When mum was alive, every Christmas I’d sit in my room after dinner and phone my friends, who were all waiting expectantly to hear what she’d got for me this year. While I’m aware that this might make me sound like a spoilt brat, and that I should be grateful to get anything – mum’s presents had such comedy value I really had to share. So please read this with the love and fondness with which it’s intended.
Christmas 1994: When I was a student in Sheffield, wearing ripped jeans, Doc Martins and an old Granddad cardigan, she bought me a Delux Scuffguard. It’s a piece of shag pile carpet with rubber backing, to put under the pedals of your car so you don’t scuff the heels of your stilettos whilst driving. I think I can safely say that mine was the only Vauxhall Chevette (1979) in the land with such luxury. Though I was tempted to cut the thing up and stick it down the sides of the windows to stop them falling down into the car door every time I went over a bump, which would have been a much more practical application at that juncture.
Christmas 1995: Still under the impression that stilettos were my footwear of choice (or was it just wishful thinking), she bought me a pair of bronzed scrunchies – fancy shoe accessories that you clip onto the front of your stilettos to turn them into party shoes.
Christmas 1996: Because by that time I had a degree and PhD in Zoology, mum went through a phase of buying animal themed presents. This year it was a tea towel with breeds of dogs on it.
Christmas 1997: Still plumbing a rich vein – a plastic apron with breeds of dogs on it.
Christmas 1998: Now this one is a personal favourite. When she found it at a craft fair I bet she lit up like a Christmas tree. I can just see her now ‘Ohhhh – Alison’s going to LOVE this!’ It was a plastic paperweight with two dead dung beetles inside, posing on a bit of green. It is without doubt the most hideous thing I have ever seen. But I just can’t seem to bring myself to throw it away.
Christmas 1999: This year it was a double whammy. Three pairs of second hand boots rescued from items collected for a nearly new sale to raise funds for the church roof and a second hand Ladyshave, liberated from the same cache. One of the few perks of being Vicar’s wife was having first dibs on donated goodies such as these. But to ensure safe passage through the pearly gates, she always made a donation. Tactics such as these meant I had ‘Operation Game’ way before my friends!
The Ladyshave came in a flat, round pink plastic box, the size of a discus. It opened just like a clam - inside was the Ladyshave. I found the switch and turned the thing on - nothing. I needed another source of power. Unfortunately it was of European origin with a plug which wouldn’t fit UK sockets, so I investigated further, turning it around in my hands to see if I could locate where the batteries went. I found a little door in the side which looked promising and prized it open with a nail file. Inside, I didn’t find batteries, instead I found the hair shavings of the previous owner. As I jumped back in horror, little black flecks showered over me like confetti. There was so much I concluded that my new ‘European’ Ladyshave must have been pre-owned by a Rumanian shot-putter who had burnt out its motor while preparing her bikini line for a week on the beach. Unsurprisingly I did feel able to get rid of this present (immediately)!
Christmas 2000: Millennium year was a special year and so deserved a special gift which could be kept and cherished. It was a Peterborough Cathedral, bone china, special edition Millennium pill box. I’ve put it somewhere safe!
Christmas 2001: Do you know, I can’t remember what she got me that year, which breaks my heart because it was the last Christmas we had with her. It must have been something sensible that I needed. Maybe the present was us all being together and having her with us for one last Christmas.
So now I try really hard not to complain if I get given something weird, because one day that person might not be there with their crazy gifts and suddenly you find that out of all your presents, what you really miss is knitted Womble hot water bottle cover and a miner’s lamp.