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."
WORST: "A crucifix. I have nothing against other people's religious beliefs or symbols, but this gift felt inappropriate. Hey, I wouldn't give free circumcision to a guy for Hanukah, either. Y'know?"
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 …
"Okay, my WORST present? The year my husband gave me an orange pantsuit. And I mean BRIGHT orange. He has since learned NEVER orange, never again.
"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.
WEIRDEST? I would have to go back to the orange pantsuit."
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!
BEST: "I don't kiss and tell!" (Er, is that Best or Dream, Rob?)
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."
WORST: "Most definitely clothes when I was a kid. What kid wants to open a present and find pajamas inside? Really, parent. Think twice."
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 …
BEST: "The best presents I can remember getting as a child, hands down, were animals – our first puppy Poca was a Christmas present and somehow I always got my cats at Christmas. I also got numerous rabbits, hooded rats, mice, snakes, lizards, turtles – and one Christmas, an injured Great Snowy Owl, at least until we were able to nurse it back to health.
"All other presents pale beside someone who loves you back for their entire life."
WORST: "Hmm, worst – have always been clothes I don't want. It's just a pain to pretend to be happy about it when you've said repeatedly – 'PLEASE don't buy me clothes.'"
WEIRDEST: "I can't really remember any. As far as weird goes, you have to remember who you're talking to, here."
Alex's latest book, THE PRICE
, would make yet another wonderful gift…
Some friends of ours were given some truly awful sweaters by the wife's parents for Christmas. They dutifully opened them up and put them on and made all the right noises, and then immediately went upstairs to remove the offending items, muttering about what awful taste her parents had. When they came back downstairs, it was to face thunderous silence. At this point they realised that they'd removed their presents in their infant daughter's room, where the baby monitor had broadcast their comments … an awkward Christmas was had by all!
BEST: "My Hotwheels Loop-the-Loop Racetrack ™ in first grade. Orange tracks with two Hotwheels car included. Awesome."
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."
WEIRDEST: "Actually a gift to my mother, about thirty years ago … a can each of creamed elephant and creamed rattlesnake, which she made us eat over noodles several months later. Nasty."
In searching for a picture of a strange necklace, I stumbled on a site that records the awards for the Ugliest Necklace of the year. This was the latest winner. Those charming baubles are actually made from … something that comes out of the rear end of a horse. I do hope they sealed them in some way, otherwise they'd be the perfect gift for the anosmic in your life …
BEST: "I think best will be this year, as my oldest son and his wife are able to travel and be here on the holiday. We just celebrated with my youngest, so even though they won't get to be here at the same time, I will have a week of listening to their funny stories and watching their faces as they open gifts. I'm not sure it gets any better than that."
WORST: "Worst present? Probably the year my step-grandfather was shopping hastily and picked up what he thought was a scarf. It was pink (not a fan of pink) and shiny (ditto), and I'm not entirely sure which one of us was more horrified when I opened it and held it up and we both realized at the same moment that he'd picked up a very ruffly large pair of women's underwear. I don't exactly know why any woman on the planet, no matter what size, would want to buy shiny pink ruffly panties, and I'm hoping whoever decided to manufacture such an atrocity has to stare at them for all eternity until they have a seizure, because to inflict that on the world? Just wrong, on so many levels.
"I'm pretty sure that one ties for 'weirdest' present, too."
was keeping very
quiet about her Best, Wors
t and Weirdest, so
we'll have to guess. Her
latest, PLAYING DEAD
, would make an
ideal pressie, though.
As for me, I think my best Christmas present was waking up on the first morning we slept over in our new house, the Christmas BEFORE we actually moved in, to find snow thick on the ground. Perfect.
Our weirdest present has to be from last year, when some friends gave us this charming tea-towel holder for the kitchen. I wonder where the designer got the idea for tha one?
And my worst Christmas present? Possibly a tub of Castrol GTX motor oil for my car. Not that Castrol don't make a fine product, but it wasn't quite what I had in mind, wrapped in seasonal paper and sitting under the tree on Christmas morning. That
relationship, incidentally, didn't last …
Of course, I ought to mention that, if you've a few pennies left over from buying the books of my excellent fellow 'Rati, then my own latest, THIRD STRIKE
, is also a
What about you? What's your Best, Worst and Weirdest? And if you received them today, so much the better!