Thursday, 25 December 2008


Having just re-read last year's Christmas blog entry, I feel a paucity of ideas for this one. Oh, there'd be plenty to write about, but my thoughts this season have been mostly to do with my own shortcomings. It's a little like a reverse-Festivus. But I try not to treat the blogosphere as a confessional, even if I do engage in the occasional curmudgeonly rant.

So, if I don't share what's really on my mind, what's to write about? I queued, I stewed, I gave/got presents and ate lots of food?

Certainly I did all of the above. Hardly earth-shattering.

I'll admit this much publicly: I am very aware of my failings as a son, brother, uncle, friend and partner. And I loathe those failings. If I were writing this under the influence of too much Christmas cheer, then I suppose it could be written off as mere lachrymose drivel. Even with only early morning coffee and cigarettes under the belt it's still ripe for accusations of maudlin self-indulgence.

But, as someone told me recently, Christmas is as much about reflection and introspection as it is about commerce and gluttony. I'm pretty sure they couched it in less cynical language, though.

It's not that I'm unhappy. Whenever I think that might be the case I think back to the years prior to 2005 and count my blessings. But part of the comparatively newfound and hard-fought happiness has come at a cost, and it's at Christmastime when that cost stands out in very sharp relief.

So, on to Christmas itself. Christmas Day is great...all that commerce becomes worth it and the gluttony is rare and rich. But Christmas, thanks.

It's my fault, I leave it too late. Why I don't know. Perhaps it's a futile effort to forestall the inevitable. The more likely reason is this: if I leave myself two hours at the end of the work day and shopping season to buy presents, I'm forced to rush around like a drooling, sweating, gasping berserker and a Christmas shop that COULD have taken a leisurely five weekends is over in two hours.

This approach comes with attendant problems, not the least of which is the sight of a man on the cusp of middle age tearing around the CBD in a T-shirt bearing the slogan 'Your a Idoit' looking like a drooling, sweating, gasping berserker.

Then there's the loss of clarity. Unless I plot each stop carefully beforehand, I usually end up sitting in a park quietly cursing Jebus and his fucked up cut-up of a holiday.

But the worst of all is...the commerce. Constant readers will be aware of my mobile phone-buying adventure earlier this year. A similar thing happened Christmas Eve while trying to buy Loolee her present.

I went to a few stores looking for a digital photo frame. None of 'em had what I was after, which was in itself disappointing until I had the brilliant idea of getting a portable DVD player (it seemed brilliant at the time, but now I wonder why the hell I was going to buy Lou a digital photo frame in the first place).

With the clock running down I made a beeline for an electronics/gaming and DVD/CD store. Let's call them...oh I don't know...JC Hi-Fi. Most everything in these stores is in a locked glass cabinet, so you have to hunt around looking for someone with keys, preferably someone who isn't suffering the ills of slack-jawed pubescence.

No luck. The only guy I could see was attending to a Vietnamese man who was trying to buy a camera. I waited for about ten minutes (in actuality, probably two) and rushed upstairs to get Loolee a DVD. This was an optimistic move. At this point I must have been convinced that the purchase of said product would be as simple as:

Man: Can I help you sir?
Me: Hello, I trust you are well. Yes indeed you may indeed help me indeed. I wish to purchase a product from your extensive line of electronic audio/visual items, to wit, a portable DVD player. It must be a) reasonably priced and b)in good working condition.
Man: (producing a portable DVD player)Does this one suit, sir?
Me: Yes. Here is my money.
Man: Here is your DVD player.
Me: Thank you. Goodbye.
Man: Goodbye.

I grabbed a copy of 'The Notebook', a real weepy-weep that Lou loves, and made my way back downstairs to try my luck. More aggressively this time. I collared a 'sales person'. He'd been doing nothing but standing there perving at young summer boobies but when he saw me advancing, he must have remembered a matter of great import because he almost shouted: 'Oh! One minute!' and waddled off in 50km walk style.

Cue Muttley Grumble .

I stood at the glass case a little longer. There were three players I had my eye on, but only one was turned on, so I wanted a little demo of the others. Meanwhile, someone approached the 'sales person' and to my annoyance (but not surprise) the fucker actually began to attend to this guy.

I merely stuck my hand up and said "'Scuse me..." gave him the quizzical frown (you have to be a Doyle to get this right every time, I think) and he came over.

Man: Yes?
Me: I want to have a look at these three DVD players please.
Man: Well, this one is 169 doll-
Me: Is it okay to open the door and turn 'em on? I just wanna see what the picture's like on 'em.
Man: (annoyed sigh)

He opened the case and fuddied around, turning on one player. They were all linked up to the one that was turned on, playing Shrek.

Me: And this one?
Man: (annoyed sigh)
Me: Thanks.

I looked at 'em for a few seconds.

Me: Does this one have-
Man: None of these are in stock.
Me: What?
Man: They're all sold out.
Me: Then why do you have them on display?
Man: They're for a catalogue sale.
Me: You have absolutely nothing in stock.
Man: No.
Me:(pointing at display) What about these ones? I'm happy to buy one without a box.
Man: No, they're on display for the catalogue sale.
Me: But-...wait, Boxing Day sale?
Man: Yup.
Me:(a little piqued) So...your Boxing Day Sale is more important than your customers' Christmas.
Man: Wait...we might just have one left in stock.

Within 30 seconds he was back with what he claimed was the last portable DVD player in the place. I bought it, and Loolee is very happy with her Christmas gift.

How on earth can retailers justify this? Imagine going into a supermarket to get something you needed in a hurry, like aspirin or tampons. You see the last pack on the shelf and think 'Huzzah!' only to be stopped and told 'Sorry...display only'. I think 'fuck' and 'off' would be words floating near the tip of your tongue.

Consider this. A car salesman turning down the chance to sell something they had in stock? Not bloody likely, guv'nor.

This is why I should probably give away the berserker approach to Christmas and start buying in...I dunno...March.

By contrast, Christmas Day was, as it often is, lovely. We were lucky with the weather (29C/84F, though sticky) which is half the battle won. For anyone in the Brisbane area who says 30 is too hot for Christmas Day, I have this to say to you: 2001.

Now it's Boxing Day. Day two of four days off, the first four in a row I've had for 18 months. Once upon a time I'd be in front of the telly, beer in hand at 11am, watching the first day of the Boxing Day Test. I might pass an eye over it at some point today, but I just want to read, write and make sammiches with my new sandwich press .

It was my late brother Sean's birthday on Wednesday. He'd have been 51. It's my late mother's birthday today. She'd have been 81. Happy birthday Mum & Sean, and Happy Christmas and New Year to you all, with love.