Christmas stress

My big sister and her husband call themselves The Twearlies – they arrive too early for things: ‘We like to just get there, relax and have a coffee,’ they say. Well, the older I get, the earlier I like to leave for things too (a quality that drives my partner bonkers, but which is to be valued in a grandparent picking up children from school and nursery, I’d say). And my sister, of course, starts Christmas shopping in the spring at craft fairs and the like. Well, big sis, I do try to follow your example. Not this year, though. I’d just got back from visiting my son and family overseas and had two weeks to do it all. Help! Each morning I felt the panic going up as the blood pressure tablet went down.

In the olden days I used to get everything done and do a full-time job too. And this was when online buying was just a twinkle in Santa’s eye. But my faculties have gone downhill since then and my stress levels soar. But now, I thought, I can I do it all with a click of the mouse – hurrah, easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. Then the dilemmas began. Should I use Amazon? Yes, they’re very efficient and have cheap deals. But no, they treat their staff very badly. What about Argos? Like the Good News Bible for Jehovah Witnesses, the Argos catalogue has been required reading in our family over the years. And in my va-a-a-ast experience (four grandchildren), the people there are helpful and happy so hopefully treated well. But am I kidding myself?

So I clicked on Argos, but, oh my days, some of the things I needed weren’t available for delivery and if they were, the delivery cost as much as the present. But what about ‘click and collect’? I thought. There are ‘ten nearest’ Argoses. Fantastic! But things were out of stock in one place, in stock in another so I’d be jetting all over the planet (well, from N15 to E17 to E10) like a headless chicken on speed. Oh my lord! And the wooden train set for toddler boy (henceforward ‘grandson’ – he starts school next year), was ‘temporarily out of stock’. Lordie lord! I took a few deep breaths and, gloom and guilt, clicked on Amazon for some help from possibly some poor tagged person on a zero hours contract linked live to a time and motion app racing across a warehouse in eight nanoseconds or they wouldn’t be allowed to go to the loo before lunch. And, worse, I went and did stuff on Amazon for the Sisters’ (I have three of them) Pre-Christmas Bash too. Then I clicked on the kids’ version of Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long walk to freedom’ for granddaughter 3, but that miserable message came up which asks you to to ask them to ’email me when in stock’. That’ll be too late then. This book was, of course, out of stock across the cosmos.

Well, Amazon wasn’t coming up with the goods, so I back I went to Argos. I now know it’s not a good move to click and click when it says a website is ‘Not Responding’ – it’s actually ‘Still Loading’. Why don’t they tell you that? My computer got stuck. A Help box came up saying ‘Recover page?’ Yes, please. But the so-and-soing screen went white and that pesky little thing that goes round slowly in the middle went round and round and round and, if I hadn’t been so stressed, I would have gone into a hypnotic trance. Time for a medicinal brandy.

Granddaughter 2 kept changing her mind. This is the girl who is crazily creative and last year said (with a winning smile) she absolutely didn’t want anything remotely ressembling a kit: craft, cookery or science. This year we browsed the Argos catalogue together. It has teeny tiny print and I could just about read it chin up, varyfocals perched on nose. ‘No’, ‘no’ and ‘no’, she said. No, no, no, no, not again, I was thinking (though smiling in a sweet little old granny-like manner). At last she settled on something and later when I clicked on ‘reserve’ and ‘collection’ at Argos, E17, I felt flushed with euphoria – wow! I could go to Rymans for granddaughter 3 (organisational stuff) and wrapping paper, check Waterstones for Long Walk to Freedom (see above) and collect granddaughter 2’s pressie from Argos. Sorted – well almost – now an Argos click and collect afficionado, I did another trip to Argos, E10, on a W13 bus involving Primark and Tesco’s. What super strategic planning is that?

But, oh god, granddaughter 1’s birthday is just before Christmas and I was instructed by my daughter to order a guitar from ebay (we were sharing the cost). And, of course, granddaughter 1 only wanted one colour, but where to click it? Help! Cue fraught call to daughter. ‘Oh, you,ll have to click on something at check out’, she said calmly. I squinted again at the screen – nothing. Then, in Paypal, I spied a miniscule msg box and sent one re. colour and clicked Pay Now (or forever hold your peace). Would it get the colour msg and would it arrive in time? Panic attack pending. It said ‘Fast and Free delivery’ – that sounds a whole lot healthier than Amazon – maybe it’s a lean leather-clad biker, long hair blowing in the wind doing a ton down the motorway with the guitar slung over his back. I think not. But arrive it did. Halleluya! For Christmas she wanted something ‘swag’ from a funky shop up west. ‘She’s very fussy,’ advised my daughter. ‘Don’t get it without speaking to her first. ‘Ok gran,’ sighed granddaughter 1, languidly lounging along the sofa. ‘I’ll look at the webside and let you know’. Eons came and went – nothing from granddaughter 1. I checked the website for delivery: five working days – sweet Jesus, a trip up west? No-o-o-o. So although brinkmanship is not my bag, I checked the returns policy and clicked on something black and gothic.

And then there was the Tesco’s order – with no time left for click and collect, I went for click and deliver. For Christmas lunch no-one wanted turkey (except my partner, and he could have one with a beer at Wetherspoon’s). And let’s face it, slap some cranberry on a bit of chicken and spot the difference, say I. Somehow, because it was only chicken, I didn’t feel so stressed. I wouldn’t have to get up at dawn to put a half-defrosted turkey in the sink with the tap running while fearing the family will all go down with salmonella. But then, oh god, Tesco’s sometimes substitutes stuff. What happens if they run out of chickens? Or brussels sprouts? Could I bear the uncertainty? Could I chance it? He-e-e-lp! And did you know that Tesco’s staff are tracked and monitored by electronic armbands, supposedly to improve ‘efficiency’? Time for the revolution.

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