This is where it all starts to go wrong – I’ve been so wrapped up with work and avoiding doing my paperwork that I haven’t had a chance to actually get out to the shops. I had one evening of shock and awe in Oxford Street, but it was so early that I was quite happy to just wander about and gawp at the lights. Any shopping I have done, apart from the odd foray into the pound shop, has been online and reasonably focussed.
Today was meant to be the same – a spot of shopping online followed by a quick dash to Argos to collect something for my Canadian niece and nephew. So far so good – but they were out of stock at my nearest Argos so I had to go off piste to untravelled hunting grounds farther afield. Argos was only a five-minute walk from the bus stop so I should have been in and out and home within the hour. Except that that five-minute walk took me past not only M&S but three charity shops and an independent department store. I hadn’t been in M&S for five minutes when I had to stop myself from just ladling things into my basket – it was all so folksy and gorgeous, I wanted it all. But I’m a sucker for festive frills – at this time of year you could tie a slice of candied orange and a cinnamon stick on to a an old welly boot and I’d buy it.
Then I got a grip. I found myself eyeball to eyeball with a felt reindeer and realised that someone earning far more than I am is at work inventing new ways to part us from our money. And I mean literally inventing things. What, for example, is a present topper and who’d ever heard of one before this Christmas? Can I live without spending £3 on an individually packed length of red and white string and a giant red button designed to make my presents look as if they were wrapped by Ma Walton in a particularly lean year? Yes I can. So I ran for the door and took refuge in the charity shop next door.
Big mistake. Huge. I went through the British Heart Foundation, Shelter and the Oxfam shops like Julia Roberts taking Richard Gere’s credit card for a walk down Rodeo Drive. Look away now if you’re related to me because, ahem, most of your presents may be “gently worn”. By the time I got to Argos I was barely able to carry the toys I’d specifically gone out for. I was carrying so much that an old lady actually tutted me on the bus because my Oxfam carrier bags were getting in her way and slowing her down. “It may be conspicuous consumption,” as I wish I’d told her, “But at least it’s charitable conspicuous consumption.
Amanda’s Advent Spending Calendar
£39.98 in Argos on toys for my nephew and niece in Canada, which I now discover had to have been posted yesterday. Terrific.
A whopping £55 in Shelter, Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation shops on Christmas cards, brand new books, untouched toys and candles still in their original cellophane and gift boxes. Spending money there gave me almost as warm a glow as I’ll get from lighting up my 99p tuberose-scented Diptyque candle (£20 in John Lewis – call me shallow, but yes, I Googled it).