As a general rule being retired means you’re likely to be quite old, relatively speaking. As a general rule being quite old means you’ve probably got everything present-wise that you want on the grounds that, at our age, as I’ve written before, if I want something I’m not going to wait until Christmas to get it as I might not be around to get it. If I can afford it right now then why wait until Christmas, if I can’t afford it right now then it’s likely I won’t be able to afford it at Christmas. Ergo buying presents for retired people can be challenging, unless of course you go to the socks and slippers solution. Yes they do always come in handy but no, no thank you.
Which leaves me as a difficult person to buy for. Not as difficult as Mrs Summerhouse, she is an absolute nightmare. At least I provide her, each year, with a list of books, the ones I feel unable to lash out £30 plus for but which do not seem indulgent as a Christmas present. I realise I’ve just contradicted my previous guidelines but never mind, it’s a blog not a scientific article. She gives me nothing to guide my buying. She did mention one of those fancy vacuum cleaners, the sort that suck up the dog hairs but this is a no-win situation for me. When people ask, as they do, what I bought her for Christmas and she replies a vacuum cleaner, people will laugh and then enquire exactly what kind of unreconstructed male I am. Didn’t sexist pigs go out of style? I know this is true because last year I told our gardeners (and they are not exactly the epitome of re-constructed males and have now departed) that I’d bought Mrs SH a cooker. You can’t count that, they said.
They don’t understand the difficulties I have. What do you buy the woman who has nothing? But more to the point doesn’t seem to want anything. If I hear the ‘I’ve got everything I want’ line again, I’ll scream. Which is why I take desperate measures. Looking for the unusual present. Not necessarily one she wants, but unusual at least. We’ve been through the perfumes and jewellery phase. She got a nice pair of boots for her birthday and this is another nightmare because her birthday is less than two weeks before Christmas, so it’s potentially a double failure.
Don’t get me wrong, the boots were very nice but then, given she chose them herself, they would be. A partner, of either gender, cannot just walk into a shoe shop and say I’ll have a pair of those. Size? Oh, about this big, holding your hands apart to roughly the right distance. I know every woman or man has had some unwanted item of clothing or similar tucked away at the back of the wardrobe waiting for the time that it can be safely dispatched to the charity shop but we are both 69 now so these hard lessons have been learned and are not to be repeated. Failure is not an option.
Anyway, in the face of these apparently insuperable difficulties, I think I have come up with the perfect present. It all started with Sunday night’s desperation trip to McDonald’s. Just how desperate it was only became clear when we got back to the Derbyshire cottage and started to eat the chips, they were a disgrace – cold, old and soggy. If they can’t get the bleedin’ chips right then what do they do? Shocking and so bad that we didn’t drink the free coffee. It made sense at the time. And this is where this Christmas story begins.
Next morning, as we packed up to drive back to Leeds, we still had the coffee, cold of course. Then I had my brainwave. Can you guess? No? Well I thought if we had one of those little elements that plug into the cigarette lighter and then plunged into your coffee (as in above picture), we could take the coffee with us, warm it up on the way, drink, enjoy, get one back on McDs, job’s a good un, as they say. I’ve had a hankering for this object (the heater thingy) ever since I saw an advert many, many years ago in which a good-looking woman (not sure this was essential to the advert which I think was for instant coffee but I can’t be sure) drove her VW Beetle up to the beach overlooking the ocean, poured some water and later her spoonful of instant coffee into a mug then, and here’s the point, plugged the small heating element into the mug and the cigarette lighter and boiled up her cup of coffee. Magic moment. From time to time this advert would come back to me and I hankered, yes, I did, for that little thingy you put in your mug. So cool and capable of producing magical moments. Now it was that time once again.
But, and there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there, but, I couldn’t find anywhere that sold them other than on line and we didn’t have time for this option. The little car shop down the road didn’t but said curiously, “I wish I did.” Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys, B&Q, no, no, no and no. Even Halfords where you might think, would be a guaranteed vendor of the little heaty thing, could do no qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqQ“` Q
Sorry that was Archie’s contribution and, as it’s Christmas, I’ve left it in. He put his nose on the keyboard whilst I was typing. Back to the human text… No more, than pass me on to other places that might sell one. The Halford’s chap had had one a long time ago and bought it from this place. The next day this place didn’t have one either. I’m beginning to think there is some kind of conspiracy here and that the Lord above, or whoever, doesn’t want Mrs Summerhouse to receive her unusual gift.
Well they under-estimate my determination to get her that very special present. I’ve ordered two on-line, not sure why two, twice the fun? Joint heating experience? They were quite cheap although I doubled the cost of the items by paying for next day delivery (now arrived as above in enormous box). Still worth every penny I’m sure, a dream come true. All I have to do now is keep it a secret until the big day. She’s already seen the new Lee Child book I bought her in Sainsburys. As I had no money I had to put it in the shopping cart she was using and, despite my telling her not to look, she obviously did because she said she thought she would enjoy the chocolates. A transparent attempt to cover her knowing what this present was, so I can’t afford to slip up again.
Incidentally, when she got back from shopping this morning she told me that, when she was in the store, one of the pups, neither is confessing (probably Archie, it has his paw print all over it), climbed into the front seat and knocked the coffee, which was still in the vehicle, over the book, which was also still in the vehicle. I’m beginning to sense a conspiracy here. Mrs SH says it’s only on the dust jacket so all not lost.
It’s not easy being retired and having to find suitable, yet surprising, present for one’s partner, who is of course, also retired and a nightmare under the best of circumstances to buy for. But I think she’s going to love this present. I may even make her a cup of coffee or maybe a mug, in case it doesn’t fit into a cup (I hope it fits into a bloody mug otherwise I might look a little foolish). I can see the look of joy on her face as she unwraps the heater thingy. Oh thank you, just what I always wanted. What is it?