Merry something or other

Shopping at Christmas time is, as I understand it, an almost universal experience. That is except, of course, if you belong to one of those whacky religions where you don’t believe in Jesus, and so the period is a non-denominational gift-giving time, in which case it should be called non-denominational gift shopping, which doesn’t have the same ring to it. Which is a shame, because to have to call it non-denominational gift-giving time would make writing songs about non-denominational gift-giving time extremely difficult. The ever popular “I’m dreaming of a white non-denominational gift-giving time” would have gotten dear old Bing lynched in the street…

But I digress.

Shopping towards the end of the year is a harrowing event, particularly for someone like me who hates the notion of shopping at the best of times. That is unless I get to go and look at the Lego, DVDs or video games while my lovely partner Renee peruses the grown-up stuff, like blenders, toasters and the occasional motor vehicle.

This year, I fear, I’ve left my run a little late. Financial ruin (it’s because I work for free a lot of the time – think of me as a pro bono journalist, if you will…) has meant that my end-of-year-for-no-reason-at-all-other-than-everyone-else-is-doing-it shopping won’t get done until the very last minute, which means that the department store that I choose to shop at (not for any ethical or philosophical reasons – it’s just that it’s close to home) will be a seething mass of overweight women wielding crying babies and needle-sharp elbows, as they thunder between the mostly empty shelves looking for something special for their overworked husbands.

This time of year is supposed to bring out the best in people, but I think it brings out the worst. Here in Australia, the end-of-the-year-pseudo-religious-holiday-period takes place at the height of summer, when tempers are frayed by the scorching sun and dogs die in their hundreds, locked in hot cars while the owners go shopping.

It’s a horrible time – a time when horrible people do horrible things, in the name of ‘Baby Cheeses’, as my niece insists on calling the little bastard. (it’s true – Jesus was a bastard. It’s all there in the bible. God and Mary weren’t married…)

A shining example of how crap people can be occurred just last weekend. Myself and my lovely, lovely partner succumbed to the very American temptation of the ‘all you can eat’ seafood buffet… hell, it was $20, and we couldn’t smell the seafood from the front door – how bad could it be?

The food itself was ok – the rest of the people in this particular establishment weren’t. They were a motley collection of suburbanites and overdressed caravan-dwellers, and by God they were determined to eat more than $20 worth of food.

When one guy collapsed mid-meal, it really looked like it was all over. An ambulance was called while several of the waiters performed emergency CPR and hunted around for a sharp knife, in case he required a tracheotomy. To their enduring credit, while the drama unfolded, I saw at least three of the people with whom this man was sharing a table stand up, walk to the buffet, and come back with plates heavily laden with food.

But the most poignant part of Christmas so far has been the fact that this will be the first Christmas that Pablo and I have spent together. Of course, she has no idea what Christmas is all about, despite our many long evenings spent discussing theology. This usually takes the form of me bellowing the name of the lord at the top of my lungs whenever she digs her claws into my leg.

But what to get the best cat in the world for Christmas? She’s got more toys than she can play with already, and God knows she doesn’t need clothes, shoes or a blender.

So this holiday season, she’s getting the best present a cat could possibly ask for.

Fresh venison.

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