And so, the annual quest commences. Having been bitten once more by the rabid throngs a couple of Saturdays ago, I have again decided to swerve physical shops in the perennially mind-numbing pursuit of wasting hard-earned dough on Christmas presents nobody wants or needs. Still, it’s what the Lord would have wanted, as we scurry around like headless chickens before tightening our belts once more in January.

The folly of this pursuit was brought into stark reality a couple of years ago when, over the Yuletide season, I went on a mission at my father’s house to find a pair of pliers. I opened his bedroom cupboard to find the previous decades' Christmas and birthday presents all stacked neatly into piles. None of them had been afforded a glance, or used, since being received, and I wondered why I had bought a man in his 70s a DIY child’s combustion engine, an Ainsley cookbook and a pair of hideous beige mules that were three sizes too big. This year, despite the mockery, I aim to buy gifts with one of two aims in mind: that they will afford an expensive laugh, or will be used. So, come Christmas day, you will find me lugging 10 litres of Muc-off motorcycle cleaner up his front path as the modern-day equivalent of gold, frankincense, or myrrh (whatever that may be).

Finding the slippers you bought a loved one unused in a cupboard can be an upsetting moment

Finding the slippers you bought a loved one unused in a cupboard can be an upsetting moment

It really is a struggle because, much as we have been locked down and tried to communicate with close family members and friends alike, the truth is we don’t really know what others like. Take me for example: I like bikes, yet a bike is not a bike is not a bike, and neither are the accessories. I tend to go ‘Bentley’ as I feel that buying cheap clothing and accessories will let down the overall image of my Mondraker look. Plus, most cheap biking products are just that, and leave you freezing cold with an insurmountable problem when miles from home. So, the gloves get put into the ‘present recycling’ box, along with the less-than-waterproof, rain-resistant shorts, lights that don’t illuminate and jackets that belong in a mardi gras, not on a downhill circuit.

And so, not really knowing what those nearest and dearest to me actually enjoy, it is left to me to spend 20 quid or so on an array of gifts in the hope of gaining a guffaw (much like a Russell brand comedy ticket, except the laugh). Maybe for the princely sum of 70 new pounds I could buy a full-size cardboard cut out of me for my wife to keep her company when I’m at work. Instead, I think I may plump for the ‘cat butt tissue holder’ for a mere £42. I have found myself relegated from alpha male in a female-dominated household since the arrival of Kai the cat who, much as I love him, knows that he is the kingpin as he struts into the room and gets hugged and mollycoddled to within an inch of his life.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

The catt butt tissue holder. Photo: Amazon

A product, whether for Christmas or nay, should serve a purpose, no matter what that purpose and I am still at a loss as to what problem the ‘potato parcel’ solves. It is an Idaho potato with your face printed on it which, at $22, is slightly better value for money than eating at Five Guys.

I’m sure my mother would appreciate some Alpaca-print breathable panties, although that would be wholly inappropriate. Instead, I plump for the baguette slippers that are footwear that, well, no description needed. The pet urine detector may come in handy for the sister-in-law who is in love with her gorgeous dog, Teddy, despite an apparent incontinence problem that seems to come to the fore each time he visits our new summerhouse. Or maybe I’ll buy myself some of the Bard-quoting ‘Shakespearen insult bandages’ for use next time I aquaplane on Teddy's deposits on the laminate floor.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Shakespearean Insult Bandages. Photo: Amazon

Whatever I choose, it will prove a struggle, and no doubt I will be frequenting the nearest Boots on Christmas Eve as I begrudgingly buy up the dregs that the early birds have left behind. I will then proudly hand over the finest bottles of scent known to man, so my nearest and dearest can smell like Britney, Beyonce or Beckham come Boxing Day.

I find the whole rigmarole ultimately soul-destroying and somewhat depressing, and look forward to my aged years when, more infirm, I have the excuse of not being able to ‘manage’ the shops as I am no longer au fait with technology and instead bung a tenner in everyone’s card and be done with it. Either that, or dig open the present recycling box as my memory fades and I return last year's gift to the sender, and blame my oversight on my fragile state of mind.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher