himself. No, it wasn’t a joke, no he hadn’t accidentally scanned everything twice. More than £3 each. These places seem to possess a rate of inflation entirely divorced from the rest of the world. I was so stunned I managed to walk halfway home before repeating in a small incredulous voice, “Nine pounds, that cost me” Once more with feeling: “Nine effing pounds”
Perhaps I’m over reacting, I suspect I walked into it. I should have turned silently and walked away from the transaction, offered my hard earned to a supermarket and bought ten times as much for the same outlay. I’ve only myself to blame. So here’s my two crumbs of comfort (metaphorical crumbs, if they came from my purchases they would doubtless be about 50p each) – firstly, I guess I gave the degree qualified barista behind the till a lovely warm feeling knowing as he must that such confections are made for a pittance and carry a 6000% markup, making suckers of us all, and secondly, it has fuelled my longest blog post to date!
Clearly I’m looking in the wrong places for inspiration.