by Zoë Sharp
First of all, what are you doing, sitting here looking at your computer today, of all days? Surely you should be eating and drinking and making merry?
I'm writing this on Christmas Eve. As soon as I realised that I had the dubious honour of posting on Christmas Day this year, I've been trying to think of something suitable for the occasion. I don't do sentimentality well, and this time of year holds very mixed emotions for me.
So, I thought I'd focus on the ridiculous instead.
With this firmly in mind, I asked all my fellow 'Rati three questions: What's the Best, Worst, and downright Weirdest presents you've ever received. Or, what would be your Dream present.
DREAM GIFT: "My fantasy present would be a writer's month or two on a gorgeous island where all my meals were taken care of, I'd have an endless supply of paper and reference books, wi-fi, a computer in every room but the bedroom, a comfortable bed and absolutely no responsibilities beyond writing for hours daily. Oh, and I'd like to be paid a reasonable amount of money for being creative, too.
"So, someone would have to take care of the kids at home, make sure the cleaning and the cooking were done and that my husband wasn't too lonely (notice the 'too' part of that last one. A little loneliness makes the heart grow, um …), pay the bills, etc. Then I could write without feeling guilty or like I should be doing something else."
And WEIRDEST: "The gifts I've gotten have been fairly conventional – money, books, clothing, food. Perhaps people are frightened to offend?
"So, I'll tell a story about a family Christmas from more than 30 years ago. The reason we celebrated the holiday was that my stepfather liked it.
"Back in the early 70s, a certain deli display was all the rage in interior decorating magazines. Across America, women mounted pipes from their kitchen ceilings and hung balls of provolone and other cheeses, fancy looking dry salamis, etc, from them. My stepfather decided to give my mother all of the components for such a display … one piece at a time. She had no idea this was what I was doing. The look of astonished disappointment on her face when she opened that first package with the pipe was unforgettable."
Of course, if you're looking for the perfect (late) Christmas gift, or something to spend those book tokens on after the Holidays, you could always pick up a copy of Pari's latest, THE SOCORRO BLAST.
We have to be very careful in our house how Christmas presents are arranged under our tree, owing to the fact we have underfloor heating. Anything chocolate or edible has to be put down on top of an insulating non-meltable gift!
WORST CHRISTMAS: "I must have papered over all the memories of the Best and Worst Christmas gifts over the years, but I surely remember The Worst Christmas Ever. It was 1973 … Richard Nixon was in the White House, albeit temporarily … and I was living in France, getting my Masters Degree in French Literature. It had already been a strange year … freezing temperatures, general strikes that shut down everything from garbage collection to the electricity, calf's head and chestnuts for Thanksgiving dinner. So a girlfriend and I decided to go to sunnier climes, the Costa del Sol in Spain, for the holidays. It rained and sleeted in Málaga for seven days. I came down with strep throat. And there's nothing sadder than eating rubbery, overcooked octopus for Christmas dinner while watching a dubbed version of Julie Andrews singing 'There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays' on a little TV suspended in a corner of the dining room."
And, of course, Louise's latest – THE FAULT TREE - would also make an idea gift!
Louise, you have my sympathies. Andy and I once decided, many years ago, to go away for Christmas. We went to Tresco, a tiny island in the Scillies, just off the coast of Cornwall. The only way in was by helicopter from Penzance and the gales were so bad that a 14-minute flight took 11 on the way out and 22 minutes on the way back. Andy went down with something nasty and was so ill that the doctor was threatening to airlift him to hospital on Christmas Eve. I ate my Christmas dinner alone in the hotel dining room. Now we stay at home …
"BEST present? My Nordic Track treadmill. (Of course, I helped pick it out!) During the winter, when it's too cold to go outside, I use it every single day.
One of the fun things about putting together this post was trying to find suitable pictures to go with the various things the 'Rati members came up with as their Best, Worst and Weirdest. So, I put 'orange pantsuit' into Google images, and this is what I found on the first page that came up. Is this something close, Tess? Sorry about the model …
And, of course, Tess's latest – THE KEEPSAKE - is another ideal gift!
WORST: "A Christmas ornament. I mean, come on.
"WEIRDEST present? I'm stumped. Got nothing for you there."
And Rob's latest – KISS HER GOODBYE - could be just the gift you're looking for.
Sorry about the ornament pic. You wouldn't believe what people hang on their trees, though …
WORST: "Probably the 'electronic' typewriter my parents gave me in college. It was some weird model by Casio that was almost immediately discontinued, so ribbon cartridges became almost impossible to find and had to be mail ordered from the manufacturer. (I assume that's why it was so cheap). It functioned in a really bizarre way; as you typed, the words would appear on a tiny LCD screen above the keyboard, but only 15 characters at a time. When you got to the end of the line, then it would suddenly come alive and start putting the words on the paper. The worst thing was, you couldn't fit a business size envelope into the roller, so you either had to use labels, which always got stuck in the machine, or hand address envelopes. I still have the damn thing in a closet somewhere."
WEIRDEST: "The gift my mother in law gave to me a couple of year ago. I think it's supposed to be a device that holds messages on your desk, but I swear it's actually a roach clip."
BEST: "I'd have to say the 100 dollar Amazon.com gift card. I immediately ran to the computer and went nuts."
If anyone else receives the same gift, then copies of Dusty's latest, BREAKING COVER, would be just the thing!
I believe I learned to type on one of those self-same typewriters in college, Dusty, although anything was better than the elderly manual typewriters that had a keyboard as steep as the north face of the Eiger and had a nasty tendency to trap your little fingers if you slipped off a key.
BEST: "Would have to be books. No question. It's like getting a present of the world, since books can take you anywhere. In fact, it's more than just the world, since when I was younger I was huge into sci-fi!"
WEIRDEST: "Got a singing and dancing George Bush doll a few years ago. It was hilarious and weird and I didn't know what to do with it."
Of course, if you're going to give books, Brett's THE DECEIVED would be a good choice.
I, too, am a huge fan of books at Christmas. It's usually one of the few times of the year when I have the opportunity to read. And I think this could possibly be the very doll you were given, Brett? Have you thought about re-gifting?
DREAM PRESENT: "An all day all expense paid shopping trip to every stationary store in Manhattan. My BEST present was the Hot Wheels Super Grand Prix electric racetrack. Damn, I loved that thing. And my engagement ring."
WORST: "I'm not terribly fond of Raggedy Ann dolls, and I know I got a few while I was growing up. Barbies, too."
JT's latest - JUDAS KISS - is just out and another great gift idea!
I was never a fan of Barbie dolls, and don't recall having one as a child. I had a Meccano set, though. And the equivlent of a GI Joe, which was great – until I hit my sister with him and he snapped off at the knees, which severely curtailed his macho adventures …
WORST: "The necklace my husband comissioned for me from a jewelry-making relative, the first year we lived together, which looked rather like a large and very uncomfortable copper tumor."