Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bag a bargain whilst the turkey is cooking

What will you be doing Christmas Day?

When we were in the UK and the children were growing up it was a busy, busy day for us. The children would wake us at dawn to see if Santa had been. Of course he had but checking to see what he had brought would have to wait until Pam had at least had a cup of tea and time to open her eyes properly.

The process of opening the presents could take a good two hours. We always insisted that the girls kept the tags with the gifts so that they could write meaningful thank you letters. Pam would even make lists to ensure that nothing was missed. The girls would open their presents first so we could see what they had been given and then Pam and I would open ours.

Following the presents, there was breakfast to deal with. Lunch would not be until 3pmish so it was important to have a decent start to the day. When we'd roast pork for Boxing Day, much to the disgust of the girls, I'd have toast with dripping. With the lean joints that butchers prepare today that pleasure is gone.

With breakfast out of the way, all the wrapping paper had to be bundled into bin bags and the lounge tidied ready for the arrival of Granddad, Nana and Great Granny Violet. The presents would have to be arranged so that our guests could see them.

My job then was to cook the turkey. Before I had a Weber barbecue this would take up the oven which had to be vacated in good time for the roast potatoes and parsnips. Once I started cooking the turkey on the BBQ though there was less urgency. My neighbours thought I was mad but I can assure you that a barbecued turkey is a lot less dry and has a lot more flavour than an oven roasted one.

Then there was a mountain of vegetables to prepare. Peeling, slicing, cutting crosses in the sprouts - it all took time. Whilst Pam would be involved with this I would have to assemble presents that came in kit form. I remember one year that everything the girls got seemed to have parts to fix together and stickers that had to be applied.

Nana and Grandad would always be late arriving which made timing the lunch tricky. We'd be lucky to be seated for the first course by 3pm by which time we were all hungry and a little worse for wear with all the sherry we'd drunk.

By the time we'd finished the pudding and the mince pies it would be 5pm at least. Everyone was exhausted but still had to muster the energy to wash up.

By 6pm we'd all collapse in a heap in the lounge bellies full and happy. Inevitably we'd have missed all the TV programmes that the girls wanted to watch but no matter there were plenty of toys to show off. In any case the girls would have found their second wind and be ready to perform a show for their grandparents. Their performance would take us up to suppertime.

Hard as it was to find space for anymore food, the temptation of a large pork pie, stilton cheese, celery and cold turkey sandwiches was too much.

Inevitably it would be close to midnight before the Grandparents had left and we'd tidied up ready for Boxing Day.

My point is, that there was no time to fit anything else in to a very busy day. Even if we'd had the Internet, there would have been no time slot in the day to go online. A few phone calls to friends to wish them a Merry Christmas was as much communication as we could fit in.

These days things are very different. However, whilst I might consider sending a few emails rather than make the phone calls, the last thing I will want to do is shop. For us, the next time we want to see a shop after Christmas is in the New Year.

Actually I tell a lie because one year I made the supreme effort to go to B&Q on Boxing Day to see what all the fuss was about. By the time I arrived at 11:30am all the advertised bargains had gone. People had apparently been queuing outside from early morning to grab those and had beaten me to it by several hours.That was the last time I was going to get involved in that sort of nonsense. NEXT may have started its sale at 5am on Boxing Day but I wasn't going to be there.

Of course, these days you don't have to set foot outside the door to shop, you don't have to wait until January for the sales and you don't have to queue outside in the cold waiting for the shop to open. You can shop day and night in the comfort of your home. I've even heard of people with laptops shopping in bed.

Somehow it isn't the same though. It might be convenient but you don't get to see the items you buy until they are delivered several days later. There is something pleasurable about coming home with carrier bags that is sadly missing from the online experience.

According to reports from the UK, this year will see the burgeoning trend for shoppers to switch on their computers on December 25 to search for bargains. Online retailers have taken advantage of the opportunity to avoid the ban on Christmas Day trading.

So the Interactive Media In Retail Group (IMRG) in the UK predicts that online spending on Christmas Day this year will increase by 23 per cent, to exceed £100 million for the first time, as an estimated 5.2 million shoppers log on.

I tend to feel that the way we used to spend Christmas Day was much better but then maybe I'm just old fashioned. You can be sure that, whatever else I do on the 25th, shopping online will not be on the agenda.

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