Over the years I have honed the art of Christmas shopping to suit myself and I think, this year, I have got it taped.
I started at the end of November with the obligatory visit to Toysrus one Monday morning, early, when you could count the number of shoppers on one hand. I had a list and bought the two things that were on it, and only those two, resisting temptation on all sides. I could have been tempted by an Advent calendar that just had pictures; no chocolates or presents, but there were none, so that settled that. I hesitated over the Playmobil one that built up a creche, but the only reference to Advent and Christmas was one little angel - no Mary or Joseph or baby, so it paid lip-service only to the reason for an Advent calendar and I felt even more disgusted with it than if it had had no angel.
Since then, I have bought off Ebay and elsewhere online, especially my favourite Christmas site, Hawkins Bazaar (www.hawkins.com). Everything has arrived, and I am happily stress-free. To enter into the spirit of things, however, I have been visiting the Christmas markets that pop up in surrounding villages on different weekends, and made one trip into Montpellier for the wine festival where I bought the usual supplies of glacé fruits. The damned things are getting so expensive I'll have to take out a second mortgage in a few year's time. Oh, no I won't, I don't have a first mortgage any more!! Ha!
One fair I went to was an olive oil festival up in Corconne, a little village tucked into the chilly side of an imposing lump of rock. By golly it was cold when I went in the afternoon, but had been even colder in the morning and you could tell because all the olive oil was opaque. The place was awash with oil in every shape and size of container, including 5 litre cans at 57Eur, and bottles in the shape of a naked woman's torso. There were the olives, themselves - lots of different varieties; young olive trees, olive tree care tools, olive-picking aids, and crafted olivewood, soap made from the oil and so on. There was even a guy giving lessons in how to prune an olive tree.
Less olivey, were walnuts, chestnuts, wine (natch), santons - those little figures dressed up to look like French peasants from a bygone age, apples and charcuterie. I bought a jar of chestnuts soaked in Armagnac which you serve with meat, apparently.
One guy was selling tinned goods, including snails in various sauces. He entered the loto having given one of the prizes - 4 tins of snails in a basket, and won... yes, the tinned snails in a basket. Luckily he found this most amusing and entertained the public with this amazing example of coincidence.
So, the shopping is done, the decorations are up and we are off to the UK for a real Christmas en famille; the first time for both my boys. About time too!