This is by no means an original topic for a blog, and every year tends to get churned up again and again - so please accept my apologies for regurgitating the unsavoury matter but, in my terror and in support of my fellow, fearful shopo-phobes, I feel it worthy of at least one more mention.
Now - with the disclaimer out of the way - I have to reiterate that, for my good-ish self, the prospect of high-street Christmas shopping can be likened to stepping through the door of that alien bar in Star Wars, a world of weird and scary things, unfamiliar surroundings, and the possibility of never ever again seeing the light of day. Not only at Christmas, but at any time of year, an 'outlet' - other than ones with useful and sparkly gadgetry - that dispenses more than a Snickers and a carton of Um Bongo, can cause a sudden flush of mind-numbing blood to the head, perhaps accompanied by the threat of a skin condition.
To others, a boutique/shop/emporium is a cornucopia of material possibility - a heavenly place populated with likeminded individuals, a congregation of souls in graceful homage to all that is fashionable, glittery, and - with all best intentions - cut price. But, to me, it is a very different place; a dungeon of noise, lights, and garish colour - which assault the eyes and ears, as I bounce around from one spot to another, my senses tweaked to capacity as I endeavour to avoid the surging masses, bumping and jostling like as many Energiser Bunnies flung into a cardboard box.
There is nothing new here, and there are many millions just like me, whereby this endurance becomes a personal one - a contemplative place of terror, spent dodging from space to space, as feet grow tired, and the need of a chair becomes greater than any salvation from on high (by the way - it's a campaign of mine to ensure that seats be provided in every boutique/shop/emporium for the lost soul, tired in mind and body, shopper-accompanier such as me). However, Christmas leaves us in that terrifying position that, for at least one loved one, we must brave the ravages of these bastions of malevolence, and venture forth into the world of the shopper (I can feel the hairs shoot up on the back of my neck as I write) - fully equipped with a concise and time-managed battle-plan that might make aficionados of Warhammer wet their pants with envy - vainly envisaging our timely return, package clutched in hand, to the serenity of home, tea, Final Score, and the softness of the couch - yet knowing that, in truth, the whole experience will be one of tragedy, despondence, and complete degradation of the spirit.
THEN...after an idle chat one night with my wife, who is Jedi in all such things, I discovered it can ALL be done with the click of a few icons online - and, I can safely say with not a single word of exaggeration, my heart soared skyward to the stars.
Online shopping is as the box says. A task easy to those with computer prowess - but, even for those not skilled in that area, one that can be so easily learned - and, given the alternative, once mastered, has the easing capacity to the pre-shopping-stressed mind as seeing The Dark Knight swing down from the rooftops, fist clenched, eyes steeled with the determination to save you from those marauding muggers (an analogy not too far from the mark - me thinks).
I'll not go into detail about how online shopping is accomplished - I'll leave that experience for your good selves - but let me say at least this: as with all shopping, the adventure isn't perfect, and might even cause similar amounts of raised blood pressure, and perhaps the threat of a rash, as does the real-life, physical ordeal - but it is short-lived, can reduce the 'making-a-choice' terrors to infinitesimal, and is (like an angels grace from heaven) completely Christmas crowd free. Online shopping has it's uses in many other ways to boot - that birthday gift thing, weddings (most even come with handy pick-lists), that unexpected anniversary, tracking down where to get a full-size Cylon Centurion - complete with buzzing red-eye - for that glorious day when an odd, free 3500 quid appears in the bank account to buy one, and stand it's shiny colossus by the front-door to scare the bejaysus out of each and every caller (on my Santa-list for this year, but I doubt it'll fit down the chimney).
Anyway - for those of you who can sense your legs crumble at the thought of Oxford Street, Grafton Street, Sauchiehall Street, or whatever street you council has decided to designate their seventh level of Hell - take a short walk across the room to your PC or laptop, do it in your pyjamas, in the nip if you like, spark it up, spend a while trawling around - take a brief/as-long-as-you-want sidetrack into some sports pages if the mood take you - and be happy in the knowledge that ice-chilled fingers, ragged feet, and a frayed temper shall not be yours this year. Why not uncap a beer while you're at it.
Happy hunting - and happy, happy Christmas my friends.
ON ... my movie of the year:
Limitless - a good year for films, but this one takes it for me by way of a fantastic concept, vivid characters, snappy dialogue - and just downright solid entertainment.
ON ... my album of the year:
City Awakenings - Mull Historical Society (Aka: Colin MacIntyre). Not actually released until January 2012 - but I have to make it the best for 2011 merely on what I've heard from pre-release publicity. In a music-world saturated to near entirety with banal, untalented, mediocre and samey crap, it is a pleasure the see that Colin is still carrying the torch for individuality, and musical/song-writing excellence.
ON ... my book of the year:
When God Was a Rabbit - Sarah Winman. Although I wanted to steer clear of books that might be classified as similar to my own - I can't help but make this number one for the year. Compelling characters, insightful - fully heart-warming - and a beacon for these troubled times. Sorry for the icky cliché, but it fits - and it's a really, really good read.
Author: The Silver Mist
More information about the Martin and The Silver Mist can be found on his website: www.MartinTreanor.Com.
The Silver Mist is available - in paperback and Kindle/eBook format - via both UK and US Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, itunes, Bookiejar, Waterstone's, John Smith's Bookshops, WH Smith's, and all good high street and online stores.