Posted in Personal life, Reading, Writing

The Obvious Solution to a Christmas Giftwrapping Crisis

Front and back cover of Instead of a Christmas card
Is it a card? Is it a present? I don’t care, it’s dead easy to wrap!

Starting to sort out my box of Christmas gifts that I’ve been steadfastly filling over the last few weeks, my heart sinks at the odd shapes that I’ve committed myself to wrapping. I still have quite a few presents to buy, including the one at the top of my daughter’s wish-list – a pair of Heelies (wheeled trainers). I’m hoping these will come in a box, or I’m in trouble.

Boxing Clever

cover of Band on the Run
…as was the girlfriend shortly afterwards (Photo via Amazon store)

I’m reminded of a Christmas in my teens when my then-boyfriend decided to liven up his gift wrapping by disguising his presents to look like something else, so that the recipients couldn’t guess what they were. I’d asked him for an LP of Wings’ Band on the Run. (Yes, I am that old – and for my more youthful readers, I should probably explain that an LP is a long-playing record album, as opposed to a single. Yes, we’re talking vinyl here – out of fashion long enough for it to be coming back into vogue again now.)

When he brought my gift round, it was a big box the size of an LP but about four inches deep.

Oh, how lovely, I thought, he’s bought me something extra too. I wonder what it is?

Cue huge disappointment when the parcel turned out to contain only the record, plus a lot of empty packaging. I tried not to look crestfallen. After all, we were only teenagers, and records were expensive.

Unfortunately he didn’t know that when you are in a hole, you should stop digging. Guessing that I’d expected something else, he added in his defence “My mum said not to get you anything else in case you split up with me again.”

I bet you can guess how that relationship ended up.

Booked Up

In the meantime, I’ve decided that for the rest of my Christmas shopping this year, I’m going to buy the ultimate easy-to-wrap present for everyone – a book, carefully chosen to suit each recipient’s interests, so that I can put my energy into the fun of book browsing rather than wrestling with wrapping paper.

If you’re after festive books for your friends and relations, let me leave you with a few recommendations. Biased, me? Well, it is my blog, ūüėČ

Array of Christmas books by Debbie Young
All now available to order¬†in paperback online and from my local community shop, the Hawkesbury Stores (so from global to local there!) “Stocking Fillers” may also be ordered ¬†from bookshops¬†if you quote ISBN 978-0-9930879-2-9. Clicking the image will take you straight to my Amazon page.

 

Posted in Family, Personal life, Reading, Writing

Talking Turkey In the Countdown to Christmas

Cover of my Christmas e-book,
Click the image to visit the book’s page on Amazon

This time last year, I had the honour of having one of my short stories, The Reason Why We Eat Turkey at Christmas,  featured on the Mumsnet Advent Calendar.

Mumsnet, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a highly-regarded, well-read parenting website. Dads are by no means banned from it, though some may be intimidated by the name.

Mine wasn’t a children’s story (though older children may enjoy it), because the calendar was aimed at parents ¬†– and what parent doesn’t love an advent calendar, big kids that we all are?

But in this age of the e-reader, another fun festive trend is emerging to get us in the mood for Christmas: the rise of the special Christmas e-books. These are usually short stories rather than full-length novels, because who has time to read much when there’s Christmas shopping to be done? Nor the budget to buy them – so these e-books are usually priced low, designed to provide an affordable treat that offers light relief from the stresses of Christmas preparations. Speaking as one who has yet to write a single Christmas card, post a parcel or finish my shopping, it’s a service made to measure for me. I’ve just enjoyed two very different such stories by my friends Joanne Phillips and Andrew Peters.

On finishing Andrew’s book, it dawned on me that here was a bandwagon (or perhaps I should say sleigh) on which I, as a self-publishing author, ought to jump. ¬†So last night I entered the fray, and hey presto, via the digital magic of Amazon, I’ve conjured up a new Kindle e-book of my Mumsnet Christmas story, under the new, snappier title of The Owl and The Turkey.¬†As its original name suggests, it is a¬†fun, frivolous and ever so slightly silly fable that suggests the real reason that we eat turkey for Christmas. The tale begins when a young Queen, bored of wild boar, despatches her Royal Huntsmen on a quest to find the medieval answer to fast food. No birds were harmed in the writing of this book, which is suitable for vegetarians of all ages.

The Owl and the Turkey is now for sale on Kindle at just 77p/99c here.

And while you’re reading it, I’d better make a start on those Christmas cards….

Blog hop logoCOMING SOON:

While we’re in wintry mood, make a mental note to come back to this site on Saturday, when I’ll be taking part in a special feature about the winter solstice, with links to fun and fascinating contributions from 30 other writers, kindly choreographed by my friend the historical novelist Helen Hollick.

From My Christmas Archive

Photo of my daughter in Santa outfit, aged 7 months

When It Comes to Christmas Presents, Small is Beautiful

Let It Snow: My Best Childhood Christmas Memories

TheTyranny of the Christmas Card

Posted in Family, Reading, Writing

The Christmas Past and the Christmas Present

English: Gift ideas for men - wrapping paper e...
What’s inside – is it a Toblerone? (Photo: http://www.giftideasformen.com)

I must admit I am a lazy wrapper.

Not for me the creative approach of an old flame who tried one year to make Christmas extra interesting by disguising all his gifts as something else. A bit of a challenge when his present to me was an LP. (Yes, I am that old.)

His plan backfired. Presented with a box several inches deep, I was expecting much more than a record. Disappointed to find the only thing in the package apart from Wings‚Äô ‚ÄúBand on the Run‚ÄĚ was air, I kept the LP but ditched the relationship.

As for me, I keep gift-wrapping simple. The last few Christmases, I’ve mostly given books as presents Рso easy to wrap!

The Best Way to Shop for Books

And if you buy print books, don’t just order them online – support your local independent bookshop, where you’ll be ably assisted by knowledgeable, well-informed shop assistants with brains, rather than dodgy Amazon algorithms. When searching on Amazon for travel books about Japan, its customer service robot once advised me “If you like this book, you might also like “Diary of a Wombat” and “Australian hat with corks”. Bizarre or what?!

But lately I’ve realised I’ve been missing a trick: give an e-book as a gift, and you don’t have to wrap it at all.

If the recipients don‚Äôt have e-readers. Provided they have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or PC, they should be able to download an e-reader app. Better make sure they’re happy with that idea first, though, before making your purchase – either that or buy them an e-reader first!

Then by saving all that money and effort on wrapping paper, you‚Äôll be able to afford an extra book for yourself, and have time to read it too ‚Äď result! Merry Christmas!

PS I’ve just set up a group on Facebook where, not only at Christmas but all year round, I’ll be posting up news of free and cut-price e-books by my author friends. If you’re on Facebook and would like to join it, send me a request or a message via my website contact form.

(A slightly different version of this article originally appeared in the Hawkesbury Parish News, December 2013.)

Baby Laura in Santa hat
Laura’s first Christmas

If you enjoyed this article you might like some of my other festive posts: 

Posted in Family, Personal life

Put A Hat On That Baby!

Baby Laura in Santa hatEvery winter, I’m tempted to accost the parents of all small children not wearing hats. Christmas shopping, I’m transfixed by the sight of a bare-headed baby in its buggy.¬†What is its mother thinking? Doesn’t she realise how much heat is lost through a baby’s head?¬†And the younger the baby, the larger the head in proportion to the rest of its body.¬†That poor baby will have a terrible headache by the time it gets home, and I bet its mother will be unable to work out why it’s crying.

Baby Laura in swing with smart fur hatI’m tempted to keep a supply of small hats in my coat pocket to slip on bareheaded babies when their mothers aren’t looking. I wonder how often I’d get away with it? It’s a bit like guerilla gardening: my intentions are of the best, but I don’t quite dare do it in public view.¬†So I don’t. ¬†I restrain myself. I simply shake my own (behatted) head and move on.

Moroccan fez hats in restaurantBut wouldn’t you think that new mothers would have got the message by now? ¬†Especially as expectant mothers are told to bring a bonnet to the delivery suite. ¬†These days, baby’s first photo usually incorporates a large hat. ¬†It looks like a tiny relic of the 1940s, when you’d be as likely to leave home without your knickers as go out without your hat. ¬†Minutes after my caesarean, my daughter was sporting a cheery pink and purple number. ¬†I’d knitted it especially for the occasion.

Baby Laura asleep in winter fur hatI wonder, is there a specific age when you ¬†start to feel a moral authority to comment on other people’s parenting skills? ¬†Um, yes, I think that would be middle age. ¬†Ahem. Better get back to my knitting.

But just to show I’m not beyond correction myself, here’s a link to the tale of a middle-aged lady who turned on me in Morrisons this time last year. ¬†Maybe it’s all part of the spirit of Christmas…. ¬†The Perils of the Supermarket

Posted in Personal life

In Praise of Village Shops and Post Offices

The Post Office, Hawkesbury-Upton, Nr. Yate an...
Hawkesbury Upton Village Post Office (Image via Wikipedia)

What turns a shop into a superstore? After all the build-up to the launch of a new superstore in our nearest market town, I happened to be away on holiday when it finally opened. I forgot all about it till driving past one evening after the clocks had changed and there it was, like an alien spaceship, its strange round tower all lit up. A small alien bribe had landed on my doormat while I was away Р£8 a week in vouchers for the first four weeks, clearly designed to have me inescapably in their thrall by the time my big Christmas shop was due. But who’s interested in aliens when your own planet is perfect?

Because here on Planet Hawkesbury, we’ve already got all we need for the Christmas season. In November we had three special festive shopping events, thanks to Pre-school, the Primary School PTA and Severn View Farm, each packed with fabulous gifts that you’d never find in the biggest, brightest chainstore.

And if you didn’t manage to pick up all your presents  at these events, we’ve got our own gift shop on the doorstep all year round Рaka Hawkesbury Post Office, whose tasteful gifts are eminently easy to mail, ideal for posting to friends and family far from home. And let’s not forgot our lovely Hawkesbury calendar and Christmas cards!

The Village Shop is happy to order in all our Christmas food shopping, to arrive just in time for the festivities. We won’t need to fight traffic jams or risk the winter weather. (Last December’s deep  snow must have caused havoc for anyone who left their shopping till the last minute.) Give Ann and Mark your list and they’ll do the rest. Now that’s what I call a super store.

So this year I‚Äôm going to be avoiding the¬†Christmas rush. I‚Äôll be spending all my time with family¬†and friends instead ‚Äď and enjoying the many seasonal¬†events that will surely be previewed in this month‚Äôs¬†parish mag. I hope you will too.

Happy Christmas!

(This post was originally written for the December 2011 issue of Hawkesbury Parish News)