Someone in my family had a brilliant idea, a few years ago now. The Eardley family comprises of me, my wife Karen and my sons Nicholas, Dominic and Mark, in that order. As the boys grew older and had flown the coup to attend university (except Mark, he is still with us), it was agreed that instead of all buying each other gifts for Christmas and stretching their meagre resources, we instead opt for a Secret Santa draw.
It's much like that in many offices up and down the country, where colleagues pick a name at random and buy that person a low value £5 or £10 gift, often one of novelty value. Hopefully not like the bad taste workmate I knew who, with another colleague having had a nervous breakdown earlier in the year, presented him with bag of marbles as 'replacement for the ones he lost'.
No, indeed, our family Secret Santa is pretty civilised. For example, I have had a DAB radio/CD player, lovely watch and North Face jacket over the few years it has been operating. So not to be sniffed at. Keeping up with times, we use an AP to organise the Secret Santa draw, through which you are even able to nominate the type of gift you might be interested in receiving. You know, where you can suggest something you might have bought yourself, only it is coming near to Christmas and, well, you never know, someone might just get you it/them.
There is major excitement on Christmas Day as the presents are handed out (they must be clearly labelled by the gifter, to ensure the intricate process runs smoothly) and attention turns to the reaction of the receiver. Genuine smile, put on smile, look of slight disappointment or downright hostility, what is it to be? Immediately after the gift exchange, we complete another Christmas tradition: the exchanging of receipts.
Walking through town the other evening, I got speaking to a family from the north east (of England). Well, Daisy was responsible for the introductions as she sidled up to the mum, in that way she does. Daisy was on the lookout for any treats which might be coming her way, whilst the human concerned, as they always are, was oblivious to her intentions. A perfect match.
I caught the accent and, on confirming they were from near Middlesbrough, commented that being the case, they would all now be Tories. My words hung in the air for a few seconds and I did not get much reaction other than a few embarrassed smiles. I always think it is good to make the effort to welcome people though, don't you?
I asked if they were having a nice time and they said that they were here mainly for the Christmas market, however they thought Edinburgh had changed for the worse since their last trip three years ago. However, here's the thing: they had yet to visit the new St James Quarter and I left them at this point as they headed east. Their nightmare had not yet even begun.
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