| Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Last-minute Christmas shopping

We leave it to the last possible moment once again ...

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‘Present to follow.’ What would those words mean to you if they were written in a card? You might be lead into believing that you will receive a lovely gift in the near future. You may be lulled into thinking that the empty card with its empty promise is a binding contract of bountiful pleasures to come. I think you are being a tad naïve. In my family, the utterance of these three little words is a secret code, passed down from generation to generation, to mean one thing, and one thing only. ‘You are getting nothing.’

It’s not that my family are averse to gift giving. On the contrary, we love to give and receive and are known for our generous natures and party spirits. We just can’t seem to perform under pressure.

At this time of year, the pressure to purchase is immense and, coming from a long line of rubbish present givers, I am thrown into a complete kerfuffle mixed with a curious sense of denial. This is not helped by the smug comments of those organised individuals who take great pleasure in announcing to the world that they finished their Christmas shopping sometime in July.

That is just weird. How can they get into the festive tradition of rash and reckless panic buying when they have their stockings well and truly stocked towards the end of summer? There is something quite comforting in knowing that there are only so many days to go until the big day and we are not alone in our inability to buy.

The clock keeps ticking away and we are reminded daily of the fact that time is running out. No wonder people panic and want to get it all done before the dreaded countdown. On the opposite side of the festive fence are the people who thrive on leaving everything to the last minute. It’s like a game of ‘chicken’. How late can you leave it?

I love to announce to all who are listening, especially those early birds, that it’s 6pm on Christmas Eve and I’m just off to the shops. I see behind their pitying looks into the depths of their souls, which shine with admiration for my wild and whacky bravado. Maybe they should try it next year, as it might be a revelation. You mean you don’t need six months to prepare the presents, as it can all be done in a few hours? True, those hours are wracked with anxiety, but that’s what it’s all about. There’s no time for self-doubt or looking around for another option, and we late birds don’t have the luxury to think about a present and come back to it. (Although in Dubai, it will probably have gone anyway if you don’t buy there and then). It’s in times of crisis that we make the most important decisions. That’s the way to shop.

The other way to shop, of course is online. What a marvellous invention the internet is when it comes to buying presents. I have discovered the joys of this type of shopping for friends and family back in the UK and it has gone a long way towards making me slightly less disorganised. I still tend to leave it to the last minute, or the last possible posting day, but at least my family haven’t had to make do with those three little words from me for the last five years.

It’s amazing the range of items that are available to buy at the click of a little finger. My sister would never have received my most inspired purchase to date without the help of the Internet: a pair of purple, furry microwavable slippers. Well it does get cold in Pembrokeshire in winter, (Spring, autumn and summer).

It’s a shame my family haven’t made the same technological discovery, however. The excuse is they can’t seem to convince anyone to ship microwavable slippers and the like to the UAE, giving even more credence to the old family saying. The only things they can ship here, at great expense, are books or CDs. Well a book or a CD would be better than nothing and certainly better than furry slippers in these temperatures.

At least my family members are never guilty of the terrible phenomenon of ‘re-gifting’. I have a friend who is notoriously renowned for giving un-tagged offerings to unsuspecting souls.

I once received a clutch bag from her that had a note inside confessing undying love. (No, the note was not meant for me.) Now, call me old fashioned, but I would prefer a gift that was bought for me, not one that had been given already, rejected and then passed on. Although I confess I kept the note. I sent her one back this Christmas, with my own version of those special three words. ‘Present to follow.’ I hope she likes the bag.

By Christine Kempell
Time Out Dubai,

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