I got my Christmas Shopping (the little that I do) out of the way today. I combined it with going to a nearby town to collect my comics as I knew one item I needed to buy was sold in one of those industrial areas that I pass on the way.
Arriving at town, I parked up and went to a chip shop to get some sustenance, however the girl behind the counter asked if it was ok to wait while she cooked up some chips. I declined and said I'd be back later. Here is a tip you can add to your list of life's rules…never say you'll wait for chips in a chip shop as they don't want to keep you waiting too long so they're always underdone and roasting hot as they're right out the fryer.
Outside the comic shop was a ghastly woman on a mobile phone (I think ghastly people undergo some form of operation to have mobile phones transplanted onto their heads) talking about her financial problems in a volume such that anyone in the area could hear. So I pretended to look at some items in the window while I vicariously aided this woman in publicly washing her linen. It seems she was owed some £60 for an electricity bill or other.
Inside the shop a man was already at the counter so I had a browse of the shelves first. Now if you don't buy comics you won't know this, but comic shops are run like no other shop. You don't go in and take things from the shelves…the person who runs the shop has a list of the titles each customer regularly gets and when he gets his stock in he puts any comic on your list into your "file". So when you enter the shop the person running it gets your comics from your file, and you pay for any one-off purchases you may had made that day also. As I was browsing the woman from outside comes in and it appears the man at the counter is her husband. Her voice has not lessened for not being on the phone. She was incredibly loud and recounted a tale to her husband about how someone she knows went to Subway for lunch, and the story involved what they had to eat, with the punch line being "An' guess ‘ow much it was? Eight quid!"
It seems this woman fills her days with quarrels over money and the cost of living. And what was her husband buying? £250 worth of movie memorabilia.
Leaving the comic shop I went to buy some more work shirts so that I don't have to do laundry as often. Two shirts, an' guess ‘ow much? Fifty quid! Annoyed at having to spend so much and wondering where people on benefits buy their clothes, I entered the city centre proper on the hunt for gifts. The streets are always busy at the weekend but now it is nearing Christmas you can barely see 200 yards without your view being blocked by a temporary hut or stall selling this and that. People were, as usual, utterly without agenda and strolled everywhere at 0.5mph while their unruly children ran amok, brandishing rolls of wrapping paper like swords. If a child isn't pushing 99p worth of cardboard tubing into your ribs, someone outside a store is pushing a leaflet into your face, or shaking a bucket full of money, or comforting a crying child. I swear I've never seen so many crying children as I did today.
After telling the 1,000th shop assistant than I was fine and just looking, I still didn't find anything suitable so decided to head home. On the way back to my car I popped by the chip shop but they were now closed. Still, I'd rather have no chips than hard chips that taste like lava.
I actually live quite close to a large town, so I decided to walk there to see if I could complete my shopping. 2,000 "No thanks, I'm just looking"s later and my shopping was finally complete. The next task is the hardest…waiting in line at the Post Office to send the gifts! However that can wait for another day. Tonight I shall lock the gates, bring up the drawbridge and watch a DVD, eat popcorn, drink beer and forget Christmas even exists.