There is not a lot of shopping you can do up here anyway. We are not totally in the middle of nowhere. In twenty minutes or so you can be in any one of three nice small towns, Mold, Denbigh or Ruthin, where you can do a supermarket shop if you want to, find some good small shops and buy a decent cup of coffee. There are some lovely independent retailers too like Homewood Bound and the Craft Centre just down the road at Afonwen but you have to travel forty five minutes or so to get to Chester to find a proper city. In fact Chester is a very fine small city and has lots of individual shops, the antithesis of the out of town retail park, but even so I only get there a couple of times a year.
If you don't shop, oddly, if you are me, you don't want to shop. The less you do, the less you want to do. I don't miss it or ever begin to feel like I need a fix. That sounds both virtuous and puritanical which is misleading. I am not a great consumer but I do love some particular beautiful things. I buy some stuff online and most of my normal purchases are to do with the garden: plants by mail order, seeds and bulbs, especially bulbs and books of course. It takes something like getting ready for Christmas to drive me out to the shops. I would love to be able to tell you that, like Silverpebble and Thrifty Household I have been making winter. I admire it hugely. I aspire to do it. I look at the beautiful things which are made by truly talented people and wonder if I could do it too if I just keep trying.
But all my winter projects take so long that they are very unlikely to produce any delightfully handmade Christmas presents. There are the socks which are now entering their second winter under construction.
They are not going to be a present any time soon, and besides I labour over them so long I think I will have to keep them as no one else will appreciate them as I will.
There is the huge superkingsize blanket which is about a third of the way there.
It's too huge for a present. It is for the house really. The idea of giving it to any of my children is simply a joke.
There are things I have finished of course: the Christmas puddings are done and waiting in the pantry; the damson gin is mostly bottled, just waiting for a fourth bottle which suits the purpose to emerge from the recycling.
But somehow nothing that I have done can count as a present for anyone. I am intrigued by the idea of giving only presents that I have made although I can't guarantee that some of the likely recipients wouldn't be appalled. I think to do it properly I would have to plan for most the year. There are things I am confident with: foodbased presents I could do and know that the results would be worth eating. I might be able to sew or knit but I am not confident that the results would merit the time and effort it would take and how do you know that your taste would be the taste of the person you made it for? How awful to have spent weeks labouring over something and to know in your bones that the receiver of the present was wondering how long it would be before they could give it away or hide it. I think it is a confidence thing. Perhaps it should be my project for 2012, or I could spend 2012 thinking about it and have a go in 2013, or 2014.
So in the meantime, there are no presents and there is shopping.
I think shopping may be something that you need to train for and then practise to keep your hand in, a bit like tabletennis or ballroom dancing. I stopped in Chester on the way back from work the other day, sure that I could do most of what I needed to buy. It is not a huge amount: presents for twelve people since some will be done by gifts of money and with some we have mutually agreed not to buy presents in this straitened, recessionary year. I didn't get past the first shop I went into. It was a truly beautiful kitchen equipment shop. I expect I was drawn in because my lovely new kitchen has been filling my head with kitchens. It took me forty five minutes to stop looking at things for me, entirely theoretically as most of them cost an arm and a leg, and another forty to choose two presents which may or not be things my nearest and dearest want. These were heavy to carry and my head was swimming so I came home.
Back to the internet for me I think. At least the distraction level is lower and things don't make your arms ache. Or I do make a very good cake and have a very quick and easy pattern for fingerless gloves.