How To Shop, Christmas-Style

Before you read on, I should probably emphasise that the placement of that comma in the title is deliberate, lest you think this is going to be a piece about where to find the most blisteringly ironic Christmas jumpers on the high street or how to, in the words of Home and Garden magazine, “bring a bit of nature into the house at Christmas” by hanging a home-made wreath of holly and ivy from one’s own palatial patch of land above the spacious Victorian hearth.  It is instead destined to be a tale of me hot-footing it around every supermarket in town in (fruitless) search of the perfect bottle of creme de cacao for making that most Christmassy of cocktails, the Grasshopper, usually known as a hazy memory of the summer of my youth at university spent drinking it very occasionally when someone far richer than me had a birthday party at Freud’s in Oxford.  But after seeing it in a book of cocktails and looking once more upon the still unused cocktail shaker at the back of the kitchen cupboard, I needed an excuse, and Christmas is as good an excuse as any to drink alcoholic double cream masquerading as the pinnacle of sophisticated drinking (at least, it was, when I was nineteen).

Speaking of Christmas, every now and then, it occurs to me that what the world needs right now is another “how to” piece from me.  Another smug slice of my life, complete with a cheesy still from my latest parenting vlog, “How To Do The Washing In A Washing Machine,” with my face, tipped to the side and wearing a smile more fixed than that of the Joker and twice as fake.

Don’t worry, I’m not planning on doing any vlogs.

Which is just as well, as I am about to embark on a piece of smugger-than-smug gloating about how I am All Ready for Christmas and have been around all supermarkets in the vicinity with a detailed list of everything needed to be the hostess with the mostest, which apparently involves buying such delicacies as tinned peaches and custard powder, which are now clogging up the pantry and will probably never be used again after Christmas trifle/bellinis.

This year I am hosting Christmas, and hence getting ready for Christmas has become the cornerstone of my meaningless existence.  This year I will still be whizzing around the Co-Op/Asda/Waitrose (delete as appropriate according to how adventurous/fancy I am feeling at the time) panic buying everything in sight on Christmas Eve, and still I will end up caught out on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, running out of something really important like milk, toilet roll or (heaven forbid) wine.

Today it was the turn of Waitrose to feel the burn of my hyper-organised yet strangely time-consuming Christmas panic.

“I haven’t been in this Waitrose in YEARS!” I exclaimed to Piglet as we bowled on in, narrowly missing the badly-steered trolley of an expensively-overcoated posh woman with a grey bouffant (never happens in the Co-Op, dahlings, although come to think of it, they don’t have any trolleys for people to drive without due care and attention).  I could feel the excitement rising as I loudly proclaimed such absurd statements as “Do you have any candied peel?” and “Where can I find the creme de menthe?”  whilst telling Piglet in no uncertain terms that he must keep his eyes peeled for the chestnut puree, as though he was going to have any sort of clue what that actually was.  By the time I had scanned the biscuit aisle and gleefully exclaimed “THEY’VE GOT THE AMARETTI BISCUITS!” I was convinced I was going to end up as an Overheard in Waitrose internet meme.  Meanwhile Piglet was showing his disdain for the whole enterprise by repeatedly picking the wheels off his lego motorbike and flinging them underneath random shelves, then waiting until we were safely around the corner to wail “MY BIKE!” repeatedly until I went back and retrieved said tiny pieces of lego, cursing the invention of small primary-coloured blocks of plastic from the bottom of my heart.

Nevertheless, it was a fairly successful trip, and I managed to buy most of the things I needed that were too posh to be stocked in other supermarkets, and even though my dreams of a Christmas Eve festive Grasshopper are fading fast due to a lack of either creme de menthe or creme de cacao, I did spend an enjoyable ten or so minutes gently perusing the Exotic Beverages aisle, lovingly stroking bottles of Aperol and limoncello, and wondering if I could slip them into the Christmas menu somehow (no).  Meanwhile, advocaat is on offer in the Co-Op, if I ever work out exactly what that is and whether it’s acceptable to drink it neat.  I’m pretty sure I once saw Trixie in Call The Midwife drinking it, shortly before she tearfully admitted later in the same episode to being an alcoholic, so perhaps it’s like the heroin of retro drinks, one small glass and you never recover from a life-threatening addiction that leads only to a forked path in the road of life where on one side lies a lifetime of AA meetings, and on the other a destructive and increasingly squalid route to an early grave.  I’d better go and buy some, purely in the interest of Christmas cocktail experimentation, of course, since there is literally no other time of year when buying absurdly named retro drinks just because they are on offer is in any way acceptable.

And as for Piglet’s lego motorbike, sadly it ended up going to that big Waitrose in the sky, tossed aside under some random shelf, never to be found again, only beaten in the lost-toy-ridiculousness competition by Chase from Paw Patrol (trapped for eternity under a seat on the number 4 bus) and Lightning McQueen (run over by a train.  Don’t ask.)

I’m off to the Co-Op tomorrow to buy that Advocaat.  With hosting Christmas around the corner, I think I might need it.

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